Student Reflections: Flora Ferguson and Xenia Puskarz Thomas

Thursday, May 26, 2022
Juilliard Journal
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Flora Ferguson is demonstrating with a hand gesture during a rehearsal in a dance studio
Flora Ferguson rehearsing her 'The Beast Is Ours,' which premiered as part of ChoreoComp in 2021

Students Reflect on an Action-Packed Year

Just before commencement, we asked students—some graduating, some staying on—to reflect on their time at Juilliard. They wrote about highlights, top takeaways, and things that were and weren't surprising. In addition, some shared what scholarship had meant to them and what their summer/future plans are. Keep an eye out for entries from other students and check out this video highlight reel from commencement. Congratulations to the class of 2022!

Flora Ferguson

Biggest surprise
Juilliard as a name does not define you nor your talent. It aids you in learning more about your craft educationally and artistically, though Juilliard can become anything you wish it to be. This surprised me. The dance studios can become sanctuaries, the hallways meeting points, the stages cliffs to rise from and jump off of. The school becomes a playground and in it are individuals who blossom when they realize that this is just a space to learn, to make, and to grow deeper in love with all the art that we are studying day in, and day out. The school is ours.

Third-year dancer Flora Ferguson is from Burlington, Ontario, Canada

Xenia Puskarz Thomas

Xenia Puskarz Thomas is singing on stage in front of the piano in this performance photo
Xenia Puskarz Thomas sang in the Vocal Arts Honors Recital in Alice Tully Hall earlier this year


  • Our fall opera, Luigi Rossi’s L’Orfeo. This was my first true foray into early music and the drama and great depth of emotional color were at the forefront of this production thanks to our generous and inspired artistic team. I was so proud of our work.
  • Taking German at Columbia as part of the Barnard Columbia Juilliard exchange program. It has been a challenge not only for the subject matter, but also because of the tri-weekly 8:40am starts! But I have cherished meeting classmates beyond my artistic field of study as well as exploring the formidable Columbia campus.
  • My first year was completely online at home in Brisbane, Australia. So to finally join in person and meet and work with the incredible teachers and classmates that I met first online has been overwhelmingly special.

Scholarship support
It has been an incredible adventure moving from Australia to the U.S., and I would not have made the leap without this support. There is so much that comes from living in a new country—I have reflected on my cultural habits, my identity, what defines home and comfort, and the needs and offerings from the community/space around me. I think I have grown as a person this year and, surrounded by so many individuals and their personal journeys, I have been so proud of my heritage and experiences—and perhaps a little more courageous to get out of my comfort zone.

Biggest surprise
How quickly I have felt at home in New York!

Top takeaway
Following an incredibly challenging time, many artists have redefined the parameters of their work habits and examined the intent behind their projects. Resilience is a quality that comes to mind, but more importantly, I have observed that gratitude is the other recurring quality that I so admire. There is a constant buzz of enthusiasm for music making and, even better, a commitment to pursuing what inspires passion. It is these qualities and lessons from the pandemic that I hope to carry beyond my studies.

Mezzo-soprano Xenia Puskarz Thomas will go to Munich after graduation for the International Meistersinger Akademie before joining the Bayerische Staatsoper studio as a young artist

These pieces are adapted from a special feature that originally appeared in the Summer 2022 issue of the Journal.