It’s easy to worry about making friends and fitting in when you go study abroad, but UCLA third-year Hannah Connery found her footing through drama at Trinity College Dublin with the DU Players. Read her experience below!
“Before heading to Ireland to begin my study abroad experience at Trinity College Dublin, I had thought quite a bit about the whole, “living in a different country” thing. Of course there were still a lot of surprises, but moving to Dublin wasn’t actually the biggest change for me; somehow I seemed to have overlooked the fact that I was also starting at a completely new university. Jumping from being a third year at UCLA with well-established social groups, clubs, and classes to being a new student at a school I knew almost nothing about forced me to relive so many of those awkward experiences as a budding freshman trying to find my way at UCLA. This sort of experience could have easily made a person feel lonely, sad, homesick, or so out of place that you pretend to be on the phone anytime you’re in public so it looks like you have friends to talk to. Thankfully, that’s not how things turned out for me – this is a happy story (surprise!). I could speculate that I somehow randomly lucked out because of how easily I found my place on campus, but I honestly think that the nature of Trinity is to really feel like home for its students.
At UCLA I am a Theater – Acting major so I was really excited to check out the theater scene while at Trinity. During Freshers Week, I joined Trinity’s student-run theater society, DU Players. Players puts on copious shows each term in addition to hilarious events and fundraisers every Wednesday evening, consequently giving students the chance to be constantly involved with a show through performance, writing, directing, tech, management, publicity, or even an avid audience member. During only my second week in Ireland, I auditioned for one of the Players shows titled, “Co-Op,” and that is where my outrageously exciting study abroad experience really began.
The Freshers Co-Op is a true staple of Players, almost like a rite of passage for new members of the society. Four student directors bring together a cast of roughly 50 people who are new to the society, whether they be first years, visiting international students, or older students who haven’t been involved with players before. For six weeks, we met every night from 7:00-9:00 to get to know one another, play ridiculous improv games, and eventually piece together a full-length musical during the last two weeks of the production. To make the whole thing even more fun, a group of five student producers organized a different social activity for the cast after every rehearsal to really solidify those bonds of friendship: from casually kickin’ it in the campus rose garden, to pub crawls, table quizzes, silent discos, scavenger hunts, drag shows, pints of Guinness at Doyles pub every Friday, Karaoke, and much more, we really did a lot. Yes, it was as fun as it sounds.
When we weren’t racing about Dublin, we really did put on a show (it happened, I swear)! Our four directors wrote an amazingly hilarious script full of inside jokes from our weeks of improv games and socializing titled, Race to the Millennium: How a Century Was Born. In
addition to the fifty cast members, the show incorporated the work of nearly everyone in Players to produce a massive set, over a hundred costumes and props, professional lights and sound, four original songs and dances, a live band, thousands of euros fundraiser to sponsor the show, and ultimately, five sold-out performances. Because so many students in Players began their college careers with Co-Op in previous years, the production is very dear to many people; consequently, nearly everyone rallies behind the production as if to pay tribute to their own experiences as cast members. The Friday night of the show’s run, deemed “Heckle Night,” is performed solely for past co-op cast members – the overflowing and rambunctious audience has the power to heckle the cast by shouting out random commands during the performance. The performers aren’t actually required to do anything the rowdy hecklers yell, but it’s strongly encouraged. For example, while sweeping the stage disguised as a janitor with one of my cast mates, someone in the audience hollered, “have a sword fight!” So naturally, we jumped onto a nearby box and began a fully improvised sword fight – complete with jumps, somersaults, an accidentally broken sword (the wooden broom), and an impromptu battle song provided by the band. The crowd went wild and then we simply continued with the scene. This kind of ridiculousness and hilarity ensued throughout a majority of our six weeks working on the show, making for a very vibrant experience.
From joining Players and being cast in Co-Op, I was instantly integrated into a huge group of people anxious to befriend anyone with their shared interest in theater and socializing. A vast majority of the performers in my show were by no means trained actors; their majors varied from economics, to science, to French. All were welcome and encouraged to simply get to know each other, get to know the rest of Dublin, and have some fun putting on a crazy show. Even once the show ended, our friendships and shenanigans continued. Someone still messages in our cast group chat nearly everyday with open invites to get lunch, see a show, go to a pub, etc.
It would have been very easy for me to only hang out with other Americans on study abroad during my term here; many people abroad in other countries only really connect with fellow Americans because of language barriers, feeling out of place, or simply not knowing how to get involved with anything. However, that is not what I wanted. I chose to study in Ireland in hopes of really connecting with Irish people and experiencing their style of life. Because I joined Co-Op, I now have close friends from around Ireland, in addition to others from France, England, the Netherlands, and Australia. While Dublin might not be known for tremendous weather, the people who live here are amazingly welcoming, friendly, and entertaining. I have sincerely invited over fifty people to sleep on my couch if they ever find themselves in Los Angeles, and they have offered the same to me.
Joining Players was the absolute best thing I could have done at Trinity, and it is only one of the many incredible societies the University has to offer. I’m returning to UCLA in three weeks to complete my degree, but because of the friends I’ve made through Players and our wonderful adventures through Ireland, I can confidently say that this is not my last time in Dublin. Whether for a few weeks, six months, or maybe even permanently, I will be back. Thank you, UCEAP! Keep exploring!”