If I could only give one piece of advice to those studying abroad it would be: do what scares you. Cliché as that sounds, when you are studying abroad it is tempting to curl up into your shell and stick to a basic routine. Whether you are dealing with culture shock or not, doing new things all the time can be exhausting. You have to remind yourself to continue pushing your boundaries and completely eliminate any comfort zone you’ve been sticking too. What that means for each person is different. For me, it meant waltzing through the doors to the theater department to audition for the fall play.
I have awful stage fright, I have since I was a young girl. Three years of speech and debate taught me how to become a public speaker, but I have never been able to transfer that same confidence to acting. Auditioning was a spur of the moment decision that left me stranded in a sea of nervousness standing in front of a slender British woman who was the image of dignity and poise. Before I knew what was happening I was reading a selection of “Romeo and Juliet” with one of the other people auditioning. I struggled to radiate confidence while simultaneously steadying my trembling hands, somehow conveying the deep angst felt by Juliet in the balcony scene.
I left feeling proud of myself but that was only the beginning of my semester long experience. When I came back two days later to look at the final list of those that had made it, I reread the list at least three times. I had made it as Juliet’s mother, Lady Capulet.
I didn’t know what to expect walking into the first practice. Thankfully, from the first read through, I felt immediately accepted into the fantastic group of actors and actresses. Some have more experience than others, but we all have bonded over being in the play together. Having to practice together for several hours every week we got to know one another and I finally could making friends outside of the exchange students. Dimah, an Emirati student who plays Juliet (Lady Capulet’s daughter) in the play, is now one of my closest friends here. She is my bridge to the local culture, a guide to the region and an Arabic conversation partner.
Because I took a risk and did something I would never do at university back home, I made friends in a way I never would have been able to through classes. Breaking the ice with local students is incredibly difficult, both sides are normally to nervous. Join a club, a sports team, or a drama group! Take a chance. The rewards are worth it.