“A year abroad is the best year of your university career.” Everyone who studies a modern language has most definitely heard this statement again and again from members of your university department and returning students. However, nobody seems to acknowledge the difficulties that come with moving to an entirely new country and environment all alone. Personally, I have always looked out for theatre groups and societies to join whenever in a new place as the members tend to be some of the most accepting, well-rounded and interesting people I meet.
Within seconds you find the people who all share an excitement and passion just like you and you feel at home chatting about various plays, playwrights and productions you have been involved in. It is truly incredible how the universal language of theatre transcends nationality and language to offer you the chance to bond with like-minded individuals no matter where you are. However, the level of difficulty in finding such groups varies from university to university and, as a result, I have found several methods to hunt them out. Keep in mind, this is by no means a complete list of ways to find a theatre society, or any student society, you are interested in joining; feel free to explore other ways and adapt the ones here to your specific situation. The most important part is that you’re spending time doing something you enjoy and making your year abroad one to look back on with fondness once you’ve returned to your home university.
Contact a theatre group directly via email or social media. If you find their page on the university website, they will surely have an email address or a Facebook page. Something else to remember, don’t be afraid to email or message the group you wish to join; it can be another helpful exercise of adapting to the language early on, but that can just be an added bonus to finding a group of like-minded individuals. Of course, there may be a certain delay in answering, but with theatre groups specifically, any interest is good interest. You will most definitely receive a reply with the various opportunities in joining the society and taking part in the production, whether on or off stage.
Look out for any posters and messages around campus. This was how I found out the various theatre groups at my year abroad university was looking for actors and anyone interested in backstage work. It might be a bit less technologically advanced than the previous ones I’ve pointed out, but it definitely spreads the information and grabs your attention during those starting weeks when you’re exploring the city and the campus. In my case, the poster advertised an English language theatre group holding auditions at specific days and a meeting for anyone interested in backstage work on another, which is how I got involved in the technical elements of the production.
Trust yourself and be confident in your skills. It is a frightening and difficult experience at the very start, finding yourself in an entirely new country and doubting if your language skills are up to scratch. However, by the time you go through the admin hell of registering with the council and university and opening a new bank account, you will have also begun to settle into your new environment and will have found and joined a new theatre society. If you let your excitement speak for itself, the nervousness will slowly dissipate and you’ll find yourself surrounded by new, fun and interesting people who’ll become an important part of your year abroad experience.
Image: Boris Kostadinov