Join a Club and Be Grand

Madeleine LaPlante-Dube Trinity College Dublin, Ireland


November 23, 2015

Out of all of the things I’ve done on this continent, my favorite memories so far have come from sitting in Trinity FM’s uncomfortably small common room at the top of House 6. It’s about as big as a decently-sized walk-in closet and on its walls are scribbled obscenities, height measurements (including one for Slenderman), embarrassing pictures of members at parties past, and a vaguely offensive flea market photo of members of some violent faction during the Troubles which has been referred to as “disgraceful.” There is a ratty couch that is sunken in, a rotating fan with the protective cover missing, a closet stuffed with a beanbag that one member lived in for a little bit while he was in between apartments, and mismatched plastic chairs strewn about the floor. And next door is the studio, where members like myself record their radio shows and broadcast them on the internet for their parents.

It doesn’t exactly sound like the luxurious European travel experience. But if you ask anyone who studied abroad, they’ll either say that the best decision they made was to get involved or that they wished they’d gotten more involved. If you remember one thing from all of these Arcadia blogs, let this be it: JOIN A CLUB.

It sounds nerdy or whatever when you’re confronted with all of the incredible new bars and pubs and clubs and cute Europeans and amazing museums and castles and cathedrals, but you’ll find that when you have downtime you’ll want to do something other than spend money. And I can’t speak for other countries, but one of the only ways that you’ll meet students here in Ireland is to join a club or two. So instead of spending money, spend some time enjoying other people’s company.

Okay, so here are some actual reasons why you should get involved abroad:

  1. You’ll get an inside look on the culture of your country. We’re talking pop culture, not ancient culture. I can’t even tell you the amount of times I’ve sat in the TFM room listening to the Irish students’ banter, feeling completely culturally lost/learning new random things. You’ll get to know what it really means to be [insert your country’s nationality here].
  2. You’ll make new friends. I mean, yeah, this one’s obvious, but you won’t realize how many opportunities for friendship you wished you’d taken advantage of when you get to the end of the semester and don’t really have anyone local to say goodbye to. Don’t be that guy. Get to know your fellow peers.
  3. You’ll be an expert on the local scene. If you join a group, especially if your abroad institution is in a city, there will be optional-but-encouraged pub crawls. In fact, when I first joined TFM, we went on a huge pub/club crawl that was outside the touristy areas, confirming my suspicion that there is, in fact, such thing as an affordable night out in Dublin.
  4. You’ll have another place to go. If you’re tired of studying in the library or of sitting on your couch watching Netflix, you can go to your club’s common room and hang out. It’ll be a welcome change of pace, especially during the end of the semester when all of your work is catching up with you.

I don’t want to sound mom-ish, but we all know mom’s end up being right about everything anyway, so heed this advice and consider joining one club or society. It won’t take up your travelling time, but it will fill your boring-everyday-life-between-classes-and-other-stuff time. And trust me - it’s worth the initial small talk.