Up until this point, nearly all of my friends were either other international students, or people of some sort of expat status; beyond Mary and the pastors at my church (which was made up largely of international persons), I had yet to truly meet an Irish person. Thus, my hope was that once classes started, I would be able to make some more local connections. Unfortunately, no such luck. A couple of my classes were designed specifically for international students, and the others, which we took at our own risk, were mainly filled with either quiet people who never talked, or more international students. It got to the point that one of my teachers, a political science professor who had focused her work on the conflicts in Northern Ireland (and on which our class was based), complained that she would have to re-write her curriculum. Only three of the students in that class were Irish, which she discovered when she attempted to use Irish and British voting practices as a hook for a concept.
Thus, Sam and I were quite interested when we heard about Societies Day. On Societies Day, about a third of the campus turns into a large convention hall, in which every club or society on campus turns out to hand little leaflets to disinterested students as they try to comb through the hundreds of options for one or two things they like. Some of the clubs are fairly similar (do you join the manga club, or the anime club? or the manga/anime club?), some are expensive (skydiving and snowboarding), and many are sports based (there were, of course, the usual sports, plus the normal Irish sports, plus every martial art imaginable, and then a wide variety of unheard of sports, like competitive trampolining). Then there were the unusual, but tasteful options, like the Hot Beverages Society and the Renaissance Society. In short, they have much cooler clubs than we do.
Hold on, back up. Renaissance Society?
We’re going. No ifs, ands, or buts.
The other important find was, of course, Dramat, the drama club (because, you know, they do Drama to a T). There is something strangely welcoming among drama folks. It’s like this random collection of weird that is ok with other brands of weird joining in. Most of the time, weird is very exclusive to its own particular type of weird. Here, my character makeup was of use, and, as most people who show interest in drama groups are usually wanting a spotlight, I knew it nearly guaranteed me a place in many of of the production–because there aren’t that many people lining up to mess with other people’s faces regularly.
My hope, then, was that the Renaissance Society would prove to be a similar center of people who think and talk in ways that are compatible with how I think and talk. The jolly man who had first greeted us let us know there was a meeting the next night; we figured we could pop from one club’s meeting to the next and experience them all.
We were right.
The Renaissance Society was generally very low-key. It began slowly, and it ended slowly, and one could do just about anything in the middle. Sam chose to learn some fighting techniques, which I unfortunately had to bow out of. The other option, at that moment, was to do some sewing.
Ah, hand sewing. We have a long and somewhat bothersome relationship, the last one which culminated in me piecing together a cloak in the car on my way to an event. There were many poked fingers, but I finished in time, and it did look rather good. I thought I would give it another go, however, and sitting in one place without a road bumping along beneath you does wonders for the speed and accuracy of one’s sewing (and significantly reduces the chance of finger pokes, too). We laughed and talked until it was time to go, then we quietly packed everything up and went our separate ways.
They weren’t all Irish–in fact, very few of the Renaissance Society members were Irish (most were German)–but they were new faces and interesting people. it definitely was interesting, and something I would not hesitate to do again. Because, after all, the point is to bring together potential friends, and that seems to be what the Societies are all about.