It was the end of our first Netball match. We were panting and tired, trying to catch our breath and smelling foul. We stumbled over to benches, grinning in spite of our fatigue. All our practice and training over the last few weeks had paid off: we had played hard on the court and won against the top seated team. As we patted each other on the back and commented on how well we had played, I heard the captain say, “Come on over girls.” We gathered around in a circle and I just knew someone was going to start a catchy chant with lots of rhymes and our team name, just like in Bring It On or some other fun team movie.
Then all the girls started shouting, “Hip, hip, hurrah! Hip, hip, hurrah! Hip, hip, hurrah!” as they lifted their fists with each hurrah!
Wait what? Did we somehow get transported back to 1901? Are we reenacting a scene from Newsies or something? They sound so silly!
What is silly to me might be normal to you
Joining the Netball team (which is a cross between basketball and ultimate frisbee for those who do not know; I certainly did not!) was certainly the most important decisions I made while abroad at Trinity College Dublin. I learned a new sport and was able to immediately dive into a small, tight-knit group of local students. While most of my American friends made a few connections with Irish students, I was able to make a full 15 in just a few months. That is not to say that I did not work at my relationships, because I certainly did put most of my social energy into forming these relationships, but joining a team allowed my energy to not go to waste. Every practice I went to and game I played in deepened my relationships as they got used to me as part of the group.
To me, the Netball girls seemed the coolest of the cool. They were athletic, they were all friends, they had fun nights out, they obviously cared about each other, they went to many formal social events as a group, and to top it all off they had amazing British and Irish accents!
That is why I was so totally shocked to hear them shout the utterly outdated phrase “hip, hip, hurrah” in unison…in public! I honestly thought it was a joke. But no, that was just what they chanted at the end of every game. And it wasn’t unique to them: many of the teams we played against also shouted that. I realized that it was equivalent to the American, “Alright [insert school mascot] on three! One! Two! Three! [Mascot]!” Both seem rather silly, if you think about it out of context.
Being silly is good!
The main thing that I learned from studying abroad is that being silly is good! And what I mean by being silly is feeling silly and experiencing something outside of the norm to you, which could be the everyday normal to the people around you. By letting myself be silly, I happily joined with the Netball girls in their hip-hurrahing. I tried new things and learned about other cultures. Whether it is trying a mussel from a street vendor in Istanbul or dancing in the street in Lisbon, letting myself try these new and out of the ordinary things allowed for some wonderful experiences that I might not have tried in the US.
Make being silly a goal
When students go abroad they usually have a goal for their time outside of the US. Some common goals are to make local friends, travel, party, or learn a language fluently. A common underlying feature to all these goals that is usually overlooked is the choice to be silly and uncomfortable while doing them! How much easier is it to connect with local culture and students if you let yourself try new and different things outside of your comfort zone? Instead of just focusing on the big goals of study abroad, I’d say to focus on the little goal of being silly. That way, in whatever you do while you’re abroad, you can remember to push yourself and try something new every day, even if it makes you feel or sound silly!
Elissa Welle is a student at Cornell University and studied abroad with IFSA-Butler at Trinity College Dublin in Dublin, Ireland.