A CAPA Study Abroad Alumna Interview with Lily Garnett
Meet Lily Garnett, a theater major at Rollins College in Florida who studied abroad in Dublin during summer term 2016. Below, Lily talks about her two theater internships in Ireland, the incredible culture and arts scene she discovered in the city and the love story of Jonathan Swift and Esther Johnson that she learned while exploring Saint Patrick's Cathedral.
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
LILY GARNETT: I attend Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, a suburb of Orlando. I am a senior theater major with double emphases in performance and musical theater. My dream is to be a professional stage actress. I am a member of the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority, the Alpha Psi Omega national theater honor society, and Rollins Players. I am a Peer Mentor for first year students, and I work as a campus tour guide for the Office of Admissions. Most of my time is spent performing at my college and around Orlando. Earlier this fall, I was in my college's production of Larry Shue's The Foreigner, in which I was the female lead, Catherine. I was recently cast as The Countess in Steve Martin's Picasso at the Lapin Agile at Mad Cow Theatre in downtown Orlando. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with friends, cooking, writing music, and yoga. I studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland, where I took a class at Griffith College and I had two internships.
CW: Why did you choose to study abroad with CAPA and why Dublin specifically? What was interesting about your program?
LG: I chose CAPA because it had a program that accommodated my busy schedule and was offered in my dream city. I reached the beginning of my junior year and I knew that I would always regret it if I didn't study abroad during my college years. However, theater majors at my college are kept very busy year round with shows, production crews, classes, and being involved in the department in other capacities. I knew that I desperately wanted to go to Ireland, so when I found that CAPA offered a summer program in Dublin, I applied and never looked back. Studying in Ireland was extremely important to me because a good deal of my heritage is Irish. While I do have a fair mix of the United Kingdom and Baltic countries within me as well, I identify with my Irish roots the most. The Irish are a strong people with an undeniable sense of community. They are artists, storytellers, fighters... I could go on and on...
What was interesting about my program is that I got the opportunity to not only hold one, but two internships! During the mid-morning to early afternoon, I interned with Bewley's Cafe Theatre in Dublin City Centre. While there, I worked in publicity, marketing, front of house operations, technical operations and venue prep. For my late afternoons and evenings, I interned with The Viking Theatre at The Sheds in Clontarf (northern Dublin). Here I worked with publicity, marketing, and social media outreach! I had one class a week that was always on Tuesday evenings where we discussed the differences in the American and Irish workplaces.
CW: Talk a bit about culture in Dublin, what artists, musicians or theater performances you discovered that inspired you while you were abroad. How was the culture here different from back home?
LG: I would say that culture was different in Ireland in that it was really everywhere, and it seemed that everyone had a respect for it. The arts, especially, are very important to the people there, and it didn't really feel like there was an unspoken competition between the arts and athletics that I have noticed in the US. The Irish government has taken measures to really support artists and give them incentive to create new work, so that was personally inspiring for me to learn. It is not uncommon to walk down the street and see "buskers" (street musicians), dancers, and other forms of performance design art. It's hard to list musicians that inspired me since there were different ones out practically every time I walked outside, but I really loved one band called Stray Melody that performed near the Molly Malone Statue.
Since I interned in two theaters, we were constantly putting up shows and I ending up working five different shows and prepping for a 6th. The most fascinating thing about Irish theater is that they are all about creating new works. If somebody wants to be in a play and they can't find something that they like, they just write one for themselves! It's amazing! I worked on several of these original works and they were all quite good.
My favorite "art-sy" memory of all, though, was seeing Once at the Olympia Theatre with my co-worker and dear friend, Michelle. Once is one of my favorite musicals of all time, so getting to see the "love song to Dublin" in Dublin, was life-changing.
CW: Dublin is a city known for its rich history. In what ways were you able to explore and experience this for yourself? What are your Dublin tips for other students interested in history?
LG: Being somebody whose heritage is very Irish, learning about Ireland's history was VERY important to me. I did my research, created a Pinterest board, and made a list of historical places that I absolutely had to see. My friend and fellow CAPA ambassador, Abigail Adams, and I became experts at finding places that offered student entry rates and we took advantage of these discounts. We mapped out our weekends and free time after work so that we could cram in as much sightseeing as we could during our time in Dublin. I would encourage future CAPA students to emulate these strategies too, as they will ensure that you are getting the most out of your adventures abroad.
Of the historical places that I visited in Dublin, my favorite would have to have been Saint Patrick's Cathedral. It was beautiful on both the outside, with its flowers and huge lawn, and the inside with its stained glass windows and architecture. It was here that I learned the story of the relationship between Jonathan Swift (author of Gulliver's Travels) and Esther Johnson, or Stella. They held one of the most beautiful May-December relationships in history. Although they never announced publicly whether or not they were wed, when Stella died and Swift was serving in the church, he ensured that she was buried in Saint Patrick's Cathedral. When he passed away years later, he was buried beside her in the Cathedral as well. When handed the information brochure at the Cathedral and seeing where it said that the church was home to resting place of Jonathan Swift and his "best friend", I was intrigued and immediately researched his and Stella's story. I left the Cathedral with tears in my eyes and a full heart upon discovering this wonderful, historical love story.
CW: Tell us about everyone's favorite topic: Food! What restaurants or cafes did you most enjoy in Dublin? Did you try any new foods you had never tried before? Anything you miss now that you're home again?
LG: So my favorite restaurant in Dublin was The Hairy Lemon in the City Centre. They had the absolute best Seafood Chowder I've ever had in my life. Since coming home, I really miss authentic fish and chips. Cliche, I know. It's just not the same in the US though. I did what I called a "fish and chip tour" across the country during my time abroad and of all of the pubs I tried, my favorite fish and chips came from a little place in Bray (a sea town in south Dublin) called The Strand Hotel and Bar. After a long cliff hike in Bray, I was walking along the prom and looking for somewhere to eat dinner. I happened to stumble upon this place, was greeted by the friendly owners, and came to find out the the building was the childhood home of Oscar Wilde and his family! It was incredible!
CW: Spirituality and building connections with others is important to you. How did you weave these interests into your study abroad experiences? What challenges did you face and what tips can you share with other students to ensure these areas of your life are fulfilled while abroad?
LG: One thing that I wish I had gotten to do while I was abroad was to attend a church service in Dublin. I sadly never got around to it because it seemed that every church was Catholic and I do not practice that denomination, and I was unable to find a non-denominational, Protestant church. I ended up keeping up with my spirituality on my own. I brought my Bible and devotional books and would read them in my flat, on the bus, or if I found myself somewhere peaceful like Saint Stephen's Green.
As for building connections, the best advice I can give is to simply go out and meet people. Striking up a conversation with someone is all that it'll take. The Irish are remarkably friendly and sociable. Whether you sit down next to someone in a pub, or happen upon someone in a bookstore off of Grafton Street, just say hello. Whether the connection sticks and you reunite again, or you never see them again, those impromptu conversations were some of the most human talks I have ever had in my life.
CW: Did you travel outside of Dublin? Where did you go? Best recommendation? What did you learn from these experiences both about yourself and the wider world?
LG: I did a great deal of travel outside of Dublin as I wanted to experience as much of Ireland as I could this past summer. The biggest takeaway from these experiences was that we are all just people. Seriously. At the end of the day, everybody is a person that is trying to live their life and "do the best that they can do" in whatever field that may be. Every person makes decisions based on their circumstances in that moment and what they believe to be right. This concept of right differs from person to person. Nevertheless, each person has a heart and mind and things that are important to each of them. These dichotomies are what makes humanity beautiful.
I was fortunate that CAPA took us on a day trip to Belfast in Northern Ireland, and we got to explore the political murals, the Peace Wall, a cemetery, and the Titanic Museum. Whenever leaving the city independently, Abigail and I would do a lot of research and try to find the best rates that we could. We took a bus to Galway. We took charge of planning out everything we wanted to do that day. We visited the Birthplace of the Claddagh Ring, the "Old Long Walk", Galway's Cathedral, and ate in a 17th century pub for lunch. Another weekend, we chose to do an actual bus tour up to Northern Ireland. This was nice because the itinerary and everything else were already scheduled out. All we had to do was show up, get on the bus, and enjoy. We went to a filming location for Game of Thrones called The Dark Hedges, the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, the Antrim Coast, Giant's Causeway, and back to Belfast. It really depends on what the student is looking for in terms of how much of a planned schedule they want to maintain versus how much independent wandering they'd like to do.
CW: Where were the places you carved out as "Your Dublin" - the places you found outside of the tourist sites, the places that were most meaningful for you? What was special about them?
LG: If we're talking strictly in the city of Dublin, both of my internship workplaces were very special to me. As you've probably noticed, culture (especially the performing arts) holds a special place in my heart. Getting my internships in two vibrant theaters was a blessing not only because I played a role (pun intended) in producing and promoting some exceptional plays, but because I got to work with some of the most incredible people I have ever met. I could talk about the Stage Manager for the last show during my time at Bewley's Cafe Theatre, Michelle. She and I became close friends and still talk and support each other from across the pond to this day. I could mention my "bosses", Colm and Anto, who never stopped reminding me about the importance of authenticity in art, and the actor's job to respect and celebrate that. I could bring up Ross, who helped with flyering at Bewley's, but was writing a play of his own that he let me proofread. (It was fantastic, by the way.) The people in my workplaces fostered a community of creativity, acceptance, collaboration, and family. Within a few days of my arrival to the program, I felt like I was working with old friends.
Now if we're talking of the general Dublin area, then the area that I would've carved out as my own would be Howth. Howth is a small fishing village at the northern most point of the city of Dublin. It is unforgettable. I intend to retire here in my later years. There is so much to do and it is also easy to relax as well. One can sit by the pier and enjoy the boats, seagulls, and seals. You could walk the docks to the lighthouse or enjoy fish and chips at a local pub nearby. However, my favorite thing to do was to grab something to eat at the Farmer's Market and then hike the Cliff Walk. There is nothing quite like the Cliffs of Howth. It will both clear your mind and take your breath away at the same time. I have mental polaroids of those cliff walks that I will never forget.
CW: Where do you see yourself taking your career over the next few years? Did your experience abroad in any way shape your career goals and aspirations?
LG: I intend to stay in Orlando, Florida, for the foreseeable future. I aim to begin my performance career within the Central Florida theater scene and theme parks. Eventually I would like to give cruise-line work a try as well. Since I am a performer, and my internships had me working more on the technical and administrative side of the theater, I cannot say that it influenced my career goals much. I still want to be a professional actress, but I now have a definite respect for all of the time and work that goes in behind the scenes and in front of house. I am confident now that if I reach a point in my life where I am not landing roles, that I am still qualified to work in a theater in some other capacity.
CW: What changes have you seen in yourself since you began your study abroad program? What has your experience taught you about yourself, the world around you and some of the larger global issues?
LG: I consider my summer abroad to have been an extension of my junior year, and that year was all about self-growth and self-acceptance. When I got off that plane on June 3rd and took on Dublin, something changed inside me. I prided myself on attributes that, in the US, I might have been too nervous to share. I am independent and strong. I love having people along for the ride, but I am the only person that I need to get things done. I am intelligent and eloquent, and I also have the tact to know when it's my place to speak up on matters. I honed my leadership skills by not being afraid to face problems head-on, but I also gained humility and learned to not be ashamed to ask for directions (haha). Most importantly, the quickest way to create a bond or to form trust with someone is by way of respect, kindness, and honesty.
I just cherish humanity all the more. There is so much good in our world - so many possibilities. I just feel that we forget to reach for it sometimes. But it is there, always. No matter how small, an act of kindness can be all it takes to change someone's day. This could be the butterfly effect moment that changes something for the better. Who knows? I am just constantly reminded of the capabilities within us to bring love and light into the world.