Natalie Shell

Natalie Shell is a member of the Class of 2015 and hails from the Bay Area in California. At Dartmouth, she is a history major and environmental studies minor, but greatly enjoys the occasional anthropology and religion course. She also has a mild to moderate obsession with theater and is often found in the Hopkins Center for the Arts, either working in the Outreach and Arts Education Department or performing onstage with the Theater Department or the Dartmouth Rude Mechanicals, Dartmouth's student-run Shakespeare performance company. Thanks to Dartmouth, she has been able to travel abroad twice, once on the Spanish LSA to Buenos Aires, Argentina and most recently to London, England on the History FSP. Her favorite pastimes at Dartmouth include playing soccer on the green, attending Late Night Collis (LNC) with friends, and taking long walks around Occum Pond at dusk.

Feb 102014

Let’s talk about theater. The rush of performing, the tight-knit bond between cast and crewmembers, the overall joy of presenting your work to an audience. Point blank, I love and adore the theater. Dartmouth’s theater, of course, is no exception.

However, I didn’t always believe that I would end up doing as much theater as I do in a regular term. In high school, I performed in roughly 3 to 4 full-length productions a year, and was ready for a break when I started at Dartmouth. I thought: “Oh I won’t do theater, I’ll try something new.” Well that lasted for about a week. I immediately auditioned for the production of Breaking E.D.E.N., a new work. I was cast in the ensemble and was whisked away into the wonderful world of Dartmouth Theater. While involved in the production, I met and became friends with a few of my closest buddies here, and learned about the Dartmouth Rude Mechanicals, Dartmouth’s student-run Shakespeare Company. Following the production of E.D.E.N., I auditioned and was accepted into the Rude Mechanicals or ‘Rude Mechs.’ Let me tell you how thrilling, challenging, rewarding, and exciting it is to put on a Shakespeare production every term. The most rewarding part of doing theater for me is the inviting community productions and courses facilitate. You stay cast members for life, and often find long-lasting friendships in rehearsals. Apart from new buddies, performing or assisting as part of the crew has given me a newfound sense of confidence and determination in my work on and offstage. I am more assertive and proud of who I’ve become thanks to training in the theater.

Production photo from The Liar, 2013. © Rob Strong

Production photo from The Liar, 2013. © Rob Strong

At Dartmouth there are so many ways to get involved in theater. You can audition (usually the first weekend of term) for the Department’s production, which performs around the eighth week of term. Recent productions include The Liar, Angels in America, Hairspray, and this term: Spring Awakening. At the beginning of fall and winter terms you can audition for the Dartmouth Rude Mechanicals, the Shakespeare Company. We perform once a term, choosing a different play by vote. All of the sets and costumes are borrowed or from our own wardrobe, we emphasize the ‘minimalist’ aspect heavily, but it also concentrates the performance on the acting and the Bard’s language. As an undergraduate you can apply each term for a ‘Your Space’ production through the Department of Theater. A ‘Your Space’ is a performance you put on with the resources of the Department like costumes and lights.  It can be an original work, a published work, or a staged reading—it’s up to you! Applications are usually due the first or second week of the term and perform around week four or five of the term. Finally, there are so many wonderful theater courses the Department offers, anything from Russian Theater to Acting I to Set Design to Speaking Voice for the Stage. Some courses require interviews, which occur the first day of classes. My advice would be to try and dapple in a little bit of theater while at Dartmouth either by supporting a friend in a show, performing, or auditioning for a student production.

Feb 022014

Hello all! For my first post here I want to talk about my most recent Dartmouth experience, that is my wonderful time spent on one of Dartmouth’s many off campus programs. Dartmouth offers a number of Off-Campus Programs, labeled either as an LSA (Language Study Abroad) or FSP (Foreign Study Program). There are varying degrees of difficulty for the language programs and they’re offered all terms. The FSPs usually correspond with a specific department such as the Anthropology, Theater, or History Departments. Each program, LSA or FSP, has a specific curriculum, a Dartmouth faculty member travelling as an overall advisor, and around 8-16 Dartmouth students. I recently returned from London, England after participating on the History FSP this past fall term (September-December 2013). The overall experience was incredible, to say the least, and made all the better by the people I spent the term with. Previously, during my sophomore spring (March to June 2013) I spent the term in Buenos Aires, Argentina on the Spanish LSA. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to study abroad twice, and I believe my experience in London was that much more rewarding because I had already lived abroad. Here are some of my observations from my overall experience from the two trips.

1)    Living in a big city for 10 weeks is more rewarding, challenging, and exciting than you would think.

I live in a medium sized town in the Bay Area, so I don’t have much experience with cities except for the occasional trip up to San Francisco. Living in Buenos Aires was great because my homestay was very much in the center of the bustling, vibrant commercial district. That said, it was a steep learning curve on how to navigate the bus system, the metro, and grasp a basic sense of direction, all while speaking a foreign language. After getting lost twice the first week, missing my apartment by 26 blocks on a run, and leaving the house one hour before any event for the first two weeks, I finally got my bearings and started to simply explore. Buenos Aires is laid out a grid, so in theory, I shouldn’t have gotten lost in the first place. Oh well. Living in a city is an exhilarating and exhausting occupation. Everything you need—a laundry mat, farmer’s market, museum, shopping mall, you name it, is about a 20-30 minute walk or 10 minute commute away, sometimes closer. I learned living in a city, that for me personally, walking is a more rewarding and easier way to get about the city (especially in Buenos Aires where you can’t always time the buses or the metro). Finally, living in a city makes you appreciate the countryside and those small vacations even more. In Argentina, I travelled to Mendoza and San Carlos de Bariloche on my week holiday. In London, I went to Scotland for a week to visit friends in Edinburgh and Glasgow, but also travelled to the Isle of Skye and the highlands on a backpacking tour.

La Casa Rosada, the Argentinan equivalent to the White House. La Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires.

La Casa Rosada, the Argentinian equivalent of the White House. La Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

2)    Don’t be afraid to do things by yourself.

I know some of my friends do this, and I am definitely guilty of this too: I sometimes won’t do something unless a friend goes with me. I think this lesson applies to both abroad experiences but also college in general. It’s totally acceptable to go places by yourself, eat by yourself, or watch movies by yourself, especially when on a Dartmouth FSP or LSA. You want to go to that modern art gallery that’s only here for the weekend? Go! Don’t worry if you have to go alone, it’s nice to sometimes get away from all your lovely Dartmouth friends on the LSA/FSP. Plus you’ll have a great story to tell when you get back. In London for example, I needed an escape, that I got up one Saturday morning and went to a local Christmas market out in Zone 2 (a 30 minute tube ride from my flat), accidentally stumbled upon a local farmer’s market, and ended up speaking with one of the vendors for 20 minutes about my experience in London. It was so refreshing to get away from the Dartmouth flats and my fellow FSPers, not because I was upset or mad at them, no, I just needed the space. Doing things by myself in London (like visiting museums, seeing plays, or finding local markets) let me feel more like a Londoner than someone in that grey void between tourist and resident.

Me, after swimming in the freezing cold waters of Loch Ness on my 3 day excursion to the Scottish Highlands. Unfortunately, I didn't see Nessie.

Me, after swimming in the freezing cold waters of Loch Ness on my 3 day excursion to the Scottish Highlands. Unfortunately, I didn’t see Nessie.

3)    Finally, really immerse yourself in the culture you’re living in.

Yes, it’s a bit cliché, but you’re living in a foreign country and studying through a fantastic program; so, how could you not? You will only get as much out of the LSA/FSP as you put in. And really, that applies for anything at Dartmouth. If you shut down or spend your whole time texting/Facebooking people back home, of course you are going to have a rotten time. Getting homesick is absolutely acceptable, but you have to find a way to feel comfortable in your new surroundings. For me, I always pack my favorite lip balms, body wash, and perfume from home, so I can always feel comfortable through scent. It may sound a bit silly, but you often have to close the laptop and just get moving.

Studying abroad has defined my Dartmouth experience, so I’m sure I’ll come up with more posts on specific stories from the two trips. If you’re interested in the specific programs Dartmouth Off-Campus Programs has to offer check out

London at sunset.

London at sunset.