What are you doing after graduation? It’s the most dreaded, most loathed, most anxiety-inducing question for undergraduate seniors – it’s also the most inevitable. Fortunately, Julia Marks has an answer.

She has been accepted in the Gaiety School of Acting’s two-year, full-time actor training program in Dublin, Ireland.

“It’s a huge relief to have a plan going into my senior year. That way I can really enjoy it instead of stressing out about what’s next,” says the theatre major who spent six weeks in the Gaiety School of Acting last summer and loved it so much she decided to audition for the graduate program. “It was amazing, so immersive. It was a completely different environment from the College, and I think that was good for me to experience how other teams and department work together. It was a very nourishing opportunity for me.”

julia_marks2And she has the Jean W. Johnson Travel Award to thank for that opportunity. Funded by Jean and Tap Johnson (recipients of the 2015 Alumni Award of Honor), the award helped pay for Marks’ travel expenses during her study abroad.

“They are what made the whole thing possible, and they ended up changing my whole life – the whole direction I’m taking has changed because of them,” says Marks, who never dreamed that she’d end up going to Ireland after she graduated from college. “And who knows where that’ll take me. I’m hoping that I’ll come away from it with not just the training to prepare me for a career in theater, but also a better understanding of my personal identity as an artist.”

Marks has always known she wanted a career in theater. (“I officially decided at summer camp when I was 10 years old,” she says.) The Clemson, S.C., native joined the Clemson Little Theater at age 6, and stayed with it through high school. It was when she came to campus for Governor’s School that Marks decided to continue her theatrical pursuits at the College of Charleston.

Indeed, it seems that Marks has always had a plan. While most students were hemming and hawing over what to major in, Marks knew she’d be majoring in theatre – although, she says, “I actually went undeclared for two weeks.”

And she has never looked back.

“I’ve loved my time at the College, and I especially love the faculty in the Department of Theatre and Dance,” says Marks, noting a few faculty members who’ve impacted her in particular. “First, there’s Joy Vandervort-Cobb: Every time I talk to her, she changes how I think. And then, Susan Kattwinkel: She’s just so smart and open to sitting down and talking as equals about anything you want. And Evan Parry – you can’t not mention Evan Perry!”

Marks’ time at the College has included many productions on various stages – and she is even serving as the president of Center Stage, the College’s student-run theater production organization. In recognition of her commitment to the theatre department and the College’s productions, Marks received a Clarence Award, which matches its recipients with donors to the theatre department. The “guardian angels,” as they’re called, get to know the student they’re paired with, visiting with them and attending their shows.

Center Stage presents Clybourne Park at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 13-15 and at 2 p.m. on Oct. 16, 2016, in Theater 220, second floor of the Simons Center for the Arts. Admission is free with CofC student ID, $7 for non-students.

julia_marks3“It’s just kind of great to know there’s someone out in the audience cheering for you,” says Marks, who has also received a Marion and Wayland H. Cato Jr. Scholarship and, this year, the Emmett Robinson Scholarship, which recognizes a rising senior who has a distinguished record of leadership and artistry in the theatre department. “It’s nice to know there are people out there who want to support me and other theatre majors. It has given me so many eye-opening opportunities. I’m so glad I chose to study theatre here.”

As for advice to other students who are thinking about majoring in theatre, Marks says, “Just do it. And enjoy it. The important thing is to not just think about the future. Enjoy what you’re doing now. Because you’re always learning, and you never know where what you’re learning now will take you down the road.”

“Also,” she continues, “the theater industry is changing right now. So it’s really exciting, because our generation is getting to make its own opportunities and creating its own directions for theater.”

What does that mean for Marks?

“After Dublin, I don’t know, but I’ve been thinking recently that I’d like to go on to create my own theater, my own voice in theater,” she says. “That’s my goal right now.”

Also a goal: Giving back.

“All the scholarships and support I’ve received have really changed my perspective about giving and what I’m actually doing in life,” she says. “So, that’s my new life goal – to be successful enough that I can give back. To get to a place in life that I can change someone else’s life the way mine has been changed.”

So, what are you doing after graduation?