Theater student journeys to Pace University

Christian Al-Hagal, Sophomore Psychology Major
Christian Al-Hagalis a sophomore psychology major. | Photo by Amanda Rohde

Christian Al-Hagal, sophomore psychology major from Martin, has recently earned the opportunity to take a step toward fulfilling his lifelong dream. As a student he has been actively involved in the theater department with the hopes and aspirations to one day enter into the world of film acting. Recently he applied and was accepted to the performing arts program at Pace University in New York City.

“[Pace University’s] performing arts program is a very serious and rigorous training program,” Al-Hagal said. “They only want people who are very serious about their craft and who really want a career in this.”

Al-Hagal said Pace University is a regular school with a performing arts department which operated, in a way, as a separate program of the school.

“It is very hard to get into Pace,” he said. “Each major in their school of performing arts only accepts right around 30 people.”

Al-Hagal said there were about 1,300 applicants who auditioned to get into the school of performing arts this year, but only around 150-250 would be accepted.

“When I got the news, I was in Starbucks with my dad,” he said. “I went outside to take the phone call. I was so excited and just overwhelmed with joy that when I got off the phone with the head of the program, I thanked him, and I ran back inside. In front of everyone in Starbucks, before I could get a word out to my dad, I doubled over and started crying because I was so excited and could not believe that I was in the program.”

“Everybody was kind of just staring at me,” he said. “But I just raised up my phone and said ‘I’m going to New York.’ It was honestly the most surreal moment of my entire life. The fact that my audition was chosen and I was selected out of all the applicants into the FTVC (Film, Television, Voiceover and Commercial) major really floored me and really blew me away.”

Christian Al-Hagal in front of Pace University
Christian Al-Hagal in front of Pace University. | Submitted photo

His excitement for the journey ahead is equaled by the bittersweetness of his transition. He said there are so many people he will miss dearly and who have heavily influenced his life. In particular, he said he would miss his friends and fellow actors from the theater department and his 90 brothers from Lambda Chi Alpha, specifically his “big brother,” Daniel Mathis, and his “little brother,” Hayden Hughes.

Daniel Mathis, senior bio-chemistry major, has known Al-Hagal since he entered Union as a freshman.

“I was Christian’s Focus leader,” Mathis said. “I got his name on my  list. His profile picture was him in Mad Hatter makeup, so just craziness. He had bleach-blonde hair and I thought, ‘This kid’s gonna be interesting.’”

Mathis and Al-Hagal’s friendship developed through the Focus group, but it didn’t stop there. Al-Hagal was a commuter student his first semester at Union, which meant he had a daily drive that was an hour one-way. Because of his situation, Mathis and his roommates offered him their couch.

“He literally became a fifth roommate, a couch roommate,” Mathis said.

To date, Mathis and Al-Hagal are official roommates as well as brothers in Lambda Chi Alpha.

Mathis described Al-Hagal as one of his best friends.

“He’s one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met, personable, very lively and he’s a dreamer,” he said.

Mathis said more than that, Al-Hagal is a dreamer who has worked really hard and put in a lot of effort to make his dreams a reality. While he is excited for Al-Hagal, Mathis said he will still miss the time they’ve shared together as both friends and brothers.

“I was talking to him, and I said something like, ‘Christian, are you going to remember me when you’re famous?’ and he said, ‘Your kids are gonna know me as Uncle Christian. I am gonna be that involved in your life to where it’s family,’ and he’s shown that so far,” Mathis said.

Mathis said he knows his friendship with Al-Hagal is dependable and something that will continue to remain constant.

Another of Al-Hagal’s close friends is Hayden Hughes, freshman general biology major in the pre-dental program. Hughes and Al-Hagal met during Rush and became brothers in Lambda Chi Alpha.

Hayden Hughes, Daniel Mathis, Christian Al-Hagal, brothers in Lambda Chi Alpha. | Submitted photo
Hayden Hughes, Daniel Mathis and Christian Al-Hagal are brothers in Lambda Chi Alpha. | Submitted photo

“When I was in [Rush] Christian actually came to me and said ‘Hey, you wanna get a meal?’ So we got lunch together, and he was just incredible. He was just such a genuine and nice guy, and you could just really tell he is on fire for Christ,” he said. “So when it came time for us to chose our bigs and our littles, I put him on my list.”

Hughes said Al-Hagal is one of his best friends and finds his journey to Pace University a little bittersweet.

“He’s my big brother,” Hughes said. “He’s always there for me, no matter what. No matter what I’m going through, whether it’s good, whether it’s bad, he’s always there to talk, he’s always there to hang out. Going from seeing him every day to seeing him a few times a year is a huge change.”

Al-Hagal shared similar emotions about his upcoming transition into Pace University.

“I don’t mean to sound cliché, but I have just grown so close to the brothers of my fraternity – to the brothers of the Lambda-Zeta chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha – that I can honestly say being a member, a brother of this chapter, of this fraternity, at this point in time has been one of the most incredible experiences of my entire life,” Al-Hagal said. “It is something that I could never replicate and something that, no matter how great life gets, I know I’ll never have again. They’re my family and I’m gonna miss them more than anything.”

Images courtesy of Amanda Rhode, Christian Al-Hagal and Faith Patterson|Cardinal & Cream