Friday, January 16, 2015

Where do I Begin?

For those of you who don't know, I am spending my spring semester (from now through May) attending Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. I arrived the morning of January 3, and so much has happened since then that I scarcely know where to begin. But, I don't want that to keep me from writing, so just bear with me!

The combination of jet lag, culture shock, and winter break ending much earlier than I am used to has ensured that I have been pretty out of it and unmotivated to accomplish anything at all. Officially classes started last Monday. However, the class registration process is somewhat convoluted, so I don't officially have my "timetable" (class schedule), and it is now Friday. As a result I missed a few classes at the beginning of the week, which kind of stressed me out. (Here classes are called "modules").

Last week, the week before classes started, I was part of a program called the Semester Start-up Program. It was designed to teach visiting students a bit about the history and culture of Trinity College, the city of Dublin, and Ireland as a while. We mostly listened to lectures and went on field trips. They also helped us with some orientation-like things, such as getting our student ID cards and finding our way around campus. I listened to lectures on topics such as the involvement of Ireland in the World Wars (actually a very interesting situation since in WWI they were still ruled by Britain, but in WWII they were independent and remained neutral). We also learned about art, literature, history, and how modern culture has appropriated many ancient Irish symbols such as the harp, the round tower, and the Celtic cross.

We went on a field trip to a sports stadium called Croke Park and learned about Gaelic sports (Look up hurling, it sounds terrifying. Kind of like a combination between baseball and soccer).

Every county in Ireland has a team, as well as London
and New York City I believe.
The view from near the top of the stadium

We also went to a production at the Abbey Theater of She Stoops to Conquer (which was written by a Trinity alum, or course).

Most exciting of all, we went on a day trip to Glendalough, an ancient spiritual site with amazing natural beauty and also architectural remains from a monastery that stood there. One thing I have noticed about historic sites in Ireland, especially spiritual ones, is that they tend to have been overtaken by graveyards.

(Fun fact: during one of our history lectures we learned that there are graves, mostly unmarked, all around Trinity's campus. Whenever they want to do any new construction they invariably find human remains and need to call in archaeologists. Recently they found a large communal grave filled with animal and human bodies that had apparently been used in the studies of the anatomy and zoology departments a couple centuries ago).

Anyway, Glendalough.

There are about 60 round towers found in
Ireland, and only three outside the island
(which are all in monasteries founded
by Irish monks). They originally functioned
as bell towers.
It was rainy and gross, but I think this
place looks even more magical with the mist.
This is Jet. He's my travel buddy. Also, my camera lens got
rather covered in rain drops...

My education about history has also coincided with my explorations of modern Dublin. I'm not sure what I expected, but its a city just like any other. Trinity is in a very central location in the city, so there are always lots of people, and lots of stores and pubs and restaurants.

The Liffey river is close to campus.
I wish more coffee shops gave
you a cookie with your drink.

On Saturday, I went on a day trip with three friends I met last week to a nearby town called Howth, which is directly on the coast and is known for fishing (now its pretty touristy). It was much colder than we thought it would be, because of the wind. We also got a little lost trying to find some cliffs, and ended up climbing way higher than we intended, to the very highest point in the town (its a peninsula basically). It was a really fun day though, and we ate some amazing seafood for lunch.

An island we could see off the coast.
Fishing boats and seagulls
I swear we saw a sea lion eating either a
small shark or a large fish.
We tried.

This week has been a week full of adjustment as I have been attending classes and figuring out how academics will be different than at home. One example of how convoluted the system can be here: Each class has a certain number of one hour lectures each week, my classes range from one to three. One of my computer science classes has three lectures, but two of them happen to be on the same day back to back, in different classrooms. So, we start on the second floor and our professor teaches for an hour, and then we all troop down to the basement together to a different lecture room. Then the same professor teaches for another hour, but on a different topic. Most of my classes are in at least two different rooms throughout the week, and I have one class taught by three different professors throughout the semester.

Anyway. I know everything will be fine, I'm just a little overwhelmed at the moment by all the new things. If anybody wants my Dublin address please contact me (I don't want to post it publicly), otherwise the best way to contact me is via email or facebook. I also recently got an Instagram account (leaheferguson) so feel free to follow me there as well for more pictures of my adventures!

I'm sure this is only the beginning of an amazing experience. But for now, I'm just trying to figure things out day by day.

Also, one more side note. I can never keep track of who is studying abroad or travelling. So if anybody is in the area and wants to come visit Dublin, seriously let me know! And also let me know if I can come visit you :)