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Education in Perspective

Time April 8th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

First some terminology:

The term “module” is used to refer to a specific course and each module has “lecture”, which is essentially a where the “lecturer” talks about the topic and the students take notes. These lecturers are referred to by their names rather than the generic professor as we do in the United States, as not all lecturers are professors. Some modules, in addition to the lecture, also have a “tutorial”, which is more like a seminar session and similar to my classes back at Hofstra where we may be required to read up on something and then the “tutor” will discuss it and involve us in the conversation by asking questions or having us opening debate the issue at hand.

With that being said, classes here are structured in a completely different way from what I was used to. At Hofstra we have classes that usually do not go over 30 students, where we are expected to participate, attend all the classes, turn in work weekly, etc. Although it depends on the area of study, most lectures have a larger group of people and there is no required participation. If there are tutorials for a module, they are usually every other week. Along with this, the education process is done much more independently. At home, I go to my classes prepared with the assignment that was specifically detailed to me from last class and I am ready to engage along with my professor and peers about the topic. I usually have papers, homework, and exams throughout the semester which will be turned in a graded and used as feedback for my next assignment. In Ireland, I go to class to take notes based on what the lecturer tells me and then am supposed to be doing my own work outside of class more as background research, based on a reading list distributed at the beginning. There is no specific order or assigned dates for the readings, but the list is sometimes split into mandatory readings and recommended readings. The student is not tested on if he or she has done the readings, but is simply expected to keep up with them on his/her own and demonstrate his/her knowledge of them come the essay or exam.

This brings me to the second point on assessment: There is often only one essay and/or one exam and that is the entire grade for the module and class attendance is not taken in most lectures. It was overwhelming at first because I am used to being assessed throughout the entire semester, being told what work was required of me, and actively interacting in my classes. It took a while for me to realize that it was up to me to read what I chose, when I chose and that the only grading that was going to come about was the main assignment or exam. I have an appreciation for both systems. I think it is great that there is so much option here and that you can feel free to explore any of the issues related to the topic in however much detail you want. It also requires you to develop a lot of self-discipline. On the other hand, I think there is a lot to be gained from interacting actively with your peers and professors and it focuses me more when I am working on a specific topic according to what my professor tells me to do.

Finally, the grading system here is different both in practice and in ideology. In the U.S., we think about it often as starting out with 100% and from there, you are deducted based on the errors on each assignment. Here in Ireland, it is looked at as if you start out with nothing and then work your way up to your final grade based on the level of work you do on your one or two assignments. I think I prefer the Irish ideology honestly; to me it is more motivational in a positive way saying that I can build up from having nothing to whatever I can achieve with my best work instead of focusing on trying to avoid failures that are taking away from my previous perfect score. In practice, a clear differentiation can be seen in the academic policy as well. At Hofstra, I spend more time in the classroom and also spend much more time working on assignments that get put together at the end of the semester to make my final class grade. Because the U.S. system works from the top down, 100 is an A+ and as you get deducted, you fall into the ranges of 90-100 as an A, 80-89 a B, 70-79 a C, etc. In Ireland, there is only the one or two main assignments that you work toward showing you know the material and you also work your way up. If I submit something that is of high standard, the best I will probably achieve is a 70 which is first and comparable to our 100%. Needless to say, it is definitely throwing me off at first seeing a mark that would barely make a C at home actually being a top score… but it is all in the perspective.

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The Dawning of a New Era (of food and responsiblity)

Time April 8th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I can’t cook. I can bake, tell me to throw together a pie or some crazy concoction cookies and I am all over it, but cooking is a completely different thing all together. I am the type of person who is still a five year old eater, I don’t want big chunks of veggies in any of my food and god forbid if the sauce from my pasta gets near my salad…. So this was an experience. At Hofstra University I live on a meal plan and at home I throw together pasta, microwavable meals, or my parents cook. Here in Maynooth I have not only learned how to properly create a weekly budget for things such as grocery shopping, but I have discovered that more than just chicken, bacon, and cheese are complimentary. I decided to take this opportunity to expand on what I thought I liked and (half because I was forced to) try new foods and combinations. I have found that I love red peppers! I had never really had them before due to my aversion to anything labeled “vegetable”. I use spinach instead of iceberg lettuce not only for salads but also on sandwiches, with pasta, and sauteed with other meats and veggies. The local grocery store is cheap but it is mostly local foods and does not have as much variety as I would be used to so I have learned to try things outside of my very limited comfort zone to not only stay in budget, but eat like an adult. I continue to surprise myself as well with the way I can combine foods.

Usually by Saturday night, my part of the pantry is looking pretty bare. I have this and that left over but nothing that would hop out at me and say “LOOK! I’m a meal!” so I have had to make do. For example one night a little while back I realized I didn’t have any meat left of any sort: no chicken, no mince, nothing…. How was I supposed to make a dinner with no meat? As I said, I have a very basic idea of how foods can be put together so I was dreading the idea of having to make something essentially vegetarian. I pulled out the brown rice and put it on the counter. I realized I still had a bit of tomato sauce left so I grabbed that as well. Looking around I started pulling out anything that I thought I might be able to put with it to fill me up so I took the remainder of my peppers, corn, and spinach from the fridge along with a can of kidney beans form the pantry. I had two wraps remaining so I decided impromptu burritos it was. By the end of it, I had put in all of my veggies, the sauce, some seasonings, and a bit of plain yogurt into the rice and made a really delicious meal! It is now something I continue to make with any scraps I happen to have left over at the end of the week because it helps to keep me from wasting food which might have gone bad if I hadn’t used it and saves money because I get left overs! Look at me, living like a grown up (sort of).

Cheers!

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“They speak English” they said, “You’ll be fine” they said….

Time April 8th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Ok, so really it is not as terrible as I may have made it seem by the title, but there is still certainly a slight language barrier when it comes to the differences between American and Irish English. What is nice is that because it is slightly more Americanized here and they get the American TV shows and media, they will know what you are saying no problem, it is you understanding them that can be tricky. I threw together a list off the top of my head of all of the words that I have either: 1- encountered myself and had to ask for clarification on or 2- words I was given heads up about (as well as some Irishisms vs. Americanisms):

 

Craic (pronounced “crack”)- Fun, Entertainment, News

Session- Party, Music Performance

Rubbish- Trash/garbage

Banter- Fun/witty Conversation

Slagging- Teasing

Jumper- Sweater

Pants- Underwear

Trousers- Pants

Biscuit- Cookie (of any variety)

Cookie- Chocolate Chip Cookie

Chips- French Fries

Crisps- Chips

Shift- Kiss

Press- Cupboard

A Buzz- A Call

Module- Class/course

Course of Study- Major

Trackie/Tracksuit Bottoms- Sweatpants

Runners- Sneakers

 

 

Irishisms:

“That’d be grand” – American version: “That’s awesome!”
No one says awesome here, at all. Why? I have no clue, but it is an instant way to let everyone know you are from the good ol’ USA.

“Lad” – American version: “Guy”
It’s almost stereotypically hilarious when you hear your Irish friends saying “I met this lad de other day….”

“For fock’s sake” – American version: “Oh my god”
Although the actual four letter eff word we were raised to avoid is used in more serious situations, “fock” or “feck” come up ALL the time and in everyday type conversation.

“What’s the craic?” – American version: “What’s up?” of “What fun is going on?”
Although at first it seems as though everyone and their mother are offering you drugs, people use this phrase to find out what’s happening and to get in on a good time. Similarly, they will say something was “great craic” if it was a lot of fun.

“Cheers” – American version: “Thanks”/”Goodbye”
This was a little harder to put into English because it is kind of just a statement on its own, but you will hear it all over the place whether it is because someone held the door for you, or you are walking away from the register after buying groceries.

“Would you like a cup?” – American version: “Do you want some tea?”
A cup almost automatically means tea.

“Tanks a mil” – American version: “Thanks so much”
Drop the ‘h’ and cut ‘million’ in half and you have it. One of the most popular phrases I’ve heard.

 

That’s all I can think of right now, but I will start a running list and I’m sure there will be more to come!

Cheers!

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New Friends in New Places

Time February 5th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Dublin city is incredible. I absolutely fell in love with it! I have met some wonderful people that were part of my orientation, some of whom were going to Maynooth with me and others going to Limerick. It was really great to build a network of people the way we did through the IFSA Orientation program because we were all coming into a strange country where we knew no one, but we automatically had each other to fall back on. We stopped on our first day at the Guinness Factory and it was too cool. Although it seems cliché, it really is such a staple in Irish culture! The other big drink here that I have noticed has been Bulmer’s Cider, which is much sweeter and lighter than Guinness for sure. If you walk into a pub here, you will see both of these drinks everywhere. This leads me to another observation: the live music. Oh my goodness, it is incredible and everywhere! There are people playing out in the streets, you here it pouring out of pubs when you walk by at night, and if you enter you are in for quite a treat. We heard all different varieties of music but one of my favorites was down in a section of Dublin that they refer to as Temple Bar. It was a little place but filled with lots of people and there were two men playing guitar, tin whistle, and flute and they were great!! They played a lot of traditional folk songs and were very interactive with us calling out and having us all sing along with them. It was a fun loving and warm atmosphere which made me realize why Ireland is so well known for their outings and how going out to a pub with friends was the perfect way for people here to relax. After 3 days in Dublin, we boarded a bus that took us into Maynooth, which although very exciting, it was sad to separate our group which had become very close. We had some school orientation, but adventured around a bit after. Maynooth, from what I can tell so far, really is a college and family town. There are many younger kids running around through the grocery stores after school lets out and up and down the streets you will see parents pushing strollers or people walking their dogs. So far I am really loving it and so excited about the warm welcome the locals have given us. People will stop to talk to us, ask where we are from and how we like it here. They really are very friendly and after only a week, I am feeling pretty good about this.

Cheers!

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“Adventure is Out There!” – preparing for my trip of a lifetime

Time January 28th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So, the day is finally here; the day before I leave for Ireland and I am absolutely losing my mind. I am so beyond excited I don’t even have words for it and yet at the same time I still don’t feel like this is really happening to me. I cannot even seem to process that all of the stress of this last week (and really the last semester) will actually amount to me boarding a plane that will land in DUBLIN, IRELAND. It is still not real life, yet I am sprawled out all over my living room floor with jeans, and shirts, and toiletries, and blankets, ect. ect. I still feel like I have so many things to do and I am nervous about how the flight and customs will go once I land, but I am trying to focus on spending as much time with my family as possible. Although I go away to school, I always know I am just a bus ride back home however that will certainly not be the case after tomorrow. I know I am going to miss my family and my dog very very much and it is going to be pretty hard to say goodbye to them, but I feel better knowing that I will be able to skype them and we will still be in touch. I can’t wait to see what Ireland and the people there have in store for me!! So on that note, there is packing that needs to be done so I will let y’all know how everything goes!

–    Dana

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