After spending four months at Trinity College Dublin, I am now back in the United States. Included below are snippets from my mass emails sent to family and friends during my time abroad. The first few include activities undertaken with my Semester Start-up Program, a new month-long program designed to introduce international students to Trinity College and to Ireland.
I write to you on a sunny Sunday in Dublin… JUST KIDDING!
Since I last emailed, I’ve had a week of lectures (at 9 a.m.; brutal when taking jet lag into consideration), a few cups of coffee, a trip to Howth, and a night at the theatre and out to the pub with one of our tutors…
On Friday evening my program attended Oscar Wilde’s “An Ideal Husband” at the Abbey Theatre, which is (unofficially) known as the National Theatre. Following the show, a group of us followed one of our tutors to his favorite pub, where we all shared a pint and listened to some live Irish music.
On Saturday, a small group of us made an excursion to the hilly fishing village of Howth (rhymes with “both”), about thirty minutes northeast of Dublin on the coast. The local commuter train, called the DART, has a station right next door to my building (the Pearse Street Station). It makes travel up and down the coast very convenient! It was pretty blustery out there, but worthwhile for its views of the bay.
On Tuesday I met up with a Swarthmore alumnus (’78) living in Dublin. It was so nice to make a connection with a former Swattie and compare notes on life in Dublin!
Sunday we had planned to go west, but ended up taking the DART southbound to Bray. It’s a beautiful train ride down the coast, and not too far. Bray is the second-to-last stop on the DART, and there is a coastal walk along the side of the mountain to the last stop, Greystones. There is also a very large hill (that the coastal walk wraps around), called Bray Head. Those of you who know my feelings about nature may have a hard time believing this, but I climbed the mountain!! It was terrifying to go up the steep sections, and started to rain as we neared the top. Luckily (or maybe not-so-luckily), a nice older couple steered us away from the wrong path and then sent us pretty much straight down the side of the hill, back to the coastal walk. In the end, we made it back – even if we looked a little bedraggled.
[In Prague] I noticed that there were some yellow paddle-boats out on the river, and decided to check it out. We found that an hour only cost 200 cK (around 6 euros), so we made up our minds to do it! This was the cheapest and most entertaining activity of the weekend… we had some difficulty steering the boats, but enjoyed waving up at the other tourists on the bridge and floating downriver. Or maybe it would be more accurate to write; we were so exhausted from paddling rapidly – if not gracefully – away from the base of the St. Charles’ Bridge (where we kept getting stuck), that we had no other choice than to float downriver. We also engaged in a near-collision with a real boat – we had some trouble navigating around the boat. The boat driver was yelling “LEFT or RIGHT, not STRAIGHT!” We apologized profusely, and the whole boat echoed with laughter as the driver said sarcastically, “Well, that’s all right, I know the paddle-boats are very difficult to steer.”
Last weekend, I went to Derry, in Northern Ireland to visit a couple other Swatties studying there. Carey Pietsch ‘10 came over from Edinburgh, and on Friday we took a bus up to visit Andrew VanBuren ‘10 and Cecelia Osowski ‘10. We went to a Derry soccer game, explored the city and exchanged stories from our first few weeks abroad. It felt like a little bit of Swarthmore came to Ireland! It was interesting to hear how Andrew and Cecelia’s semesters had started off, since they have such a hands-on semester working with Peace and Conflict Studies… they were able to explain how the community is dealing with reconciliation (since the Troubles). It’s amazing to see how far the city has come – and how divided it still is – especially after encountering it in the distant realm of the Dublin classroom.
I attended Professor Micheal O Siochru’s book launch of “God’s Executioner,” an historical book on Oliver Cromwell, in the Long Hall (where the Book of Kells is kept), witnessed the attendees placing wine glasses on the glass cases housing the old books, and heard some infamous anecdotes set straight by former Taoiseach (President) Bertie Ahern.
Today, there is so much hype about the election, it’s amazing! The Irish are really into American politics, and professors keep asking us what we think will happen with the election. The whole world is watching, and for the moment even the critics are holding their breath.
This past weekend, I travelled to Barcelona and met up with a bunch of Swatties studying all over Europe. It is such a vibrant city, full of color and art. Just walking around, we managed to see a good portion of the city, and we ran into key sites by accident more than once. And it was so great to see it with Swatties! I’m sure everyone who goes abroad says this, but I would definitely like to go back to Barcelona someday.
For the last time… hello from Dublin!
This past week there was a series of readings by Irish writers, celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It’s a collaboration between Amnesty International and the Irish Times, and 30 writers crafted creative interpretations of the 30 articles from the Declaration. I went to the reading Sunday night, and was lucky enough to meet writer Roddy Doyle after! Wednesday night was the big night, the actual Anniversary, and I managed to get a much-coveted ticket to hear Eilis ni Dhuibhne, Jennifer Johnston (both writers whose novels I read in my Irish Fiction class!), Frank McCourt and Seamus Heaney, among others. I went up and met several of them after (and got some signatures!- although Seamus Heaney refused).
Spending a semester in Dublin has been exciting, and I am very much looking forward to returning to the States and to Swarthmore. I’m especially looking forward to all those things I complained about before I left (Sharples, anyone?)!