Highlights from my first semester

Over my holiday break, I had the pleasure of visiting two of my home Rotary clubs. With them, I shared these highlights of my experience in my first semester.

  • Going on the set of The Vikings. One of my professors last semester works for the series, The Vikings, a show on The History Channel, as the historical advisor. I mentioned that this was one of my career goals, so he let me tag along. It was SO interesting. Anyone who knows me, knows I am a sucker for a good historical/period drama. For as many as I have watched (she admitted sheepishly), I hadn’t previously conceptualized all that goes into making a good historical drama. Specifically what surprised me was the time, vision and attention to detail it takes to film a scene that captures exactly what you want to show. Between takes, my professor was fantastic about introducing me to everyone he could from the directors to special effects to costume designers to actors (everyone was super nice). I’m hoping if it works out, I’ll be able to go back this semester to learn and observe more.
  • My class in Belfast. Since my dissertation is going to discuss The Troubles, I decided to audit a class taught by Trinity in Belfast to ground myself in the history and continued discussions. While I largely underestimated the time commitment of going there each Tuesday and tempted fate by committing to getting on a 6:30 AM bus each week, it was absolutely worth it. The class was taught by two different professors who were able (and willing) to share different viewpoints on the conflict. My favorite were the field trips. We spent two classes walking around the neighborhoods of Belfast to look at the peace walls and the murals. This was fascinating.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • My classmates. Can I say enough good things about them?? Somehow, I managed to find my way into a course with sharp students who are also supportive and kind. I don’t think you could ask for a better combination. With a fairly diverse (four students from the Republic of Ireland, one student from Northern Ireland, three students from the U.K., one student from China, one student from Italy, two students from Canada, and three from different parts of the U.S.) and quite well-traveled group, the points and examples make for excellent conversation as we contemplate the larger questions of public history. It has been especially interesting to learn more about China – a county I know too little about – and how culture and governmental structures play into what is and isn’t remembered.

           

  • The Rotary Ireland Conference. Not long after I arrived, the national conference was held in Kildare (not too far from Dublin). There were some amazing speakers including Enda Young who spoke about conflict resolution/mediation and Jim Sheridan, an Irish film director, who spoke on many things, but was mostly just very entertaining. While we met many Rotarians from all over Ireland, it was also the first opportunity we had to meet most of the other scholars studying in Ireland this year. (Yet another group I can’t say enough wonderful things about!) There are nine in total split evenly between Dublin, (London)Derry and Belfast. We had a great time at the conference and the ball where the Tánaiste/Minister for Justice and Equality (roughly the equivalent of our Vice President in the U.S.) came to our table and personally introduced herself to all of us speaking briefly about our research and experiences so far.

   

The second semester is well underway and already off to a good start! More on that another time.

 

You are very welcome

These words I heard over and over again when I arrived. “You are very welcome.” This is a common greeting here. Naturally I responded with “thank you” each time until orientation when we were told that we weren’t expected to say thank you every time and that it would actually come across as a little strange if we did.

So, I’m off to a good start. But nonetheless, I feel very welcome here in Ireland.

It wasn’t really so long ago that I was in France. Having spent extended time abroad a few times in my life, I was ready for the culture shock. Each time it is a little different and always catches me by surprise. Sometimes it comes as profound homesickness. Sometimes it is more of a euphoric excitement for literally everything (Pastries? YAY! 18th century plumbing? Cool!). This time it felt like a reminder. Like every time I’d do something, I’d say to myself, “oh yeah, I’m in Europe”. Like, “Why is this in kilometers? Oh yeah, I’m Europe.” Or, “They use celsius in Europe…so I’m not going to know what temperature it is this year.” Or, “Oh yeah, I’m in Europe so I have to weigh my own produce before I get to the check out.” And, “Grams. Right, Europe. Hmmm. No idea how much that is, but it looks approximately like what a pound of chicken looked like back in the states.” “15:30…forgot that people use the 24 hour clock in Europe.” Occasionally, there is a “…look right. I MEAN LEFT! LOOK LEFT!” as I remember that I am in Dublin and crossing the street is far more of a mental exercise than one would imagine. (Now, almost two months in I just look both ways several times – I’m sure I look like a crazy person and have absolutely given away that I’m not from here, but no near misses with cars.) And last but not least, “I can walk there. I can walk there? Oh yeah, I’m in Europe and I can walk EVERYWHERE!” (I don’t know what it is, but I find such simple joy in being able to walk to a destination. When I returned from France, I was irrationally upset that I couldn’t do that in the states.)

The transition has been great. People have been so friendly. When I have looked lost, people have stopped on the street and offered to help me find where I need to go. For everything from picking me up at the airport to connecting me people throughout Dublin, Rotary has been instrumental in making everything go so smoothly and has just taken such excellent care of me.

It’s going to be a good year.