Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Week Two: Tea and Scones, Scones and Tea

We just started our Early Start Program, which consists of all international students who move in a month early and for that first month take only one class, to help us get used to the Irish system of schooling (which is so different from Loyola – UCC is filled with huge lecture halls and classes of 200 people), the Irish system of grading (70% or above is an A, and a 30% is considered passing in most classes), and living in Ireland in general. My class is Irish Folklore and Ethnology, and basically we learn about the Irish customs that have to do with eating and marriage and houses and anything else that has a specific custom attached to it. (For example, if someone in Ireland invites you in for tea, you are obligated to say yes and accept any and all food and drink they give you following this acceptance.) On our first day of class, Molly and Claire and I sat down with the rest of the kids in our class and waited for our professor. She walked in about five minutes late, introduced herself, and started introducing the course immediately. Now since we’re only taking one class right now, we have it from Monday through Thursday, from 9:00 am until12:30 pm. Except at about 10:20 our professor stopped class abruptly and said, “I’m ready for my coffee now. Enjoy your tea and scones. Come back at 11:00, is that alright?” We had literally no idea what to do, but after she walked out of the room, we all packed up our bags and followed. We went into one of the dining rooms on campus, and ordered tea and scones. At 11:00, our professor came back into the room and continued to teach, picking up exactly where she left off. We thought we were the only ones who had this mysterious tea break in the middle of class, but everyone had done the same. If any class is two hours or longer, there is a break in the middle, and the longer the class, the longer the break. It’s definitely been an adjustment getting used to taking a class with many more people than I am used to, on a new campus, in an unfamiliar city, in a subject I have never studied, but I must say having a tea and scones break in the middle of every class is something I can definitely get used to. 

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Week One: "Damn American kids. Happens every year."

Coming out of the airport into the light Irish mist, I could barely keep myself standing as I made my way across the parking lot to the waiting bus. We stumbled on and fell into the first seats we saw, most of us sleeping the whole ride through the country and into Cork, the rest of us listening to music and making half-hearted attempts at conversation. When we finally got from the Shannon Airport to Cork, we managed to grab our bags from under the bus and start making our way toward our apartment building, Leeside Apartments. As we moved down the street, all of us in a pack, unsure of where to go or what to do when we got to the building, I walked past a man who muttered (not entirely under his breath) “Damn American kids. This happens every year. Every. Year.” I was too tired to even fully comprehend what he had said, and too excited to see my new apartment to care. After cramming ourselves and our suitcases into the tiny Leeside elevator, my roommate Casey and I found ourselves in Apartment 20. With our respective bedrooms pointed out to us and our suitcases in our rooms, we stood in the living room wondering what we should do next. First we explored and realized that we did not have any other roommates – it would just be the two of us living in our apartment this semester. Next we checked out the views from our living room. We have a wonderful view of the river and some of the most beautiful churches. We sat down at the kitchen table next to each other, pulled out our computers, and emailed our parents with much more enthusiasm and energy than we were feeling. Honestly, after this my memory gets a little hazy because of all of the jet-lag and the long drive through the countryside to get to Cork. Though I’m not sure where the time went, Casey and I soon found ourselves washing up and going to Luigi Malone’s, a restaurant only a few quays away. A quay (pronounced key) is comparable to a city block, but each Quay has a name. For example, we live on Bachelor’s Quay. A lot of buildings don’t have numbers; they are identified by quay. We ate a delicious dinner with our whole program and our director, Mary Breen, who is already becoming one of my favorite people in Cork. That was only slightly affected by the fact that later this week she took us on what she said would be a walk through the Gap of Dunloe (seen in the picture above) but what actually turned out to be a hike that was over seven miles, the first half of which was entirely uphill, the second half of which was downhill, and it couldn’t have been more perfectly timed if we had tried. Exactly as we reached the top of the hill and started to make our way down the hill, it started to rain. Welcome to Ireland. All in all, this has been a great first week, and I can’t wait to see where the rest of this semester takes me.