First, many thanks to any and all who have stopped by this blog over the last ten months to see what I’ve been up to. It’s been nice to get comments from family and friends even though I did a pitiable job of keeping in touch with most of you. Many thanks to the Holy Cross Office of Public Affairs for letting me keep this blog: it’s been a nice record of my experiences. As for my fellow Crusaders, I hope this has given you a sense of what it’s like to study abroad in Cork; Vicki Pearson, Holy Cross’ point woman at UCC, tells me that there’s a large group of you headed over next year and I wish them the very best.
I’d like to address study abroad specifically in this space as it seems to me both overpraised and unfairly maligned: held up as an invaluable educational opportunity and denigrated as formalized goofing-off. I had a wide range of American acquaintances in Ireland and I saw many people lean both directions. Some people I knew took classes and made connections that changed the course of their lives. For example, a good friend from Albany, NY studied English at UCC while practicing European languages with the continental students and is moving to Barcelona in the fall to become an English teacher. Others, it must be said, used the opportunity to disengage from schoolwork.
Holy Cross bucks the national trend in pushing us to go abroad for two semesters. Most American student largely take elective courses (often outside their major) and don’t spend extended downtime there like we do. There’s sometimes not enough information available to make this calculation, but I’d suggest trying to determine how time abroad fits into your long-term goals. The Study Abroad office does an admirable job of pushing you to do this (and the smartest among you will) but if you can look a few years into the future then you’ll save yourself a lot of worry while you’re gone.
That’s enough advice for one post.
Now, regarding the exam period: I spent many days studying and then sat in a large exam hall with hundreds of other kids to take them. It’s not terribly different from taking exams at Holy Cross except that it’s spread out over four weeks and it’s a little more of an intimidating test-taking environment. During the last week, I said some good-byes to friends, made last visits to old haunts and helped the other Crusaders move out. During a free day, I made a long-put off visit to the historic Cork City Gaol and regretted it almost immediately. I didn’t want to further explore the city I was leaving. Since I didn’t jet out until the beginning of June, I had a long final of idleness ahead of me. I was curling up with my knitting one night when there was a knock on my bedroom door.
“Hey, would you like to come to my gaff for a few days?” It was apartment-mate John Cashman, inviting me to the family farm in Lismore, Co. Waterford. So, I threw my things together and took off with him. His family exhibited the Irish penchant for hospitality by feeding me, putting me up and showing me the area in exchange for my exercise… of absolutely no farming skills.
“Have you never worked with animals before?” His father asked, quizzically, around the kitchen table that first night.
“Do you have cousins that farm?” John asked.
“Do you not even have pets?” His brother added.
I coughed uncomfortably and tried to give a portrait of life in the “inner-ring suburb.” Nonetheless, they took me around the pastures and on one occasion I even helped control the herd during the rather bloody process of de-horning the cattle. I was amused to hear that they’d had a neighbor named Jim Condon who kept a thatched cottage on his property until a fateful accident that involved falling asleep in it with a pipe in his mouth.
Considering far relations, they were gracious enough to take me to nearby Dungarvan when they heard that my great-grandfather had grown up there. The best remarks they could gin up about it, though, was that the locals were “mostly scumbags.” John remarked, “It’s a good thing your family left, it’d have been a shame for you to end up inbred.”
Well, that’s about all. As I opened this blog with my account of a public lecture by a Communist economist, It’d be appropriate for me to leave you with a few wise words from the Irish socialist party. This was posted viz. the Fiscal Treaty Referendum that took place at the end of May in Ireland but the metaphor is one I try to keep at the mental forefront as I advise my friends on their day-to-day lives.
John Condon '13