It’s been almost a month since I finished classes, but it feels like a lot longer. The last few weeks of classes were intense, and I had several assignments due in rapid succession, including a newspaper critique and a radio story I’d been working on for more than a month. At the end of the term, we had more to do and less time to do it than at any point in the semester. That made for a stressful few weeks, but it was a great learning experience. Just before classes finished, I did a story about education spending in Ireland, for which I spoke with a half dozen sources and wrote an in-depth analysis piece in about half a day.
I’m still learning tons about Irish life. Many things in Ireland are similar to the United States, but there are also a lot of differences that I’ve only learned about through my own reporting and stories I’ve done.
A few days after classes finished in mid-December, my brother came to Dublin to travel around Ireland. We stayed in Dublin for a couple days, and then we went to Belfast, where we took a tour of city hall and then a bus tour of Belfast. We lucked out with the guide on our bus, who had a wry sense of humor and joked about the incongruencies of life in Northern Ireland. I wish we had stayed two days there, but we already had plans to travel to Galway, where we spent the next two days.
After a week in Ireland, we joined the rest of my family in Paris, where we walked around the city and visited different markets. I spent New Years on the Champs Elysées, and the scene was incredible – masses of people drinking champagne and setting off fireworks on the sidewalks and in the streets.
I came back to Dublin early in January with a month before second semester, which starts in February. I have more free time now than at any point since I came to Ireland, and I’ve been trying to take advantage of it – volunteering at a local radio station, hiking on weekends, reading, trying out restaurants in town and going to the movies with friends. On a recent Sunday, I went with a few friends on a hike in the Wicklow Mountains. After climbing over a forested hill, we tramped through a marsh of heather to a hilltop with views of the Irish Sea and several coastal towns south of Dublin.
I’ve also been working with some of the students in my program to produce a series of radio documentaries on an area of Dublin called Finglas. It’s a working class part of town that has changed more than almost any part of Dublin in the last several decades. In the 1950s, it was just a rural village, but Dublin City Council started sending people there from the inner city and slowly Finglas grew. We’re doing a series of oral histories, which we hope will capture the experiences of people coming to and leaving from Finglas over the years.
The last few weeks have been great, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Dublin better. Although I’m enjoying the time off, I’m looking forward to the start of my second semester. It’ll mean that the Mitchell Scholars will resume regular Friday night dinners and that I’ll be back on the intense learning curve that I got used to last term. Hopefully, I’ll still manage to go hiking every once in a while and discover new cafés and bookstores downtown.