As I gradually (and perhaps reluctantly) plan my return to the States this summer, and contemplate the start of my PhD program this autumn, I have spent some time reflecting on my academic experience in Ireland thus far. Currently, there’s a lot of anxiety concerning the fall of Irish universities in international rankings, but this temporary dip doesn’t change the fact that the island has a lot to offer. Known as the land of saints and scholars, Ireland has long been a significant center of learning despite its location on the periphery of Europe, and that legacy continues to this day. My time working with the Undergraduate Awards has strengthened this belief, as hundreds of international students continue to apply for the chance to visit Ireland, and a number of the program’s alumni returned to Dublin this year to earn graduate degrees. Inside Trinity, I’ve greatly benefitted from studying with my small MPhil program, looking beyond my own research in the Mediterranean to learn more about Northern Europe. The program effectively prepared me to work as a fledgling paleographer this semester, transcribing Old English manuscripts — an opportunity I certainly would not have had if I hadn’t come to Ireland!
Within the classroom and beyond, a recurring theme of the Mitchell year has been learning to take a step back and go with the flow. Whether it’s something as banal as surrendering to the ever-changing weather, or relaxing a bit when waiting to receive your exam schedule, a type-A American like myself has valuable lessons to learn from the Irish. I like to think I’ve made some progress in this area, as evidenced by a recent trip to Cork to visit Peter. On a whim, Chris and I boarded the train one Monday, which unbeknownst to us, happens to be the day that most of Cork’s attractions are closed. My pre-Mitchell self never would have been in that situation, as I would have done my research in advance (especially to ensure I could visit the Cork Butter Museum, which is high on my sightseeing to-do list). This small mishap helped me appreciate my increased spontaneity.
Of course, there was still plenty to see in the Republic’s second-largest city, from Fin Barre’s Cathedral to UCC’s main quad. We also walked outside the city center to see Our Lady’s Hospital, or the Cork District Asylum, which is interestingly in the midst of being converted into apartments.
I only have two more weeks of class, but I’m hardly getting to know Dublin – the year has flown by. Last month I finally went on the cliff walk between Bray and Greystones, and Chris, Byron, and I walked the path around Howth Head. The views were beautiful, but there’s still a lot more to see!