To the world’s most patient academic advisor, I promised a note on the actual academics of Ireland. You may have forgotten that I went on a STUDY Abroad, due to the absence of any mention whatsoever thus far of the school itself.  

Just to fill you in: I went to UCC, University College Cork, and basically took a selection of courses that interested me: Intro to Irish History for Visiting Student; Irish Literature, Language and Culture for Visiting Student; US Collective Memory, Intervention and the Impact of Vietnam; Contemporary Literature and Culture; American Cinema and Genre from 1895-1960; and Irish Step Dancing. Everything is graded, at least as far as Mary Washington is concerned, on a pass/fail basis. Passing is a 40%. The grading is more difficult, from what I heard from those lovely Irish roommates of mine, but I have absolutely no idea what the grades will be until the end of June. No use worrying over that, right?

The classes are all lecture, and a large majority of them are 100% exam based, meaning that you have one shot to get the grade. Most of the colleges in Ireland operate on a year long schedule, so every class is tested in the spring. Some of the students have as many as 12 exams during the exam month, which means they make much better use of the library during the April study month than I did ( If you will recall, I kind of sort of wasn’t even in the country in April…). Pretty much all of the exams, with exceptions for math and such, are essay-based. For the most part, the lecturers (they call them lecturers, not professors) will give you the general topics beforehand, and you also have the benefit of past exam titles (they call essay questions ‘exam titles), which are easily accessible online. You sort of just pick and chose what specifically you want to learn about. With the Vietnam class, I picked the Carter administration and the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. With the Contemporary Literature Class, I picked my two favorite novels. That freedom was certainly refreshing, but I did miss the structure of my classes back at Mary Washington.

Now what was the hardest class? Take a wild guess. Irish step dancing. I am not a gifted step dancer. I tried it, I truly did. I gave that class a shot, I stayed after for remedial dance lessons, I showed up all but one week (when I was gone on a trip), I tried, I really did. But I do not like Irish step dancing. In retrospect, I will chalk it up to ‘experience’, but I will never go back to step dancing class. I think the only reason I passed the class is because Peg, the little old lady who taught it, is too nice to fail anyone. Can you imagine, years from now, having to explain that F on my transcript? “Well, you see Mr. Future Grad School Acceptance Man, I thought I’d try step dancing…”