So, despite all the adventures I was having at first, and the fact that I wander around town and write blog posts instead of doing homework, it turns out I am in fact here as a student (not that I’ve actually gone to the Immigration office to get the official paperwork for that yet, but it’ll happen…). And as of last week, I have class for about three hours a day, every day except field trip days (when, arguably, I’m in class all day long).
I don’t remember what my class is called; it has a very long, generic name. But it’s a survey course about the archaeology of Ireland from the Neolithic all the way up through the early modern period. As of today, we’ve covered all of prehistory and started to get into the early medieval stuff, which means by next week we should get to Vikings! which is very exciting. Ireland has a surprisingly different archaeological record from that of Britain even before the Roman Empire (which took over Britain, but not Ireland), which I find very interesting. Maybe you don’t, I don’t know. But there’s a lot I didn’t (and still don’t) know about prehistory in any part of Europe, so up to now everything’s been new and exciting to me. And now that we’re moving into the historical period I can start filling in some of the gaps (read: gaping chasms) in my knowledge of Irish history, which was never very well covered in either my Western Civ class in high school or my European History survey course at Oberlin (the latter didn’t even come as far West as England very often).
These Early Start courses are only open to visiting international students, and apparently aren’t very popular with students coming from elsewhere in Europe. So my class is pretty big, but is made up entirely of Americans except for one Norwegian. On the one hand, I’m happy about this because it’s way less intimidating. On the other hand, it’s not exactly giving me any indications about what actual classes—or, more importantly, Irish students—are like. I kind of wish I could just stay in this forever instead of having to start the real semester in three weeks, which is partly due to being afraid of the Irish students (which I’m aware is ridiculous) and partly due to really liking my class. I’ve taken very few classes at Oberlin that could consistently hold my attention for the entire period. Sometimes even a really great professor can’t do it.
Anyway, this teacher has a name so Irish I can’t even spell it. Or pronounce it, for that matter.* He’s a historical archaeologist, which makes me think the lectures might get better as the topics get more recent, which would really be a treat considering I already enjoy them. He seems like a really nice guy and is a lot more laidback than I think the stereotype of a European professor** is made out to be. He’s quite happy to just chat with students after class or on field trips, and routinely tosses in corny jokes or snide remarks while lecturing. He’s not teaching any classes this fall as far as I know, which is a little sad because I probably would have tried to take something else with him. (As my Oberlin transcript can attest, I tend to latch onto teachers I like.)
We had our first field trip last week and our second tomorrow, both to sites that are all within a couple of hours of the city of Cork. I’ll discuss all that in a separate post since this one’s getting long. Next week we have an overnight trip to Dublin and County Meath, and the last week of class we’re going overnight again to the Burren (that’s the name of a region, not a single site), which is in the West of Ireland pretty far North of Cork.
* This seems like as good a time as any to mention that Irish Gaelic has me thoroughly mystified. I mean, I’ve started to recognize some words. But saying them out loud is something else entirely. For example, one stop on the DART is at Dún Laoghaire. You say, “Dun Leerie.” What? And I’ve heard people complain that the French use too many extra letters…
** That’s actually not a correct usage of the term over here, because you only get to be called Professor if you’re the head of your department (which he’s not). But it sounded better than “lecturer” in that sentence.