Ireland’s teaching philosophy, at least at the university level, is much different than America’s philosophy. I don’t mean to make oversimplified generalizations about the methods of entire countries, but, speaking only from my own experiences, Ireland approaches education differently than America. America’s model of higher education is predicated upon continuous assessment. In most of the classes I’ve had at Temple, there are generally assignments due every week, with two mid-terms along the way and a final built-in at the end. Ireland’s philosophy, however, is quite different. In each class I have here, every individual is assessed based on three submissions: a group project, a term paper, and a final exam. This means that each submission is heavily weighted, and it also means that, during the course of the semester, there are periods of relative inactivity followed by intensely busy periods. There are advantages and disadvantages in each structure, but I must say that I was quite conditioned by America’s methods before got here. I’ve quickly learned that my practiced strategies for excelling in the classroom needed adjustment if I was going to do well in my classes here. After a long week filled with term papers, group projects, late nights, and lots of coffee, I’ve thoroughly learned my lesson; those blissful weeks in which no assignments are due are simply a mirage. There is always work to be done!
Despite a few arduous, long nights, Ireland’s educational structure has also offered me the opportunity to travel around Europe. Traveling for the sake of exploration and experience has a romantic lure to it and, to be quite honest, is one of the main reasons I decided to study abroad. The reality of whimsical exploration has proved no less alluring than I imagined. Drinking tea in London, eating waffles in Belgium, enjoying fish and chips in Galway –life has been difficult recently, and I fear I still have several weeks of this taxing lifestyle left to endure.
Really though, my experiences have deepened my perspective and, in a sense, rearranged my goals. I’ve met many people in my travels, many of whom are fellow travelers, and I’ve often found a kindred spirit in unexpected acquaintances. I am always intrigued by those individuals that are traveling around the world on their own, seeking only new experiences and friendly company. I suppose I can relate so well to these individuals because it seems we both seek the same thing. I’m not sure that I can properly articulate what that ‘thing’ is partly because I’m not so sure of what it is myself; I only know that I am still searching for it. I do know that I’ve discovered several things about myself in the course of my travels, and, for now, that is enough. One of the most important things that has become exceedingly clear to me is just how lucky i am to have a place to call home. And, in reality, it’s much less about the place and much more about the people that make up that place. Family is the single most important thing in my life, and that thought comforts me no matter where in the world I am.
In lieu of a quote, this time I will leave you with a word that has been on mind my since I discovered it a few days ago in my travels of the world wide webs. The word is ‘sonder’ and technically (according to Merriam Webster) isn’t a word. The internet, however, begs to differ, and this is what it says the word means:
“the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.”
Sorry for the long-winded definition, but I am so intrigued by its idea that I felt it necessary to include the entire thing. Here are some pictures of my recent travels in London: