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Study Abroad/Global Education

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Ireland in Context

Maymester 2014

​This Maymester course explores a variety of student-centered honors and leadership research topics (i.e., culture, politics, and history) focused on larger group/peer research themes (i.e., education, medicine and the health care system, and sectarian politics). 

Course work is comprised of significant student-centered learning activities and includes reading and cybersleuthing activities, group discussions, reflective writing and daily Weebly blog posts (Blog as Journal project), listening and video-viewing, site-specific explorations, cultural activities, guest lectures and mentoring sessions, and full planning for and participation in the Fall 2014 – “Celebration of Excellence” Honors Symposium presentation – a miniconference and final presentation project to report research, tell stories, share photos and experiences, and promote our blog showcase launch and highlight the UHL program.

Learn more about this program by visiting the program blog here​!

​Have questions about the program? Join us at one of the program info sessions to learn more! There is a session January 29, 2014 at 12pm in the 9th floor conference room of the Lawrence St. Center. There will be a second session on February 19, 2014 at 11am in the 9th floor conference room of the Lawrence St. Center. 


 Faculty Spotlight: Judith Coe


 Q & A with Professor Coe


 Did you study abroad as a student?

I didn’t, but I so wanted to! I wanted to join Up, Up with People when I was in high school, and nearly went to college in Poland for my Freshman year. When I was in graduate school (and raising three children) I applied for a student Fulbright award (but did not make it to the final stage). I had a marvelous teacher who had traveled, and he was a great inspiration and mentor. He opened up my world in so many ways, and through him I cultivated many of my present loves and passions — travel, food and wine, literature and art, history and culture, and curiosity and learning. 


 Why should UHL students go abroad?

Learning, studying and traveling abroad changes you in ways you can’t begin to imagine — it opens your heart, mind and soul to new ways of thinking and being, and connects you with people who, although very different culturally, are humans who have dreams, goals and curiosity. Learning to see the world as a much larger place, and beginning to sense your place within that larger, global context, is essential and wondrous. It is life-changing!


 Why did you choose Ireland for your program?

I have traveled a great deal, and the word is a beautiful place — but I am in love with Ireland! I had thought of teaching an Honors course in Ireland at some point (I have taught an Irish Honors Seminar every spring since 2012), but last year, two students in the Freshman UHL cohort came to me and said that they’d like to help get a study abroad course for UHL organized, that they wanted it to be in Ireland, and they wanted me to teach it! Pretty cool — that’s the way to have great students buy-in and a successful course!  


 What excites you about Honors and Leadership studies in Ireland?

I LOVED teaching and learning along with my students in this UHL class — it was incredible to watch my amazing students and to vigorously participate in their growth and development, over the course of a very intense three weeks. I loved seeing them make connections in context and building real and sustainable learning into self-guided research, writing and reflective practice that deeply resonated on both personal and peer levels. Each student maintained a daily blog, and it was an incredible learning experience that far eclipsed traditional teaching and learning modes and domains and engaged students in deeply creative and meaningful ways.

Our excursions and activities were designed to include important cultural sites that any informed traveler might wish to visit and engage with, but other excursions and activities were planned through my personal contacts, friends and colleagues in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland — Irish Fulbright Commission, US Ambassador’s Residence in Phoenix Park,  European Union Commission House, Irish Parliament, sectarian neighborhoods of ’The Troubles’ in Belfast, Art of the Troubles and Theatre of Witness, personal tour of the walls and stories from Bloody Sunday and the Bogside area of Derry, the Cliffs of Moher, the Blasket Islands, film screenings and a Q&A with an Irish documentary filmmaker and tea in her home with the Bibeanna and the Men of Ventry — to name just a few. Helping my students to engage with real people of all ages and from diverse Irish cultures, to learn their personal stories and hear, first-hand, about what life used to be like in Ireland before the Celtic Tiger days and what it’s like now, to experience a larger sense of the world and to begin to develop a different aesthetic about learning and an enlightened ethos that embraces and practices the concept of cultural ambassador — all of these things were primary goals in teaching this class and in helping students to learn more about themselves through learning more about another culture. 


 What do you expect students will learn from your course?

Students in the 2014 Maymester learned many extraordinary things — of course, they learned about Irish history, music, politics, the peace process, and the people and culture of The Blasket Islands, But here’s a small sample from their end-of-term reflections about some of the intangibles that this kind of learning fosters. They learned: to question and reflect on the notion of ‘what is home’; to be more appreciative about reflecting on the past and recording things (as it changed how they  look at past experiences and how they'll deal with things in their future); so much about the world and themselves; self-actualization; to remember to love and take care of themselves; how happiness is a constant choice and they plan to add travel as a means of experiencing such joy on a regular basis; how travel has opened their eyes and has allowed them to have a larger grasp of the world around them; to be more relaxed and thus, more in touch with the world and people around them (when this started to happen they started to be able to come more in touch with themselves); you should always be yourself; they have grown incredibly from this entire experience; to hold more intimate relationships with those around them; made them realize how much time they have to change their mind and have some failures (how important it is to actually sit and think about what they are doing and make sure it's what they genuinely want to do, not because they have been told to — will go back with a new approach for working, communicating, and traveling in the future); how much they can function independently; they love interesting themselves in another culture and it's history, in addition to truly getting a feel for the natural beauty of another country; they are not and will not be one of those people who are narrow minded; being emotional can get in a way of being fair or even kind, so they have to keep in mind that when they need to be objective; and, they appreciate their own families and cultures, and their unique, individual ancestral heritage, much more, now — with an eye toward more research, discovery, and engagement with older relatives and their stories and experiences.


 What is the most interesting thing that has happened to you in Ireland?

Let me tell you, quickly, about three of the powerful experiences we had in Ireland! First, an ‘in context’ activity, attending a Theatre of Witness play about mixed marriages (Protestants and Catholics) in Belfast, No. Ireland, where the two couples performed their own words and stories, was an incredibly moving and emotional experience. I happened upon information about this play and told students that we would all attend, together. Although polite, they were not thrilled to have a free evening now filled! However, within minutes, it was clear that hearing real stories about sectarian violence and divide from the people who experienced them would be powerful. Students were overcome with a sense of appreciation for what these people had been through and having the courage to share it all with us, and they were able to see beyond their own struggles (and privileges). We were able to talk with the actors after the play, and these people will be friends, forever.

A second experience saw the class attending a screening of two documentary films from a renowned Irish filmmaker (films about life in this part of the world — from both male and female perspectives) and a Q&A. In attendance were the Bibeanna (women) and the Men of Ventry (men). Afterwards, we all piled into the people mover and drove into the Ventry hills for an elaborate and delicious tea (sandwiches, cakes, pastries, tea and coffee) with the filmmaker, the Bibeanna and the Men of Ventry. The students interacted with the Bibeanna and the Men of Ventry in some wonderful ways — hearing their stories and exchanging experiences. At one poignant moment, one of the students and one of the Bibeanna sang an ancient French song together, in harmony! And, several of the Bibeanna sang old sean-nós (old-style, in Irish) songs, a real treat.

A third experience involved taking a small fishing boat out to the Great Blasket Island, walking in the footsteps of Martin Kearney (the subject of my documentary film and album project) and learning more, in context, about the Blasket people and culture. Our guide was passionate and hilarious — and students were enchanted with the people and this place. It was a magical three weeks — I am so proud of these incredible students and how well and with such respect and great curiosity they engaged with a new culture. 


 What is your favorite aspect of Irish culture?

There are so many things I love about Irish culture — beautiful and haunting music, sad and strong history, gorgeous land- and seascapes, lovely and hilarious people — but I really love Irish wit and the clever and creative ways they manipulate the English language!


 What is one thing Americans should know about Ireland?

Ireland, although historically closely allied with the US, is not an extension of the US — it is a deeply conservative and proud country with a significant and distinct history and culture which is changing rapidly, owing to global influences, periodic rises in financial and social status, and deep cultural shifts in religious thought and practice. 


 Final thoughts?

My heart is in Ireland — I was a US Fulbright Scholar (2006-2007) based in the Irish World Academy of Music & Dance at the University of Limerick, I was appointed by the US State Department (2010-2012) as a Fulbright Ambassador, and I am the College Music Society Ambassador to Ireland. I have traveled widely throughout Ireland and lived there twice, and I brought my experiences and my passion to this teaching/learning experience. It was a joy to teach this UHL Maymester class and to help these bright students learn about Ireland through my eyes and through the hearts and minds of the Irish people. These kinds of study abroad experiences are essential in today’s world; this kind of learning and education provides a profound and long-lasting difference in students’ lives — students in this class became so excited by each of the cities we visited (Dublin, Belfast, Derry, Galway, Dingle and Dún Chaoin) and their histories and they were encouraged to explore on their own. They feel deeply attached to Ireland, now, and for the first time in their lives, they became aware of other people's lives in both small and large ways. Having the opportunity to step outside of their own cultures and experiences to live and study in a two foreign countries will have some influence over careers and educational choices, it will encourage and create new lifelong pursuits, and it will increase cultural tolerance and understanding, facilitate lasting friendships, and instill a deep sense of the importance of cultural ambassadorship in a divided world.



Quick Facts

  • Course UNHL 3888
  • Faculty Judith Coe 
  • Dates 
    May 18 - June 8, 2014 
  • Cost ​TBD
  • Deadline ​March 1, 2014
  • Credits 3
  • Prerequisites Must be part of UHL program. Preference given to students who have taken UNHL 3825.
  • Program Advisor    Meghan Atherton​


Costs and dates tentative and subject to change.

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