Classes at the University of Limerick, Ireland

August 3, 2010

As a self-professed nerd, today was a very special and exciting day for me. Today was the day we started actual classes.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The whole trip thus far has been educational. Dr. Rick and his wife, Dr. Robin have been giving us background history on the English and Irish culture and media the entire trip. But instead of a traditional classroom experience, we have been immersing ourselves in the cultures for the last week and a half. For me, the opportunity to experience countries I’ve never been to was more rewarding than sitting in a classroom in Tampa reading about the UK and Ireland in a  textbook and taking notes during a lecture. This is real life. This is what college is really all about.

But nonetheless, I was excited about the opportunity to sit down at a table and take notes in a more traditional format.  My fingers were itching for the feel of my pen on paper against a hard surface, as opposed to walking and  balancing my notebook during on-foot tours of London and Dublin.

The morning lecture was on professional writing and was presented by Dr. Rick. He gave us some neat background facts about Limerick and Ireland beforehand though and here are just a few of them:

  • Writers and artists do not pay income taxes in Ireland
  • There are currently 40-50 million Irish-Americans
  • With the .com bubble in the 90s, there were plenty of jobs for the highly-educated people of Ireland. But when it popped in 2007, the Dell Corporation shut down its company in Limerick and nearly 2,000 Irish were out of jobs
  • During the Kennedy reign in the U.S., more Irish than any other immigrant received green cards. Kennedy was Irish-American.

Professional Writing highlights

  • “A good writer makes reality more real for the reader than if they had been there themself.” -Dr. Rick quoting Ernest Heminway
  • Fiction is “lies to tell a truth.” We willingly suspend our disbelief to enjoy  fiction stories.
  • Different forms of fiction:   Novel (more than 40k words), Novella (20k-40k words), Novelette (10k-20k words) and short stories (less than 10k  words).
  • Different types of travel writing: 1. Destination story 2. specialized story and 3. Literary travel
  • The Writing Process= Idea–> Research–>Organize–> Write–>Revise, Revise, Revise–>Submit
  • Remember “sloppy copies” from elementary school and write your first draft without self-editing.
  • Editing: 1. Walk away 2. Change location
  • Use the “naive eye/tourist eye” to look at the world. This is your ability to appreciate places and things as if they were new; sensory reporting

The afternoon lecture featured Dr. Robin, who talked about finance and economics and comparisons between the U.S. the UK and Ireland. Here are some highlights from her lecture, which by the way, was tremendously enlightening, despite my general lack of interest in these topics.

Economic differences between Ireland, the UK and the U.S.

  • Life expectancy for both males and females is higher in Ireland than the U.S. or UK
  • The U.S. spends the most, between the three countries, on health but still has a lower life expectancy and higher incidences of death at birth.
  • The U.S. consumes more than it produces (no surprise) and Ireland imports more than it exports
  • Oecd.stat
  • Housing is more expensive in Ireland than in the U.S.; in Dublin, small, 2-bedroom houses average about 1/2 million Euros.

Observational differences between Ireland and the U.S.

  • There are recycling bins located in each University of Limerick apartment. It is not clearly marked with the international symbol for recycling, so it’s assumed that everyone knows where and what to recycle. At USF, from my personal experience interviewing environmental science students, there is a constant struggle at USF to get recycling into the dorms
  • In Ireland, not only do you have to turn on a light switch to illuminate a room, you have to flip a switch to get electricity to outlets. Heavy doors to rooms are also common because it allows each individual room to be heated and cooled without that energy leaking out to other rooms, which saves electricity and keeps costs down.
  • in Ireland, and also in England, you are typically charged 10-20 cents per plastic bag you get from a store for your groceries/items. This cuts down on the number of plastic bags being used and encourages people to bring their own reusable bags from home. It’s better for the environment and helps businesses cut costs so they can help keep the costs of their items lower for customers.

Stats on newspaper readership

  • U.S. newspaper readership (both hard copy and online) shrunk 30 percent between2007 and 2009
  • European presses are proving more resilient. Germany only shrunk by 10 percent and France by 4 percent
  • There has actually been increased readership in Japan, with 526 paid subscriptions per every 1,000 people. Norway, 458. Finland, 400 and Sweden 262 compared to the U.S.’s measly 160. Interesting enough, the first  four mentioned countries have high broadband penetration.
  • Specialized newspapers do better

After class, we headed to the grocery store on campus to stock up our kitchens and avoid spending the money on eating out. I ended up making spaghetti for a few of my roommates. Score one for Daylina.

Some of the food we stocked up on. Much cheaper than dining out every day.

We have a mini-fridge for our perishables and the milk/ OJ we are brought every morning.

Daylina Miller cooking spaghetti in the apartment's kitchen. Photo by Torie Doll.

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