The 20 students who are enrolled in Dr. Anthony Daly's "Ireland Travel Course" this semester got to know their subject up close and personal last month when they traveled to the Emerald Isle with their professor.
Each spring semester, MCLA offers a variety of travel opportunities. This year, other students traveled to Spain, England, Japan, China, and also to Belize for an Alternative Spring Break.
"In general, students benefit from exposure to new experiences, especially in a culture which is different from our own," Daly says. "For travel courses in particular, students make connections between classroom learning and the real world, better understanding the value and importance of a college education in their lives."
He and his students visited three cities - Derry and Belfast in Northern Ireland and Dublin in the Republic of Ireland. In the months before the trip, the class studied Irish culture, history and society.
"For example, we read Dubliners by James Joyce and The Commitments by Roddy Doyle. Both provide a picture of Ireland's capital city of Dublin - Dubliners at the beginning of the 20th century and The Commitments in the 1980s," he explains. "As part of our trip, we stayed for four days in Dublin, where students could experience the city and its people. Ireland has been transformed in the last 20 years due to the success of the "Celtic Tiger" economy, and as part of their final reflective paper, students were asked to write about how their experiences in the city compared with their expectations from the reading."
In each class meeting before the trip, a few students chose an online news article that was circulated in advance about different aspects of Ireland.
"Each week, this provided a sense of issues in Ireland, both north and south. We looked at health care, religion, drug problems, tourism and politics, to name only a few," Daly says. "On the trip, students kept a journal in which they recorded our experiences."
Chris Skutnik '11 of Sunderland, MA, says his education at MCLA was enhanced by his experience in Ireland.
"The ability to immerse myself in a new culture - to walk the streets and talk to the locals, to try different foods and see historic sites - these opportunities complimented me as a student and as an individual," Skutnik says. "There is much that the classroom can teach us. But to see these places in person - that is an experience that simply cannot compare."
The trip marked the first time Sarah Spaulding '12 of Little Falls, NY, traveled overseas. Although she says it is difficult to pinpoint her favorite part of the experience, Spaulding particularly enjoyed walking along the coastline of Northern Ireland.
"The view was amazing. Pictures definitely do not do it justice," she says. "The class was quite interesting but being able to take that information and actually use and experience it in Ireland was very rewarding. I am grateful that MCLA can offer these kinds of courses to students. I know that the course and trip combined have improved my education greatly. I am now more eager to challenge myself through similar experiences in the future."