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Study Abroad offers Irish literature, travel writing course in Cork

By Daniel Palomo III
University News Service
December 3, 2013

The Texas State University Department of English is offering study abroad courses in travel writing and Irish literature July 5-Aug. 9 in Cork, Ireland.

Created in 1999, the five-week study abroad program offers an immersive experience in Southwest Ireland that enriches the course curriculum. It is available to 15 Texas State students-- undergraduate or graduate--interested in Irish culture, Irish literature or travel. The trip includes six hours of university credit, housing and weekly planned-excursions.

Cork, a city with a population of roughly 120,000, possesses a rich history of architecture and literature and represents an ideal location for a study abroad program, said Steve Wilson, English professor and director of the program.

"Students get a range of cultural activities where they are interacting with the Irish people," Wilson said. "The classes enhance their trip because it gives them a context for what they are doing."

Students are housed in university apartments at University College Cork and attend classes during the morning and afternoon. The classes include readings students are presented with beforehand, in order to facilitate discussion and experience during the trip.

"I went to classes in a castle," Valerie Vera, English senior and 2009 trip participant, said. "It was an inspiring part of our studies."

Students are exposed to classic literature written by authors from Cork and visit many of the places referenced in their studies. Wilson carefully chooses the literature to coincide with the excursion destinations and ensures that their experiences generate ideas for their writings.

Vanessa Johnson, creative writing graduate student who attended the trip earlier this year, said the Wilson’s guidance was instrumental in her learning experience.

“If I just took a vacation I wouldn’t have the guidance to realize the historical significance of the stories about the places I visited,” Johnson said.

Excursion destinations include Blarney Castle, various coastal areas, Gougane Barra Forrest, Cahir Castle and many other cultural sites. Students are exposed to the culture and people of the area while enjoying activities like hiking and hurling, the national sport of Ireland. There are also planned activities, like scavenger hunts, throughout the week that take place in Cork that allow students to interact with the people.

"The first day, we dropped off our stuff in the apartment and they were like 'go do it (scavenger hunt),'" Vera said. "We walked around the city the entire day and really experienced it."

Adventures experienced on the trip range from bizarre cultural experiences such as, goat shaving to religious experiences in 14th century cathedrals. Students have met friends they keep in touch with years later, some even get married or decide to live in Cork, Wilson said. These inspiring experiences allow students to apply a global perspective to their future work, Johnson said.

"It was an important, culminating experience for me as I became aware of how I fit in the global experience," Johnson said. "Within four weeks of returning, I wrote 60 prose poems."

For more information regarding this study abroad program, contact director Steve Wilson at (512) 245-7680 or email him at sw13@txstate.edu. For more information on other study abroad programs please visit www.english.txstate.edu/organizations/studyabroad/ireland.html, the study abroad office at the Thornton International House or call (512) 245-1967.