The June 2011 study abroad trip to Ireland provided an energetic and enthusiastic group of Honors College students, faculty, and staff with a two-week immersion in Irish culture and history. We stayed for ten days at Trinity College, Dublin, which was founded in the late 16th century, and is situated in the heart of Dublin's city center. We were minutes away from museums, art galleries, and treasures such as the Book of Kells. The city, in other words, became our classroom.
We also had an actual classroom in the Arts Building at Trinity, where we were treated to a stimulating series of lectures and presentations organized by our friends from Dublin Institute of Technology, with whom the University of Houston has a new partnership. In a dynamic arrangement of topics that covered both the traditional and the contemporary in Irish culture, we learned about everything from the splendors of Georgian Dublin to the globalism of modern Irish poetry, from the significance of the Irish language to the cutting-edge in visual art. In the academic side of the program, there was a constant stress on the experiential: hence we went to a performance of Shaw's Pygmalion at the Abbey, Ireland's national theater, and got a chance to visit with the play's director for a Q&A; we went to learn about educationalist and revolutionary Patrick Pearse at the school (now a museum) that he founded; and at DIT's Conservatory of Music, we heard both traditional and jazz musicians talk about their doctoral research, and heard them perform.
There was plenty of touring on the trip, too. The wilds of Wickow we not only explored the monastic culture that made Ireland "the island of saints and scholars" after the fall of Rome, but also visited the magnificent house and gardens that make up the Powerscourt Estate, a fine example of the Anglo-Irish "Big House" tradition. However, I think for many participants the highlight of the whole trip was the days we spent in the storied west of Ireland, experiencing the vibrancy of Galway city, the rugged beauty of Connemara, the drama of the Cliffs of Moher, and the Irish-speaking Aran Islands. And we had sunny days just when we needed them!