What a busy week it’s been! Now that we’re in the full swing of school there is always something that I should be doing, whether that be homework, attending lectures, grocery, laundry, other errands, hanging with friends, and many other things that seem to keep me from bothering you all with updates on my life. 🙂 It’s been great craic though (fun); I’m so happy I got the opportunity to come and study here.
My courses are so fascinating, and I could go on and on about them. Maths kind of freaked me out at first since this semester we are mostly doing matrices, which I haven’t really had a whole lot of experience with. Nevertheless, I managed to figure out the Gaussian Elimination method used to solve systems of linear equations. Once I got the pattern down the problems were pretty enjoyable, albeit lengthy, to solve. My lecturer is pretty engaging, but we have a two hour lecture on Tuesdays, which feels like an eternity since everything else is about 50 minutes long.
My computing course isn’t my favorite class so far, mostly because the lecturer goes super fast and isn’t really all that interested in what she’s teaching, but it can be a fun challenge at times. Right now we’re focusing mostly on converting between different number systems (binary, decimal, hexadecimal, etc.) and “learning” how to program with ARM assembly language (It was just kind of thrown at us so we’re having to figure it out mostly on our own).
Programming is the course that scares most people, but for me it’s a great breather and easy class to get ahead in. The teacher is notorious for his stubbornness and belief that his class is the most important in the world, but he is also a pretty engaging lecturer. Fortunately the assignments are easy (at least for me) so I can get them out of the way and then help my friends with theirs.
I can’t help but geek out every time I’m in my linguistics lecture. Every week is a different lecturer who specializes in a particular topic of linguistics. This week our lecturer talked to us about the stages of acquiring language, and at what points do certain things, like developing an ear for a particular sound or adapting to a particular accent, happen in a child’s brain. We discussed the famous case of Genie Wiley, which is a case about a girl who was trapped inside a house until she was a teenager and never learned to speak. Although her story is horrifying, it was a major breakthrough for linguists and cognitive scientists because it proved that there is this critical age in which a child can acquire language.
French also made me nervous at first because I felt so far behind at the beginning of last week, but I’ve found out that I’m really not that behind at all. My speaking skills aren’t as great as they could be, but I have no trouble understanding the lecturers, and as long as I have a dictionary I can read fairly well. Oral French is hard because even though there are only about twelve of us and we’re in this tiny room, the professor is so quiet almost no one can hear her. We mentioned this when we met for coffee with the S2S mentors (second years in the same course), and they remembered going through the same struggle last year. We just smile and repeatedly say “oui” and all is grand.
Having made some Irish friends, it’s so fun and sometimes confusing to learn about the different culture. It is really hard for me to remember everyone’s names, since most of them are traditional Irish names, and I can hardly pronounce them. I would try to give some examples here, but there is absolutely no way I would know how to spell them, or even Google the spelling. (Actually I do know how to spell Aoife, which is pronounced “Eefa”. There are a lot of girls with this name). Every time I speak I feel like I really stick out with my American accent and slang. I get asked so many questions about America, such as: “have you been to the M&M store?!”, “is every school like the movie Mean Girls?”, “Are there cowboys where you live?” There are so many other things that either surprise them, or random things they like about America. They love Target and wish they had the chain in Ireland (trust me so do I!). They also found out that Washington is a state and not just a district. And they still can’t get over the fact that a biscuit in America is like a scone, not the hard cookies they eat with tea here in Ireland.
I’ve learned a lot about Irish school systems too since I’ve been here. Everyone here is still not over the leaving cert, which I mentioned in a previous post. The leaving certification (LC) is a series of tests that everyone takes at the end of secondary school, and based on your scores you get into the best college on your list that you can. There is a test for (at least I think) every school subject that the students take. So to get into a specific course here at Trinity, you have to have received a certain score on certain leaving cert tests. Everyone is still talking about their scores and the tests, which is the biggest thing a secondary school student has to worry about. You can also pay money to get your scores rechecked, which a lot of students do.
A lot of people I have talked to like the American system in that applying for college is looking at cumulative things, and that you have a transcript that covers all four years of high school, not a test at the end of the year that determines your future. Because of this final test, many Irish have a certain mindset when it comes to learning and studying, since they’re only used to studying for the leaving cert. All of the professors keep explaining in class how the work and studying we need to be doing is not like that for the leaving cert. I don’t get all of the references that the professors talk about when they compare their course to those of secondary schools, but so far there haven’t been any problems so I just going to keep studying the way I do. I think schoolwork here is a lot more self directed studying and learning, since there are minimal assignments. I really enjoy this set-up, since I think I learn a lot better on my own, and I’m not being bogged down with loads of assignments.
Other than school, it’s been fun just being a resident and regular Dubliner. I finally feel pretty confident in getting anywhere I need to go, and when people and tourists ask me for directions I can actually give them an answer and point them in the right way. The tourists at school still walk very slowly, however, and it can be quite the struggle to make it all the way across campus in ten minutes for my next lecture. I got to school quite early on Monday though, and there were hardly any people in front square, just me and the seagulls on the cricket pitch. It was a really nice walk through campus all the way to my maths lecture, which isn’t even on campus, but I have to walk through to get there.
I’ve become everyone’s best friend now that I have a printer. My friends feel bad asking me if they can print stuff, but they usually bring their own paper so I don’t mind. (Of course I would have let them print anyway). I let my French roommate print in exchange for her reading over my French essays, so it all works out well. 🙂 On Tuesday our flat had a movie night, so we crowded around a laptop in our living room with a bunch of snacks and popcorn. My Irish flatmates are going home for the weekend though, so it is going to be another quiet weekend in my apartment.
A few days ago we had a surprise fire drill here at Halls. We all knew it was coming but didn’t know which day. They also make sure that the drills are at the most inconvenient time possible, and our house’s alarm went off a little before seven in the morning. It woke most of us up, and we only had about three minutes to get outside and to our meeting spot if we wanted to make the survived list and not get fined (Like I mentioned earlier, pretty much everything here is threatened with a fine, no other form of punishment). My combat boots were the quickest shoes for me to put on, so I had them set out beside my bed. They didn’t exactly go with my pajama shorts that morning, but everyone was wearing a strange mixture of clothes anyway. Those poor people who had to jump out of the shower! That was the first time I had worn shorts since I’ve been here, and my flatmates couldn’t get over the fact of how tan my legs were. They don’t get any sun here. 😀
Tonight we are going to get some Indian food and watch this Bollywood movie, called Ek Tha Tiger. The only reason we wanted to watch it is because it is filmed in Dublin, and one musical part takes place at Trinity. We saw a video clip of the song, Banjaara, that is filmed on Trinity, and it is so catchy and so annoying that every time it gets brought up everyone has to sing it and then hate the person who started it. But finally we are going to see the movie for the song that we all can’t stop singing and making fun of. Until later then, slán!