Thumbs Up for the Semester Start Up ProgrammeDublin-TCD, Fall 2009

The Semester Start Up Programme (SSP) is put on by the School of History and Humanities at Trinity College with the specific purpose of acclimating international students to Trinity, Dublin, and Ireland and the history, culture and identity of each.  The course includes three classes a day, three days a week, one day of tutorials and one to two days of field trips.  Different professors from their respective disciplines taught courses ranging from The Topography of Ireland, James Joyce, The Irish Short Story, Art and Architecture of Dublin, Important Buildings on Trinity's Campus, The 1916 Rising, and Current Events.  Our field trips corresponded to the things we were learning in class and I was able to visit several major Dublin highlights.  I saw the jail where the leaders of the uprising were executed and popular Irish opinion about the state of the nation was completely changed.  I stepped on the field of Croke Park the day before the All-Ireland Hurling final and touched some of the jerseys in the locker room.  I climbed the Hill of Tara and stood where kings of years before had been crowned.  I saw a play at the Abbey Theatre and toured the Parliament.  All this in the three weeks I was here before real  classes had even started.  The SSP helped me feel comfortable in Dublin, and gave me time to feel well adjusted before Trinity classes began while I also was still able to get back into an academic mindset.  More importantly, I learned and explored the complicated past of the country I am living in for four months.  I had done some research before I came on the semester abroad because I feel it's immensely important to understand the culture you're living in and why it has shaped up the way it has.  The SSP broadened my knowledge of my home country and also my understanding of my place in it for the next few months. I then had a week off before beginning Trinity classes.  "Fresher's Week", as it's dubbed here, is basically an orientation for incoming students, so although I'm a senior, I was partaking in Freshman activities.  The Front Square of Trinity, usually bustling with tourists, had been transformed overnight into a lively cube of tents, tables and people persuading you to join their societies.  For a few euro here or there you can join clubs ranging from activity-oriented to discipline-oriented to hobby-oriented.  I chose to join the Food and Drink Society, balanced with the Dublin University Harriers Athletic Club (running) and also Photography and Environmental.  My school finally feels like a school rather than a tourist location.  This is also the week I solidified the courses I'll be taking for the remainder of the semester.  Continental Europe: Grandeur and Decline, Psychology of Criminal Behavior, and Imagining Ireland are on the agenda for now.  The registration process over here is definitely still very antiquated but I managed to show up to class today and my name was on the roster.....good enough for me!
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