In three days, I’ll be boarding a plane with ten students from around the region: destination Ireland! I haven’t yet met six of the students, but based on our interactions via email and What’s App, I know I’m going to love touring the Emerald Isle with them. My enormous gratitude goes to the extraordinary folks in Eastern Kentucky University’s Education Abroad and to our sponsoring provider, the Cooperative Center for Study Abroad (CCSA).
The course is Enchanted Women of Ireland, focusing on the supernatural and historical women of Irish folklore and history. Part of my course expectations for the students involves a blog, and their first entry details their goals, hopes, fears, and any personality quirks that their fellow travelers should know. I always say I never give my students things to do that I wouldn’t personally do, so here goes!
I want to learn about this beautiful country alongside my students. I’m also excited to see my students experience another culture so far from home. One of the major reasons why I love teaching abroad is witnessing the students’ small and large epiphanies while we travel, and the overall experiences energizes me in a way that nothing else can. Like most teachers these days, I’m quite exhausted from teaching during the pandemic with all of its challenges, and I’ve been looking forward and wishing on four-leaf clovers for two years in hopes that this trip will be a reality. It’s almost here, and I can hardly contain my excitement for these two packed weeks.
I’m not only interested in the subject matter of my course, but I’m also eager to see some of the areas where 89.7% of my ancestors lived before traveling to the United States. I don’t think I’m related to any of the families that have heard or seen banshees, but I’ll still stay alert in the areas where the bean sidhe has been seen/heard.
Officially, I have set formal student learning outcomes for the course. Upon completion of the course, students will be able to:
- Identify cultural, literary, and artistic depictions of women in Ireland and explore their shifts in content and purpose.
- Analyze histories and natural features of Ireland’s four provinces as they pertain to women and femininity.
- Apply ecofeminist theory to analyze connections between Irish culture and nature.
- Contrast the mythological treatment of female figures with the status of women in Ireland.
After building the syllabus for two years, I’m keenly interested in discussing the course readings and viewings with this group of traveling students. Our topics include the totemic Sheela-na-Gigs around the country, the tragedy of the “fallen women” of the Magdalene Laundry House, Countess Markievicz, the mythological warrior women of Keshcorran, Bridget Cleary, Biddy Early, Alice Kyteler, Grainne Ní Mháille (Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley), the Islandmagee Witch Trials, Queen Medb, the Hag of Beara, the Morrigan, witch bottles, and so many other topics as they arise during our various tours along the way.
In our voyage around the country, we’ll stop for tours and photo ops at Christ Church Cathedral, Glendalough, the Kilmainham Gaol, the Guinness storehouse, the Jeanie Johnston tall ship, Fourknocks, the Hill of Tara, The Titanic from its point of origin in Belfast, Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle, the Museum of Free Derry, Yeats Country (including Drumcliffe Church), Carrowmore, the Museum of Country Life, the Aran Islands, Dun Aonghus, the Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Castle, among other locations. I owe great gratitude to Robin Byerly from CCSA for adding a visit to Dolores O’Riordan’s memorial mural in Limerick.
We’ll be reading the work of many Irish scholars along with prominent poets and essayists, including Eavan Boland, Moya Cannon, Nuala Ní Dhombnaill, Jennifer Finney Boylan, Seamus Heaney, Louise McStravick, Mary O’Malley, Lady Jane Wilde, and Nancy Willard. We’ll also be listening to songs and reading the lyrics of singer-songwriter-poets P.J. Harvey, Sinead O’Connor, and my beloved Dolores O’Riordan and the Cranberries.
My major hope is that the students will love the course, the country, and the overall experience. I hope none of them gets air sickness on the planes.
Personally, I want to talk to local residents, learn some Irish language, and try new foods that I will attempt to duplicate back home.
Finally, I hope the fairies will not play too many tricks on our schedule.
I’m afraid I’ll oversleep during our go-go-go schedule, and while there are some others, I don’t want to test fate or folklore by typing them out.
So many quirks. I’ve already alerted my students about my uncontainable enthusiasm while I am in another country, and hopefully, they’ll find it more endearing than annoying.
I’ve also told them that while I am extroverted while I’m teaching, I am really an introvert and might go quiet or need alone time in my room from time to time.
I’m a 31-year vegetarian and won’t be indulging in fleshy food while we’re dining around the beautiful country.
I’ll be posting additional entries while we’re traveling, and hopefully, I will be able to use photos that I’ve taken instead of open-access images. Wish us safe travels!