When I get home from studying abroad, I know what questions to expect: “Where did you go?” “How was the food?” “What about the weather?” I’m happy to answer all of them, but I’m also eager to talk about an (ironically) less popular subject, which is academics. For those of you dreaming about what classes you’ll take and the professors you’ll meet while abroad, this blog is for you.
I’m a linguistics major, and I managed to take entirely linguistics and language classes here in Dublin. They’ve made me realize how much being abroad affects my education.
Most of the material I’m learning I could’ve gotten from a class at The University of Texas at Austin, but the Irish perspective is unique to my experience here. One such class is “Minority and Endangered Languages,” which I’m taking in a country whose national Irish language is spoken by less than 2 percent of the population and has proven to be uniquely engaging.
I encourage those curious about that statistics to check out “An Phríomh-Oifig Staidrimh,” or the Central Statistics Office. Many of our discussions in this class use the Irish language as a framework. I’ll be honest: I had barely considered studying Irish before coming here. Now, its place in the global linguistic landscape is at the forefront of my thoughts.
In my “World English’s” and “Meaning in Language” classes, Irish English is used as a reference to which other dialects and languages are compared. Having been unfamiliar with Irish English before, this was a shift in mindset for me. Soon enough, I adjusted to hearing “ye” used as the plural second-person pronoun (their version of “y’all”) and “rugby” used as a metaphor for, well, just about anything.
Beyond those classes are the ones that teach what I simply couldn’t have learned back in the United States. In my case, this includes two languages unique to Ireland, which are Irish and Irish Sign Language.
With my background in American Sign Language, I elected to take Irish Sign Language classes with an organization separate from the university. Just as Spanish and French are different languages, so, too, do Irish and Irish Sign Language present far different vocabulary and cultures.
Even though my most advanced Irish amounts to, “Dia duit, is maith liom ag staidéar i mBaile Átha Cliath” which means “Hello, I like studying in Dublin,” the process of learning Irish has turned out to be beyond rewarding.
The academic experiences I’ve had here in Dublin have been invaluable to my understanding of language outside of the U.S., and I know I’m not the only one feeling that way. I’ve spoken to plenty of international students from Canada to Peru and even Germany. We all agree we’ve had an enriching experience in the classroom where we’ve heard an unfamiliar point of view.
It’s true that the “study” part of studying abroad is often overlooked, but underestimating its potential impact might lead to missing out on a unique learning experience. At the very least, keep your ears open in class. You never know what new perspective can be gained.
Go raibh maith agat as Éirinn! (Thanks from Ireland!)
This post was contributed by Sophia Boyd, a Global Ambassador for Spring 2023. Sophia is a junior linguistics studies major studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland. Read her first blog post here.
Super interesting perspective, Sophia, thank you for sharing! It also makes you wonder how much we’re missing out on in the U.S. by not emphasizing indigenous languages more (even though so many of our place names have indigenous origins!). You’ve definitely given me some food for thought here! Buíochas!