Feckin goodbye

Hiya! How are you? I’m leaving town tomorrow, did you know tha’? Oh shi’, I’m even leaving the feckin country! Going back to me folks, that is. Oh, it’ll be grand, I’m sure.
I know my Irish voice is really bad. But no time to improve it anymore: Tomorrow around noon it’s going to be o-v-e-r. I’m going back home. What a day I’ve had! No wait, what an awesome year I had! I’m so happy that I took the chance to come to Dublin and study at UCD!
Let’s reflect for a moment. I came here in late August 2014 and the first semester started in September. Let’s be honest I didn’t really have the typical Erasmus experience (meaning you get drunk a lot, party a lot and learn nothing but bad English). The first semester was actually quite the opposite. I was stressed but happy. I took three English modules, two language courses and one German class. Except from the language courses(of which one was French – need I say more?) I absolutely loved it! I learned so much about Jane Austen (more than I imagined possible!), Romanticism and English Literature in general that there was nothing wrong with my head being buried in a book for the whole time. Seriously, people from the first semester must have thought me a real nerd with an all-time appearance of carrying loads of books around. Oh and when people asked what my plans were, I usually told them I had to catch up with my reading. Because back then I thought I had to do all the reading! Well, I still think that but this semester I didn’t really do it anymore. I didn’t bother, ’cause nobody else seemed to bother. I still think that I read more over the past few months than at other times in my life. Right, where was I? The first semester was great but busy. So I decided to take it easy this semester and I only took one English module(and didn’t read all the books I was supposed to. But, seriously, who can expect me to read books from that many male Victorian authors? I only read the good stuff. I read Charlotte Brontë’s Villette and wrote an essay about it. Which was challenging enough! Jane Eyre is definitely made of lighter material! I started Dicken’s Pickwick Papers, Collins Moonstone and had a look into The Secret Agent which bored me, sorry. Maybe I’ll give them another try in the far future. I wrote my exam about Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw which scared the hell out of me (I can also really recommend the movie adaptation The Innocents! Youtube has it.). In the paper I compared it to Elizabeth Gaskell’s An Old Nurse’s Story which was also really scary – I give you a hint: Both are ghost stories! Oh and I loved Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market”! Such interesting themes! I read somewhere that this poem can be interpreted as a story about sisterly love, criticism against consumption, rape, the pros and cons of masturbation (hahahahahaha – whaaat??), Christian redemption and many more. Anyway, let’s close this bracket!) So this was my one English module, as you can see it still pretty much occupied my mind. I took another German class with my fellow Irish students that are learning this beautiful language. It was actually quite interesting and I do like Christa Wolf. Then there was my one history class which was very interesting. I learned a lot about Irish history of the 19th Century! I can understand the Irish’s hatred towards the English a little better now. No, I just think that the English should have treated the Irish better, then I could love both countries in the same way. I’m only joking. Ireland wins either way, sorry England. They always have the advantage of having their own lovely language. This brings me to my second last class this year: IRISH. First I hated it, then I loved it! It was so complicated and mean to learn all the strange structures and pronunciation. But then it got easier and made more and more sense to me. I’ll miss the Irish language! Why can’t I continue learning it? The other day I got stopped on the street by an older Irishman. We talked a little and he told me to continue learning Irish (USE IT OR LOSE IT!). That would be great! But I suppose noone in Germany bothers learning this tricky language and I’m guessing in my beginner course I only had a glimpse on the comlplicated system behind that language and maybe I should be glad that I can’t continue learning it. Now to my last class. I totally loved (I can’t believe how many times I’m using this word, but it’s true!) my Creative Writing class! Again, I learned so much! I learned about how to begin a story and just go with the flow. I had so much fun inventing short stories for the sake of my teacher’s amusement. After all, this class was my only one that doesn’t count towards my degree which is a shame because I got a nice, fancy A. No, I enjoyed taking this class just for the experience itself. A few clues were: “Show, don’t tell!” or “Let the readers guess/think for themselves!” or “Dialogue is important!” or “Listing things can help!” I bet you appreciate these clues, don’t you?!
Next to my classes I had some good craig this year! I went to Temple Bar quite a few times, saw lots of movies (I really mean LOTS OF!), got around the country and city a little and I met loads of great and inspiring people! I met Jo Baker, author of Longbourn, the director of ONCE and BEGIN AGAIN John Carney, Holocaust survivor Tomi Reichental and interviewed the German author Judith Hermann. That was only this semester! Of course, I really l-o-v-e-d the good old Guinness! Guinness is good for you! Thank you UCD, cheers Dublin and slainté Éire! I will miss you all!

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Imagine

Imagine you’re in a big entrance hall and there are students buzzing and humming around you everywhere. It’s not like you don’t like students – you’re one yourself – but these students are in a specific mode. You can smell the tension. Some are excited, others nervous and then there are those feeling panicky or very worried. Welcome to end-of-term examinations! Today is the last day. I’m lucky, I only had a couple. But there are students who had to go through this process 6 times! What process, you ask? Here it is:
You arrive one hour early, since you weren’t sure if you could find the RDS straight away on your bike because remember, you’re not particularly good with directions. After you did get lost on the way once, you finally make out signs which tell you: UCD EXAMS THIS WAY and you happily follow them. When you’re there you find yellow-waistcoated ushers (Platzanweiser) in the gateway that tell you where to put your bike. Some students are already lurking at the buildings’ entrance, nervous-or-cool-smoking. Next to the entrance is a coffee stand and you think you’ll get a coffee after you’re done – zur BELOHNUNG (=as a treat) und zur Feier des Tages. However, now you enter the dreaded building and it’s just like last time: busy students e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. You are one hour early, for X’s sake! It’s only eleven and the exam is not until 12pm. Maybe the others had the same thought about getting lost on the way here, but you doubt it. Most of them will have taken the bus. Most of them are full-time UCD students anyway and know how to get to the RDS. So what are they doing here, you wonder. One simple answer: It’s called last-minute studying! There’s not one single person not holding some kind of notes’ package in their hands, staring at it in a desperate way or gesturing with it towards another person, presumably one from the same course and discussing some last questions before the exam. Turning around, you can make out the same picture over and over again in the big entrance hall. Students either stand in groups or sit on the floor with their notes spread before them. Others sit on the few available seats or benches across the hall. You choose the edge of one of the benches right next to the wardrope counter where you will later pay 1€ to let them look after your bag while you sit through the exam. You take out your notes and go through everything you’re supposed to know for the exam. But you can’t really focus because of all the chatter around you. So you put in your earphones and listen to Ed Sheeran whilst last-minute studying. Since your exam will be right around lunch time you nibble at the apple you thoughtfully brought with you. From time to time you look up and about the hall, just to see if there’re any changes. Indeed the hall fills up quickly with even more students. Probably more Irish students who are used to the procedure already.
At a quarter to twelve, someone’s speaking through the microphone, announcing the doors to the exam hall are now open and if you want to give your bag to the wardrope, you should do so now. So you get up, swing your bag over your shoulder and approach the wardrope counter. Don’t forget your water bottle. Nor your student card and some pens and pencils. Now you’re fully equipped for your exam. Follow the mass of students to the exam hall. But make sure to remember your seat number you checked right at the beginning. In the middle of the entrance hall is a long board with lists of names pinned. There you had to find your name between all the Irish names. Once you nearly panicked when you saw your last name but a wrong first name. Then you realised it wasn’t really your last name but one l too much and your name was listed a few students down. Remember, remember your seat number. Whether it is 313 or 2119, it matters! You might get a wrong exam paper if you chose the wrong seat.

Settled in the right seat, the exam papers are given out at 12 sharp, no minute sooner or later. The person with the mic speaks once again and you hope it’ll be the last time you hear from him while concentrating on your exam. As you look down your paper you start hearing the scraping of pens by hundreds of students gathered in one big hall. Welcome back, smell of tension!

My oral exam in Irish tomorrow

I know, my last post is not that long ago but I feel like I have to write another post before my oral exam tomorrow! Let’s talk Irish! I’m really scared, so maybe this post will help!
Around 12 tomorrow morning (or noon) I will enter a room in #myUCD and stand (or sit?) in front of two (or three?) examiners (or experts of the Irish language). They will probably greet me first and say: Dia duit! And I will then proudly reply: Dia is muire doibh! So far, so good. The hard part will start after that. I will be given a short Irish text to read out loud for them. Happy pronunciation. Luckily, they already put the text (or a similar one) on the intranet and I could practise it a little. But, alas! then they will start asking questions. And there is nothing I can do about it. I’m just hoping I’ll understand them! You must know, there are three different accents of Irish. I mean there are three main ones. Not to mention all the different varieties I have never heard of. But the conversation will (hopefully) go somewhat like this:
Examiner: Cad is ainm duit? – What is your name? OR (in a rude way) Cé tusa? – Who are you?
Me: Aoife is ainm dom (EVA IS ANIM DOM).
Examiner: Conas atá tú? – Wie geht’s? – How are you?
Me: Tá mé go breá, ach tá mé neirbhíseach, go raibh maith agat. (There’s no way, I’ll give such a long answer but you can dream! But seriously, look at these words! How would YOU pronounce that?) – I am well, but I am nervous, thank you.
Examiner: Cad as duit? – Where are you from?
Me: Is an nGhermáin dom. – I am German (Deutsch!)
Examiner: Cá gcónaíonn tú? OR Cá bhfuil tú i do chónai? – Where do you live?
Me: Cónáim i mBaile Átha Cliath anois. – I live in Dublin(!) now.
Then the examiner might ask me (I hope he won’t) if I live on Campus. I do not. But I might not understand the question, so I will look confused and I might remember how to say EXCUSE ME? in Irish, which is TÁ BRÓN ORM? (But this little phrase can also mean I’M SAD, so I’m not sure if we made any progress by this point.) We will probably move on without an answer.
Examiner: Cén tsli bheata atá agat? – What profession do you have?
Me: Is mac léinn mé. – I am a student. Literally, it means I am a son-of-learning, so I might say “Is inion (daughter) léinn mé” instead. If I am in a feministic mood. But again, I’m not sure if you can actually say that.
Examiner: Cén aois duit? – How old are you?
Me (happy because I know that answer!): Tá mé trí bliana is fiche d’aois. – you have to figure this out, yourself! It’s not that hard.
Now we’re done with me and turn to me folks. Hahahahahaha…
Examiner: An bhfuil deartháir nó deirfúr agat? – Do you have any brother(s) or sister(s)? (For some reason they don’t use plural here.)
Me: Tá beirt deartháiracha (try saying this word! of course, NOW it’s plural!) agus deirfúr amhain agam. – I have two brothers and one sister.
Examiner: Cad is ainm dóibh (pronounced like the German word doof)? – What are their names?
I will then tell him their complicated German names and we will turn to their ages. Which is total fun because it’s already so easy to remember these in German! If you have more than one sibling, you’ll know what I mean. I think I will vary their ages a little bit, to make it as easy as possible.
Examiner: Cén aois iad? – How old are they?
Me: blablablablablabla
At least, I don’t have any pets. That makes it easier. But then there are still my parents, their complicated German names, their difficult ages and most importantly their strange jobs. Try to explain a job that doesn’t exist in any other country than Germany (as far as I know). I will just say that they’re teachers. Is muinteóirí iad. Oh, and then I almost forgot, I will have to talk about the weather in present, past and future tense. That’ll be fun! Tá sé ag cur báistí anocht. – It’s raining tonight.
Wish me luck! Luck o’ the Irish!

The last month

The last 4 weeks in Ireland lie before me and I’m starting to panic (not literally). Although I finally managed to do all three things mentioned in my last post (visit Bray, go to Phoenix Park and eat the best Fish & Chips in town), there is still lots of stuff left on the imaginary list in my head (if I can remember it correctly). Let’s be clear, I’m not one of those people that make a real list of the things they want to do before they die (or turn 30 or leave Ireland or whatever). I’m rather a spontaneous person. Either I’ll make it to Dingle in this last month or I won’t. I might not but that’s not a total disaster. I know I will go there someday. Or not. But if I won’t, there will be a very good reason for it. I could be needed elsewhere for example. Then again I love these little surprising thoughts of remembering something I long wanted to do and then realising that there is just the opportunity to actually do it! Like last week when my friends decided to go to Phoenix Park and I joined them. I know I made a small list about what I wanted to do before I left but it was pure chance that I did manage everything! I still haven’t seen so many things I once thought of. I still want to go to the zoo in Phoenix Park, see the deer in Phoenix Park, visit the grand house of Phoenix Park. And this is only connected to the Phoenix Park (where I’ve been already!). What about all things James Joyce? I want to visit the James Joyce Centre, listen to a reading at Sweny’s, be here for Bloomsday(which I won’t be able to), stay in Bloom’s Hotel (haha), finish Dubliners, let alone read more than twenty pages of Ulysses. But to be honest, this is not really my no.1 priority, as you can tell from my so far unsuccessful reading of Joyce’s works. I’d rather meet Colm Tóibín. Which I probably won’t. He’s not going to be at the International Literature Festival in May. But I will. One thing that wasn’t on the imaginary list. There you go.

Oh, I almost forgot! College is officially over! Last Friday was the last day of term. I went to the last Filmabend with free pizza thrown by the German Society, wrote my last piece for my creative writing class, saw the last movie in UCD’s cinema shown by the film society, took one last trip with the International Students’ Society (to the historical Newgrange and the cozy Causey Farm), got my last Irish lesson and had my last Victorian literature lecture in UCD. This is all very sad, but it is also a most beautiful ending. What’s left, is my one essay and the dreaded exams. Then I’ll meet the author Jo Baker and maybe visit Cork before I go home. Berlin is waiting.

Study hard

As strange as it sounds, mid term has arrived. I actually know now what mid-term assessments really mean. I had to take a few tests in various literature courses, as well as in my French and English language classes. Along with those, I submitted my first essay yesterday. Although I also study English at home, I never actually had to write an essay in English before. I mainly had to give presentations. Lots of them. I gave presentations in English and wrote long papers (15-18 pages) in German. And of course I had exams in the end of term. But here it’s the other way round. I already had to give a presentation in my one and only German literature class and I will have to write two more essays for my English classes. The one I handed in yesterday was about The Italian. Although it wasn’t easy, I had fun writing about this novel. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it is a Gothic novel and I’m totally new to this genre. But I enjoyed getting into it and doing the close reading thing. I had to write about the ambivalence in The Italian and concentrated on the contradiction of darkness and light, the motif of the veil and the two coinciding oppositions of superstition vs. reason and appearance vs. reality. Naturally, there was a time during the writing process where I cursed the whole thing, but on the whole I loved doing it. I like to read, obviously. I also like writing. I study literature, what’s not to like?
One thing is actually bothering me. There’s not enough time for discusing all the books I have to read. In my two Jane Austen seminars, I already had to read a lot of books, like Evelina, A sicilian Romance, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, The Watsons, Lady Susan. Needless to say, I already knew the ones by Jane Austen (which are the last five). I read them again, nonetheless. However, we only had one class to discuss each of them. How is that even possible? It is not. Because of this, we can only scratch on the surface of it and maybe talk about one specific topic. It’s a shame. Don’t get me wrong, I still love it but I would like to do more. Today we also talked about two great poems. One was by Coleridge called “Christabel” and the other was by Keats called “Lamia”. I am not very good in analysing poems because I never get what they are really about. But I love reading them out aload – the language is just beautiful. They’re pretty long but it is worth it. But again there was too little time to talk about them properly. It was just so interesting and the 50mins passed by so quickly. Well, I hope there will be nice suggestions for the essays and I can outperform myself. 🙂
Oh, I also met the great actor Andrew Scott (or more likely, Moriarty in the Sherlock series) today. He came to UCD to receive an honour title from the Arts Society. It was great. Unfortunately, he didn’t want to give away any spoilers of the 4th season.