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If You're Lucky Enough to Be Irish, You're Lucky Enough


If the writing of the report of this stay turned out to be a somewhat exciting task, its finalisation was not made without nostalgia. This third year beyond the walls of the Sciences Po turned out to be a marvellous experience, one which exceeded my expectations. Therefore, in this report, hope to succeed in translating the enthusiasm and gaiety that has not ceased to come to life within me in these last 8 months. I equally hope to be able to, over the course of these few pages, convince a student who is still undecided, and finally persuade a student that had almost decide, of the good times that await you in Trinity College, the city of Dublin, and Ireland in general. Before continuing, I must confess that the sincere affection that I feel for Ireland and the Irish people only began to grow from September as I had never stepped set foot in Dublin before landing there at the beginning of the academic year. Even though my friends were leaving for Asia or South America looking down their nose a this destination of not being very "exotic" and that my choice was "too easy", to me, leaving for Ireland represented a real leap into the unknown. However, I thought on it long and hard.

This third year I had decided to orientate my choices towards universities situated in Ireland or the United Kingdom in order to better register within my career and personal objectives. Being borin in Switzerland I had always been immersed in a European culture, or, more specifically, a german culture. I'm determined to do a gap year after my first year of my masters degree in a germanic country, so therefore, I made the choice to profit from this third year to improve my mastering of English. Well, what better place is there than the British Isles? Where the universities are world renowned not only for being centres of academic excellence but also for being incomparable showcases for Anglo-Saxon culture. Furthermore, I was convinced to go, and not unjustly, by the very strained, current, political situation. Brexit and the referendum for abortion in Ireland are not very common topics and this certainly succeeded in arousing my curiosity. With regard to this, the intellectual emulation present in Trinity surpassed my hopes. However, to chose Trinity College meant, above all else, choosing a city; Dublin, and a people; the Irish. It is, without exaggeration, that I can confirm to be sincerely taken with one as much as the other. Before living in Paris I lived in Alsace in a village of 1500 inhabitants. To find a city of a manageable scale and to interact with the inhabitants daily who's kindness is only equalled by their humour, was an absolute pleasure. Finally, it is impossible to give a complete overview of this year without giving back to the beautiful country that is Ireland the praise that it deserves. Ireland cannot, and should not, be reduced to just magnificent landscapes. From the still passionate history which brings the streets of Belfast to life, to the various sporting and artistic celebrations which unite everyone from North to South and East to West, Ireland contains a thousand and one paradoxes.

Before lingering on detail about the comparative dimension of my experience, it seems important to describe first and foremost my academic experience as well as my extracurricular one. Firstly there will be a description followed by an analysis. Finally, in conclusion, and not without difficulty, I will try to give this experience some perspective in order to identify the main contributions.

1. Description of My Experience

1. 1 Description of the University Curriculum

1. 1. 1 Organisation and description of the Education System

Just like in Sciences Po, the year is split into two semesters composed of twelves weeks of classes and interspersed with a week of "holidays"; called reading week. However, a distinctive characteristic of Trinity comes in the fac that the entirety of the final exams are rolled out at the end of the year and not at the end of each semester. These exams, as well as the period of revision which precedes them constitues a semester in its own right; Trinity term.

Before the beginning of the Michaelmas Term is a week considered the most exciting in the Trinity academic year; Freshers Week. Over the course of the last one, 50 clubs (sports) and 121 societies will go through efforts to convince you to join. I personally joined:

o The DUDJ (techno and alternative music)

o The Europa Society

o The Indian Society

o The International Students' Society (DUISS)

o The Phil (public speaking)

o The Trinity Hiking Society

This week also marks the period for choosing classes. It is much less stressful than the educational enrolling in Sciences Po but, nonetheless, this process turned out to be much more complex and much longer. All the necessary information will be given to you during the briefing session, nevertheless, the outline that follows could help you to understand it more clearly.

1. 1. 2. Chosen Subjects

As an affiliated member of the European Business Department, my subject choice was very open. Therefore, I made the decision to sign up to classes in 5b different departments. Having had very little classes on 'Europe' over the course of my studies, except those on the European Union, I chose three classes on this subject within the 'History', and the 'Economics and Political Sciences' Departments. Concurrently, I chose, respectively, two classes within the 'Social Policy Department', and one in the 'Classics Department'.

Each subject comprised of one to two lectures, and, potentially, tutorials, the number of which varied depending on the course. Whether it was a lecture or a tutorial, they would both last around 50 minutes. Considering the very limited duration of the classes, the majority of the teachers expect that their students have carried out the readings at home and so more or less make reference to them during the classes.

Mythology and religion: As a Latin student from 1st Year to 6th Year, I, unfortunately, was not been able to sign up for the latin classes offered by Sciences Po. I hoped, therefore, with this course to take up again a subject that I had missed, and I was not disappointed. The first part of the module concentrates on themes such as the creation myths, the characteristics of the Olympic gods, the heroes and their rival monsters, relationships between gods and humans, and myths pertinent to the famous Trojan war. The second half for the most part explores the nature of Greek and Roman religion anchored in a precise social, political, and cultural context. While one can reproach lectures for their very general nature, every tutorial concentrates on a prices point of the course. It was during the latter that I could have more passionate discussion with my professor for the year.

European Union Politics: The first part of the module stuck to the process of making decision within the EU, placing particular importance on European institutions and the relationships that they maintain between them. The second part of the cours is significantly less theoretic, consisting of a study of the different public policies, as well as their administrators. Again, one can reproach the lecture of being very general. Nevertheless, I appreciated the anchorage of current affaires in the class, notably of those which concerned the different public policies addressed. I also followed the part of the course which lingered on lobbying with a particular interest in so far as this topic is still addressed very little in France.

German: Believing that I would lose my german if I did not keep it up for a year, I decided to enrol in a language course in german. I enjoy this course a lot because as well as allowing me to notably improve my mastering of german grammar and acquire more vocabulary, I could try out translation, an exercise that I have very little practice in. Even more so, considering the very low number of students (only 10 people), I could form real connections with some Irish people. With great regret, this was a thing I found very hard to do during the lectures.

The European Economy: Not having done a single economics course in two years in Sciences Po, I was hoping to enrol in one in Trinity. I chose this course in particular because it had a European dimension. The first part of the module didn't pose any particular problem because it was strictly speaking more about the history of the European economy, whereas the second part was much more complexe. It handled the commercial and monetary policy of the Eu, and the Euro and the effects of preferential commercial liberalisation. I advise against doing this course to anyone who doesn't have a pronounced craving for economics. Nevertheless, even though it was difficult I do not regret having chosen this course because it allowed me to develop a my knowledge of European economic current events in a significant way.

Continental Europe Since 1918: This module was quite a classical history course which furnished a comprehensive vision of the history of modern Europe since the beginning of the 20th century and the founding principals of contemporary Europe. It explored the reconstruction and rebuilding of Europe after 1945. It lingered on both the divided nature of the continent as well as the movements and challenges for European unity. According to me, the interest of the course lies in the pendulum movement between some very general lectures which offered a comparative and transnational dimension and the classes which had a much more precise objective. This allowed one to go into as much detail as was possible to go into in a 50 minute class.

Gender, Reproductive Health and Policy: This module gave a comparative insight into the development and implementation of policies for genetic health and procreation. It invited one to reflect on ways in which the perspective of cultural relativism influences the discussions and decisions on reproductive health. It was, without question, the class about which I was most passionate in Trinity. The professor asked us to develop our critical reflexion during the course of weekly debates in small groups. Contrary to the other classes that I had enrolled in the teacher set for us a number of very substantial readings (100 pages minimum each week). Each chosen text was as interesting as the next and truly allowed, when read with powerful attention, drive the captivating debates in the class. This course also allowed me to develop a much more informed opinion on the topic of abortion. A scorching topic in current affaires considering the following 25th of May was kept for the abortion referendum.

Youth and Society: Basing itself on studies connected to sociology, criminology, or even psychology, this module concentrated on the key theoretical approaches to understand the place of youth as well as its representation within Irish and, more generally, western society. This course explored how social and economic forces influence the life and experience of young people in general, marginalised young people in particular. I liked the anchorage of this course in the context of Irish society because I discovered more elements about the Irish socio-economic context that I had never suspected. Furthermore, the professor placed a huge importance on statistical data and did not cease in giving examples and facts and figures to back up each of the presented arguments.

1. 2 Extra-Curricular Experiences.

1. 2. 1 Volunteering in the 'Alliance Française'

Concurrent to classes in Trinity, I got a volunteer trainee position in the 'Alliance Française' in Dublin. The main goal of the 'Alliance Française' is to promote french culture, as well as provide a space for intercultural exchanges between Ireland and cultures from the Francophone world. I participated in holding several cultural events, the French Film Festival and the French-Irish Literature Festival but to name a few.

1. 2. 2 Member of the National Quidditch Team.

One Sunday morning in October I decided to try Quidditch since I always had a love for ball sports and new discoveries. Being completely unfamiliar with the 'Harry Potter' universe I learnt about this sport, as well as its rules, during the first training session. Two opposing teams of seven players were equipped with brooms and played in an oval pitch. The goal of the match is to score more points than the other team by striking the goals in the rings before the Golden Snitch is caught.

Although the fact that this sport was still little known and not taken very seriously it did not stop it developing and making itself official. Teams blossomed all over the world. After a few training sessions I was able to officially join the Dublin team (the 'Dublin Dragons') and, last January, we won the All Ireland Cup. This same team took off at the beginning of MAy for the European Championships and is preparing itself to set off again in June for the World Championships.

2. The Comparative Dimension of My Experience

2. 1. Personal Experience of Confrontation with 'The Difference'.

I have already mention in the introduction the incomprehension from some of my friends, as well as a number of members of my family, when it came to my decision to leave for Ireland. The latter reproached me for choosing a country so close to France where, according to them, I wouldn't have the opportunity of being disorientated. I was sure that they were wrong even before my feet touched Irish soil. After 8 months here, I am henceforth convinced. In comparison to France, Ireland differs in a number of ways. Everything about the Irish and their way of life is different from the French. Although a number of aspects of Irish culture reflect as much those present in Anglo-Saxon culture as in those other European countries that are predominantly catholic, I was able to observe during the couse fo this year some traits that are as distinctive as they are unique to the Irish culture. Before I get into these few traits, it is important to remind you that daily life of a Dubliner is very different to to those who live in the countryside. If Dublin is one the of the most cosmopolitan cities in Europe, when one moves away from the capital, one can find very quickly the barely inhabited lands which has nothing in common with this city-slicker life. Nonetheless, without falling into essentialisation, I think that it is possible to note the factors which are communally shared by a large number of Irish people.

Ireland is a predominantly catholic country and even though the tensions between protestant (who generally live in the north of Ireland and Northern Ireland) and catholics (who traditionally lived south) have calmed, it is still better to be cautious when approaching this subject. Until the beginning of the 90s, the church had a very strong voice in society as well as in politics. Divorce, for example, wasn't legalised until 1995. However, tis role has diminished and one notes today, firstly, a generational gap, and, to a lesser extent, a geographical one. English is obviously the main language in Ireland, but Irish is present in daily life (names of public transport stations, road signs). The importance that the state bestows on Irish has nothing to do with that given to regional languages in France.

The Irish people are very proud of their heritage and never miss an occasion, be it sporting, artistic, or historic, to celebrate, for example, the passion for the latter is proven during St. Patricks Day. The image of an Irish man, sat at the bar in a pub, soothed by the sound of live music, sporting a pint of Guinness in his right hand tends to be more of a rule rather than a cliché. The love that Irish people have for pubs and beer is, in fact, largely surpassed by the jam-packed streets of tourists in Temple Bar. As backed up as it is, there doesn't seem to be a single place in Ireland where you can't find a pub. In a pub, it is quite common to have quite a kindly joke or remark called out to you. The Irish show, equally, a certain pleasure for listening but also to telling stories and anecdotes. The are also very passionate about their traditional sports, namely, Hurling, GAA, and handball. Whether they are meeting each other in a pub or a stadium, whether the Irish are supporting their local team or their national one, it is with as much enthusiasm as respect for their opponents.

In comparison to Parisians, Dubliners are, or at least appear, less stressed. They seem to enjoy a nice balance between professional life and private life. They generally begin working at 9am in the morning and finish at 5pm. The city of Dublin more generally does not move to the same rhythm as Paris. While it's hard to say whether or not Dubliners get up much earlier than Parisians, they go to sleep much less later. To my delight, people like to eat earlier, from 5. 30pm the majority of restaurants offer Early Bird menus and bars and clubs open from 6pm. While, in Paris, it's common to arrive on a night out on the last metro at 12. 30am but it is almost impossible to get into a night club at this time of night.

Dublin was chosen as the 4th European city after London, Paris and Rome as one fo the capitals considered as the most welcoming in the world. It is, however, a city of contrasts, contrastes established by the River Liffey which splits the city in two. While North Dublin is more working-class, South Dublin, on the other hand, is characterised by its elegant Georgian architecture. Dublin is a manageable city, sufficiently small to move about almost exclusively on foot, while the tramway and the trains system offer excellent transport connections with the surrounding areas. Dublin is generally a very safe city where it is as safe to walk around in the day as it is in the night. In addition, all things equal, it is very rare to be hassled on the streets of Dublin. While, unfortunately, in Paris uncalled for remarks are commonplace. In 8 months I was only made the object of only one uncalled for remark in the street and it came from a French tourist.

2. 2. Analysis of the University System.

Having already partially broached the differences between the French and Irish university system regarding the organisation of the school year, the process of choosing courses, the duration of lectures and tutorials, I will concentrate on two points that haven't been mentioned yet; the marking scale and the very horizontal character of the transmission of knowledge.

Contrary to the French system where grades go from 0 to 20, in Ireland they stretch, in principle, from 0 to 100. However, it is important to clarify that, in comparison with the US where one can also find this system of percentages, in Ireland grades are spread out from 40 to 70. To pass a module it is necessary to achieve at least 40%. Achieving 40& was relatively easy to do, as in Sciences Po the final validation depends on the validation of each module and not of the average of all of them together. However, contrary to Sciences Po, where it is possible to get a 16 on a serious piece of homework, it is extremely difficult to get a First in Trinity (at least in social science).

Unlike Sciences Po and the French system in general the the students maintain a far less vertical relationship and a much more informal one with their teachers. It isn't rare to hear a student call a professer by their first name when asking a question during a lecture. Likewise during lectures, students dont hesitate in asking the tiniest question, even if it concerns an element of methodology that was explained numerous times by the teacher and where the answer an be clearly found in the previous PowerPoint.

This point of difference was the topic of numerous discussions between the French students. We confessed to being shocked sometimes by the attitude of certain students, but we recognise the ease and spontaneity with which the Irish students express themselves. Two qualities which often evade the French students.

3. Benefit of My Experience

3. 1 Appreciation and Competence.

In the introduction I affirmed my wish to learn more about the Irish culture and this wish did not go unheeded. Having only 12 hours of classes a week and Trinity being situated in the heart of Dublin, I profited from this 'spatial and temporal' freedom by visiting the museums of Dublin. From the 'National Gallery' to the 'Dublin Writers Museum' via Dublin prison, and not forgetting the famous 'Guinness Storehouse', I tried to make the most of Dublin's rich cultural life. Also, during a walk organised by the Trinity Hiking Society, I had the chance to meet an Irish Music and Drama student who I got into the habit of meeting for lunch every week. This weekly lunch was an unmatched occasion for me to asking all of my question about Irish society which only an Irish person would be able to answer.

Strictly speaking, as far as competencies go, over the course fo the year I clearly improved my mastering of English. While my accent continues to betray me even before I have gotten to the end of my sentences, the various readings as well as the essays that I had to complete, allowed me to improve my written English. I also became better organised in my work. The lack of hours in class brought on more important work at home. As someone in favour of last minute assignments in Sciences Po, I, for the first time in my life, organised my method of working so that I was never snowed under and so that there was always time to free myself for travelling, spending time with my friends, going on cultural outings, reading, and playing sport.

3. 2 A Perspective For My Academic and Professional Orientation.

My very heterogenous choice of classes allowed me not only to deepen my relative knowledge of Gender Studies and mythologie, but also to comprehend a subject I was already acquainted with, such as Economy, History, and Political Science, on a new scale: a European scale. While I have felt for a long time a real sense of belonging with the European Union, which largely exceeds my Strasbourgeois origin and my attraction for the English language over the German one, It was this year abroad outside the walls of Sciences Po which allowed me to decide on a Masters in European Affairs. The interest for the different classes that I could follow in Trinity allowed me to become aware of more global perspective than a national one.

Even though it is difficult for me to already establish a precise professional plan, I have, nonetheless, a near certainty: I hope to work in a profession in the Public Sector. It is why I have the hope of training for the highest level public European exam, of knowing the civil servant exam organised by ESPO. My speciality choice is inclining towards public administration, considering the excellent training that it offers for the preparation for the high function European public exam.

Conclusion

Before concluding, I wanted to point out that if this account of the journey seems excessively positive, or even laudatory, this is not due to a deliberate desire to make this year seem more marvellous than it was to impress the reader. Trinity College Dublin is, objectively, a very good choice for a year outside of Sciences Po and that this choice agreed with me in an individual and subjective way. The experiences among all the Sciences Po students who spent the year here, were very different. Not only level of satisfaction regarding the quality of classes, accommodation, food, but also, the level of adjustment to the rhythm of life, the weather, and the way of interacting with Irish people was very varied. I had a fabulous year and all my aspirations were fulfilled beyond my expectations, however, this is obviously just my experience.

I chose Trinity College because of its academic excellent and its rich community life. I was generally thrilled by the classes that I took, enchanted by all the events which took place on campus, and captivated by certain discussions that I had with my friends. I chose Dublin because I wanted to live in an accessible, cosmopolitan city with a simultaneously genuine cultural identity. My return to Paris is just around the corner but it is with nostalgia that I think of my 6 km daily walk, of bike rides, and of the fact that I only had to take public transport once a month. It is not without a sense of regret that I will leave the pleasure of starting my week on a Monday morning with an Irish breakfast, and of those winter nights going to warm myself up in a pub. I chose Ireland, because I wanted to see for myself is the Irish supporters really did earn their title of being the best supporters during the football World Cup 2016. Again, it is without a shadow of a doubt that I can confirm that I have been delighted by the months of meetings and interacting that I have had with the aforementioned.


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