Monday, March 26, 2012

Éirinn go brách

Back in January I got info regarding a summer study-abroad opportunity in Armagh, Ireland. One of the professors from UB will be teaching a screenwriting workshop during the month of July, and so they were seeking more UB students to join.

Well, also on the flyer was a creative writing poetry/memoir workshop in the same city. After some correspondance with my program director, we arranged it so that I could attend the creative writing workshop and get graduate credit for an independent study course. I submitted my application and $500 deposit (refundable only if I wasn't accepted or the trip was cancelled) and waited for a response.

The response didn't come in the email form I expected, but a meeting was held on campus for the prospective Armagh students. The program coordinator was there, along with the screenwriting professors, and we were informed that we were all accepted (about 7 of us total). But, it turned out, I was the only one who'd applied for the creative writing segment of the program. Not just at UB, but anywhere.

So, this put a bit of a stick in my spokes. The coordinator told me that I could still attend, and while they wouldn't be able to bring the poetry/memoir professors to Ireland, she could arrange for me to work with one or both of them remotely, as well as someone from a literary foundation in Ireland. I would still take the Irish culture and history classes with the screenwriting students, so I wouldn't be completely isolated. Additionally, it could lead to other opportunities, like the chance to return next year, all expenses paid, as a T.A. ("I wish I could take you along as a T.A. for this trip," the coordinator told me, but since I've never been to Ireland, she wants me to have the experience of taking the trip as a student first). It's the first year they've tried this creative program in Ireland, so we're all essentially "pioneers."

On the other hand, she said, if they could get even two more students to attend the memoir/poetry workshop segment, at least one of the professors could accompany us to Ireland.

So, I'm trying to figure out what to do now. The rest of the money for the trip is due April 15, so I need to make a decision by then. I can either accompany them on the trip, as a "pioneer," or I could take the money I'd be spending on the trip and finance my own trip to Europe.

My thoughts are this: I wanted to study abroad in undergrad but never pursued the opportunity with any real vigor. The cost of a graduate class at UB is about half what this trip will cost me (minus airfare and most of my food), so to get four weeks in Ireland AND one class paid for seems like a good deal to me. Also, the knowledge that it could open opportunities for future travel at reduced cost is a major factor. I've never travelled abroad before, so having experienced travellers along (the coordinators all have been abroad) for advice is also appealing. Plus there's the immersion into a different culture, which is also a rare opportunity.

However, if I travelled independently, I could visit places I want to see (like Paris and other cities/countries in mainland Europe). I would be able to see a lot more in the same span of time and could also bring Jake with me (since, years ago, we got our passports together for Christmas. Neither of us has any stamps yet). Also, odds are that it would cost me less overall even if I did stay there for four weeks (depending on what I did and where). Both of us are open to the idea of spending a couple years in another country someday, so the immersion experience might be available later.

So, I've got some pondering to do. If anyone else wants to weigh in on this, feel free. In fact, I encourage it.

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