SWAU Honors Students Explore Ireland

SWAU Honors Students Explore Ireland

Dr. Renard Donesky

On Tour the Honors Classroom Came to Life 

The Honors Program of Southwestern Adventist University recently took 15 students, two faculty, and two community members on a tour of the Republic of Ireland. The group explored for 10 days, beginning and ending in Dublin, one of the most diverse cities in Europe. The tour was arranged by Dr. Kristin Denslow, the honors program director.  

The summer tour connects with an Honors class that changes content every year, allowing students to take several such tours without repeating material. This year the course explored the literature, politics, and history of twentieth-century Ireland. Students attended classes in the spring semester, learning about Irish history, especially the role of the writers W. B. Yeats, James Joyce, Lady Augusta Gregory, and Seamus Heaney. “The class provides the content to make the tour have meaning,” said Dr. Renard Doneskey, a professor in the English Department at Southwestern Adventist University. “We did not just travel to see sights. We traveled to reinforce what we have already learned about the important history of Ireland,” he explained. 

In Dublin, the group visited several exhibits: the Book of Kells, the beautifully illustrated book of the four gospels; as well as special displays about W. B. Yeats, the most famous Irish poet; and Seamus Heaney, a contemporary poet and Nobel Prize winner. The students also visited historical sites such as the General Post Office, or GPO, where the Irish uprising of 1916 began. Bullet holes still mar the giant marble columns just outside the building. 

From Dublin, the tour traveled west to the coastal city of Galway, where the students learned to play the traditional Irish sports of hurley and football, which is similar to soccer, but with unique rules. Sean, our host at the Gaelic Athletic Club in Galway, explained, “You do not join a club. You are born into it. You can never leave it. You may move to Dublin or Belfast, but you’ll always be in the Liam Mellows Gaelic Athletic Association until you die, and you can only play for that team. In fact, because you are here now, learning from me, you are part of this association, and you can never play for another club the rest of your life. There are no trades. So, this is nothing like American football or World Cup soccer.”   

A short bus ride from Galway led to Connemara Castle and National Park. The town is filled with restaurants and live music, and the beach looks on the Atlantic. From places like Galway, during the Great Famine years of 1845-1849, many Irish people boarded crammed boats bound for America or Canada. Several people on the tour had Irish ancestors who left Ireland during those years. 

Other sites included Killarney, famous for the ring of Kerry, a 120-mile drive that contains some of the most beautiful landscapes in Ireland and the world. One of the favorite stops along the way was a visit to a shepherd, who demonstrated his command of his two sheep dogs. The group also spent time in Kilkenny, the site of one remarkably well-preserved castle built in 1195 by Norman invaders.  

The trip ended with a show of traditional Irish music and dance back in Dublin. The students had the chance to see the culture, the politics, and the literary sites that they had previously read about for the class. Future Honors Program tours will be announced as they are planned. Next summer the tour will be within the continental United States, with another international tour planned for the summer of 2024. If you would like additional information on SWAU Honors program Click Here



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