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WHUers in Ireland
Author:Zhou Yijun  Date:2019-05-28  Clicks:

Ireland is an island which is part of the British Isles, lying west of Great Britain. It is always confused with the UK by those who are unfamiliar with this green island because of their intricate relationship, not to mention some slightly deceptive names like Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland. In the near future, the Republic of Ireland will be the only country in the European Union whose official language is English (though Ireland has its own language called Irish, which few people speak fluently). On account of its language convenience, more people are beginning to pay attention to this lesser known English-speaking country.

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A Connemara Village (1930, by Paul Henry) depicts typical landscape in the West of Ireland.

Ireland is a relatively small country. Its area covers less than half of Hubei Province in China, with 65% of the population of Wuhan. Small as it may be, China has been considering the Republic of Ireland as an important partner in Europe, not to mention this year is the 40th anniversary since the two countries established diplomatic relations. In terms of education, Confucius Institutes have been established in University College Dublin (UCD) and in University College Cork (UCC), and more than five thousand overseas Chinese students are currently studying in Ireland.

Wuhan University, as one of the pioneers in institutional cooperation with Irish universities, started a joint master program with UCD business school as early as in 2012. In the following years, WHU had exchange programs and joint master programs with Trinity College Dublin (TCD), The National University of Ireland, Maynooth (NUIM, recently renamed Maynooth University, MU), Dublin City University (DCU) and UCD. At the same time, Irish college students have participated in the Luojia Summer Camp held by WHU annually, and  a staff member from DCU has come to work in WHU for two years. One of the highlights of the cooperation was the visit last October of an Irish Minister of State, along with other guests, including the Irish ambassador to China. Both sides make great efforts to create a better environment for future cooperation. As a result, more and more WHUers have gained chances to study in  Ireland, which is going to impact positively on their life choices and personal development.

Studying in Ireland

In many ways, the education system in Ireland is similar to that in UK, which applies first class, upper-second class, lower-second class and third class when grading. For most students, gaining over seventy percent means they are already ranked in first class, which is generally  awarded to no more than twenty percent of the whole class. Even for English majors from WHU, it is still challenging to gain a first-class recognition from professors in Ireland. The overwhelming work load squeezed into only twelve weeks of teaching is tough for non-native speakers. The biggest difference between the curriculum designs in Ireland and China is that in Ireland students have no more than six modules in each term, but each requires more time input, which means at least 120 hours including in-class time. In WHU, students can have as many as fifteen modules, but more of their studying time is occupied by lectures.

According to Yunyun, a student currently studying in TCD who has accumulated around 13,000 words for all writing assignments in one single term, which is more than twice of the requirements in the School of Foreign Languages and Literature in WHU, not to mention the numerous readings and preparation for each weekly seminar, “The faster-paced curriculum arrangement is determined by the shorter term time in Ireland while WHU has at least sixteen teaching weeks for each term.” In Yunyun’s view, here the semester is somehow too short, everything ends as students just begin to adapt to all arrangements and daily life. She thinks, “The tuition fees are not worth the price for international students, but it is definitely worthwhile to participate in an exchange program here.”

Another exchange student, Yaya, studying in MU, expresses her satisfaction with the library services here. She said students can get nearly all the effective help they need, from personal essay suggestion to anxiety relief, and she really hopes that WHU library can learn from this so that students in WHU will have chance to join some personalized workshops. Yaya also mentioned the severely detailed quotation requirements and that all writing assignments should be handed in through a system which can detect any academic misconduct, even for freshmen, which Yunyun could not agree more. She said, “It is more like encouraging us to acquire a good habit for academic writing, but this is not sufficiently taken into account at home until dissertation-writing begins”.

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The brochure of library workshops offered in MU

One advantage of studying abroad is the free range of curriculum choices, such as art history and drama studies, which are not available in WHU. Yunyun regards herself as a culture studies student rather than language student. Art history is a comprehensive doorway to understanding western culture, since its emergence as a multi-disciplinary subject in the twentieth century. “Few Chinese universities have established the major of art history, and I hope WHU can be a pioneer in this area, or at least provide some courses for art lovers,” said Yunyun, “We can contemplate our daily life through art works and in fact we can find they are not far from us”. Besides, owing to geographical advantage, students who are interested in Irish literature can get first-hand resources and be fully immersed in a poetic atmosphere, just like Fangfang, an English translation major in WHU, who is also a devoted fan of J.M. Synge and W.B. Yeats.

Even though the online class registration system in WHU is often criticized by students, the situation in Ireland can be perceived as even worse. Shishi noted that it is quite inconvenient that one should go for different briefings and several offices for signatures when selecting courses. For students who are long accustomed to efficient information management in China, the typical “European” procedures seem to be quite cumbersome. But generally, the exchange students are contented with their study here and some are deeply surprised by the professors’ professionalism and efficiency for they even give a detailed recommendation list to them.

Living in Ireland

Though Ireland is an English-speaking country, its ‘notorious’ Irish accent, which varies from county to county, may cause confusion and difficulty for new-comers. Nonetheless, the immersive English environment is still valuable, especially for English majors, as they can gain practical experience from academic lectures all the way to casual pub talk. “In the beginning you would think the Irish accent, especially the Dublin accent, lack the  elegancy and attractiveness of Received Pronunciation in Britain. Nevertheless, after several months, you would unintentionally imitate the cute Irish accent,” said Yunyun, “It also reminds me of a text I learnt before, called Pub Talk and The King's English and now I understand what the author meant by claiming that, standard English does not exist at all’.” Unlike Yunyun who is sensitive about languages, what Fangfang missed most when she went to Switzerland for her master’s degree was the enthusiasm and kindness of Irish people and she said it was a pity that she did not have a chance to see Ireland in summer. Indeed, compared with the short daytime of only seven hours during a depressing winter, watching the sunset at 9 p.m. in Ireland is an absolute enjoyment at the end of a long day.  

It is true that the beautiful scenery and clean fresh air are the reasons why more Chinese begin to consider Ireland as a new immigration destination. Statistics show that there are now more than 50,000 people of Chinese origin in Ireland. Just as other immigration countries, Ireland is trying to create an equal and harmonious atmosphere for all ethnicities. In the previous three years, Dublin Arts Council held special Chinese New Year celebrations with other cultural institutions, and the facades of landmark buildings were lit up in red to add a real Chinese flair to the festival atmosphere.

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Dublin city hall lit up in red this February.

In fact, since the Great Famine in the 19th century, Ireland has long been a migrant-exporting country, and its history of becoming an immigration destination is no longer than three decades, owing to its economic boom in the 1990s. From this perspective, Ireland has something in common with China, since both countries have witnessed vast social and economic changes within a short period of time.

Inspired by Ireland

Many college students choose to study abroad because it is a great opportunity to discover oneself and make wiser choices for future life. Shishi is no exception. As an English major, naturally, Shishi had planned to go on  to pursue a master’s degree in English literature, but after studying art history and classics in TCD, she eventually turned to linguistics because she had recognized an unbridgeable gap between those with an understanding of biblical traditions and classics and herself. Though people tend to believe one can always achieve a goal if one only tried one’s best, it is sensible of her to face reality and choose what suits her best. For Fangfang who pursues a similar direction but persists, she reckoned the value of the exchange program in Maynooth was an exploration of new branches of literature and linguistics, which she had no chance to take a closer look at in WHU at home. Besides, she was also inspired by the MU professors’ dedication to academic research as well as teaching, hence she is trying to be a scholar like them, which also explains why she is now pursuing a research master’s degree in English literature and linguistics.

For Chengcheng, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history from WHU and who will obtain his diploma in accounting this July, Ireland is not only a place for scholars, but also an island of possibilities,. His reasons for choosing Ireland are the country’s tolerant visa policy, which allows graduates to stay for two years to work, and the lack of prerequisites for obtaining an accounting diploma here. “Unlike most Chinese universities, the requirements for masters are the same as those for bachelors of this major in Ireland. I have more freedom and I am free to try something new”. When faced with difficult exams and tough projects, he still appreciates the learning experience in WHU because it is where he “learnt how to study, not just history knowledge, but all the new skills required for one’s career”. For Chengcheng and other WHUers, experience in WHU is more than an unforgettable memory. It has become part of their personalities and life attitudes.

Photo by Yaya & Zhou Yijun

Edited by Zhou Siyan, Wang Wei, Shi Weiya & Hu Sijia

 

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