On a High Note

Rebecca Sohn Trinity College, Ireland


April 11, 2018

Last Wednesday, I attended my last ever class at Trinity College Dublin.  It feels strange to know that I’m now at the tail end of my study abroad experience, and only two papers and a short quiz lie between me and being finished with my classes in Dublin for good. I won’t be returning to the US until over a month from now, but in less than a week, the “study” part of study abroad will be officially behind me.

The last few weeks of class have been quite eventful. Last week was the Jewish holiday of Passover, and I had been wondering for much of the semester what I would be able to do to observe this holiday. If you are unfamiliar, the observance of Passover involves abstaining from eating leavened bread. In place of bread, Jews eat a sort of flat cracker of unleavened flour called matzo for the week. I was unsure if I would even be able to observe this aspect of Passover, since supermarkets in Ireland generally don’t stock Jewish foods. Luckily, I was able to take the bus to the one supermarket in Dublin that does sell matzo and observe Passover in this way.

The other aspect of Passover involves a ritual dinner called a Seder, which commemorates the exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt with the eating of a variety of symbolic foods. Being away from my family, Skidmore College’s Jewish Community, and quite honestly most of the world’s Jews, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to find a Seder. I was luckier than I could have hoped – I ended up attending a Seder at Dublin Hebrew Congregation, one of Dublin’s two synagogues, and it turned out to be one of the best experiences I’ve had while abroad. There were people there from all over the world – students, travelers, relatives of Dubliners, foreign expatriates – any Jewish person who happened to find themselves in Dublin. It was truly a unique experience to observe Passover alongside such a diverse group of Jews, in one of the most Christian countries in the world.

Another memorable experience was the culmination of my favorite class this semester, which had the rather obscure title of “Idea Translation Lab” (ITL). ITL is run through Science Gallery Dublin, a unique combination of an art gallery and science museum on Trinity’s campus. Science Gallery curates intriguing exhibitions around a science/art combo theme, such as the apocalyptic “In Case of Emergency”, which was the exhibit running when I arrived, and the politically resonant “Fake”, which is currently on exhibit. Our task in ITL was to design an art exhibit or product around the theme of the Summer exhibition, “Life at the Edges”, for our final project.

This wasn’t easy. From the start, ITL wasn’t quite like any class I’d ever taken – art and science weren’t just considered together, they were presented as two things that shouldn’t be separated. Our class also used Twitter instead of email, and as a result, we often interacted in real time with the people who had written articles or made videos we were watching for homework. But the final project, done in a small group, was by far the most challenging part of the class. Each group prepared an exhibit and a PowerPoint presentation, which would be presented to a panel of judges, much like a business pitch. Working to develop the project, I often felt like the other members of the class and I worked at a small start-up.

For our final project, two classmates and I created a social campaign called “Who Plays Here”. The campaign aimed to raise awareness of the experiences of Syria’s child refugees, and had us drawing chalk game boards of a Syrian children’s game called Hajla all over Dublin. Although it likely didn’t get much attention, this was a real social campaign, complete with an active Twitter account and sidewalk-chalk vandalism. To find out more, you can check out our Twitter (@WhoPlaysHere).

On Wednesday, our class exhibited our projects and presented to the judges. Our exhibit (pictured above), came together last-minute, but is something that I am immensely proud of. Our presentation went well, too, and to my amazement, we ended up being the judges’ highest-scoring group. This meant, and still means, so much to me – we worked hard on this project, and it was incredible to be rewarded in this way for all our hard work. It truly felt like a culmination of my time in that unique, strange, eye-opening class called ITL.

But maybe my favorite culmination of all was my last trad session with Trinity TradSoc. Over the course of the semester, TradSoc had become my main social connection to Trinity. Playing music with people always fosters a unique connection, but playing trad music is different. It’s having a common tradition, a common culture – it’s speaking a wordless language that no one else knows. Sharing that connection with so many other young trad musicians has been one of my favorite parts of studying in Ireland. That last session two weeks ago was magical – I got to spend time playing with some of the many wonderful people I had met through the society, and the tunes continued until nearly midnight.

As I approach the end of my time in Ireland, I frequently ask myself if I am having a “typical” or “amazing” abroad experience, as I addressed in my last post. Not all of my experiences are unique, memorable, or noteworthy. But these experiences remind me why I chose to study abroad. They give me a glimpse of how, in the future, I will remember my time here, and have truly allowed me to end my time at Trinity on a high note.



Ireland Semester Travel