This spring, Mercyhurst College will send students to live and study in Dungarvan, Ireland.
Erie’s sister city will host the first 10-week, faculty-led study abroad program in Mercyhurst’s history.
A group from Dungarvan will meet the students at the airport and drive them to their new town. Once in Dungarvan, the locals will provide them with a full Irish breakfast. According to Dr. Heidi Hosey, this “incredibly strange meal” includes eggs, Irish bacon, baked tomatoes and blood pudding.
The people of Dungarvan will give the students a big welcome on March 6, when people from the community will welcome Mercyhurst’s group and give them a bus tour around Dungarvan and Waterford County. Mercyhurst will lead Dungarvan’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.
“I think the festivities that they are planning are a little overwhelming, but I’m looking forward to them. The 25 of us are going to be like local celebrities for a while,” junior Caitlin Toner said.
Representatives from local clubs will be at the welcome festival to invite students to participate in kite-surfing, soccer, surfing, rugby, ladies’ football, fishing (or angling), equestrian, hill-walking and other activities.
Sophomore Jill Barrile is excited for these opportunities.
“I can’t wait to experience the Irish culture,” she said. “I plan on participating in equestrian and possibly surfing. They’re two things I really wanted to do, and what could be better than doing them in Ireland?”
The 20 women and six men participating will stay in the recently constructed three-bedroom, two-bathroom townhouses owned by the Park Hotel. Sophomore Ethan Johns will not be able to make the trip due to medical reasons.
The first Mercyhurst classes taught in Ireland will begin on March 8, three days after the group arrives. The core courses offered will be tailored to Irish culture. Professors Michael Federici, Keiko Miller, James Snyder, Brian Reed and Heidi Hosey volunteered to teach in Ireland. Joanne McGurk is unable to travel to Ireland, but she will supervise the literature courses through Blackboard. Every Wednesday, the students will go to a seminar on Irish culture and language taught by three professors from Ireland.
Dungarvan has two classrooms for Mercyhurst to use. Students will be able to walk through the center of town to get to class in the art center, or try on real suits of armor en route to class on the upper floor of the historical museum.
Classes will only be held Monday through Thursday, leaving the students ample time to travel on the weekends. Faculty will lead the entire group on weekend trips to Dublin and the West Country and a five-day trip to Paris.
A Mercyhurst-run, long-term study abroad program is ideal for many students who worry about the trimester vs. semester conflicts and the cost of traditional programs.
Toner, an archaeology major, said, “I know students who, in order to study abroad, had to miss two whole terms of classes here. My course of study would not have allowed me to do that.”
The FSAT program has underwritten the airfare for the trip, and the college has not forced the students to pay penalties for the room and board revenue it will lose when 26 people leave campus.
“That’s a real tribute to Dr. Gamble and his extraordinary support,” Hosey said.
The level of aid for possible future trips is not set, but Hosey said, “My goal is to make this work for the college and work for the students. If we can charge one-third or one-half of the traditional study abroad program…it will be entirely possible for nearly every student to do it.”