Guest Post: Comm Arts students study in Ireland

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Lindsey Wotanis, Ph.D., assistant professor of communication arts. She recently traveled to Ireland with Laurie McMillan, Ph.D. (English Dept.) and 11 Marywood students on a study abroad trip.

Dia dhuit!

That’s “Hello” in Irish/Gaelic. It’s also one of the many phrases our Comm Arts students learned on their 16-day study tour of Ireland.

Students enrolled in my COMM 448: Multimedia Storytelling class had the chance to learn how to tell a variety of multimedia stories while traveling through Ireland from May 27-June 12. Students met for a couple of weeks on campus, where we read about multimedia storytelling and practiced some, too. We also met upon our return from our trip to put the finishing touches on all of our projects. Then, we had a public presentation where we invited our families and friends to learn more about what we accomplished on our learning journey.

So, you’re probably thinking “what did students learn” on this 16-day fun-trip? A lot. And, I learned some things, too. Here are FIVE quick takeaways from our stay in the Emerald Isle.

1) Ireland is a GREAT place to study abroad. Its people are warm and welcoming, its weather is mostly temperate, and its landscapes are simply breathtaking. Add in that its people speak English (albeit with a heavier brogue than we’re accustomed to hearing), and it makes for a great first-time-out-of-the-country experience for many students. It also has an amazing history, and our tour guide, Batt Burns, brought it to life with his stories, lessons, and poetry.

2) On this trip in particular, there was a lot of time built into the trip to explore and practice the skills we were learning in the course. For the first part of our trip, we stayed nine days in the village of Sneem, which is located on the scenic Ring of Kerry. During that time, we got to know the locals and spent time working on our multimedia projects, which included a project called Humans of Sneem, as well as a video project. [You can check out the final video projects via a link below!] So, students weren’t just sightseeing. They were working, and many quickly realized that producing good work requires planning and focus, even when there are so many (good) distractions all around you. Yes, occasionally that meant meeting someone new over a pint of Guinness at a local pub for an interview. But hey, that’s why students study abroad, right? For new and unusual experiences.

Students not only published their photography online, but also created a book using You can check out the book preview embedded below. You can even purchase a copy here.


3) The 16-day study abroad experience also required students to be independent. They had to complete tasks individually as well as in pairs and small groups. They had to room with people they might not have picked if given a choice. They had to be away from everything familiar for 16 days. Study abroad has the unique ability to transform students who were once shy and afraid to ones who are ready to take on the world after only 16 short days. So, for the student who is a bit nervous about stepping outside of his or her comfort zone, studying abroad is a great way to conquer fears and renew an independent spirit.

4) In particular, my students were required to talk with the locals and get to know them a bit. This seems simple enough, but it’s scary if you’re not used to interviewing complete strangers. But the benefits of a task like this are invaluable. Light bulbs begin to go off once students realize that, no matter where they come from, people all share things in common–love, loss, fear, pain. The list goes on. In a world that often highlights difference, it’s always good to experience all the ways in which we are very much the same.

5) In the end, studying abroad is all about taking chances. Many students on this trip had never even been on a plane before. Others had never been away from family longer than a weekend. Still others (like me) had never touched a farm animal. (I was not as good about getting out of my comfort zone as some of the students; I only touched a bunny.) Others had never had a sip of alcohol until their first swig of Guinness on the factory tour. But, they all came home with stories to tell, and they’re all the better for taking those chances.

Below are some photographs from our trip for you to enjoy. I’ll also link up some other media–examples of projects, videos of our Pub Night performance of Ice Ice Baby (not to be missed!). If you’ve never considered studying abroad, some of the students’ projects may change your mind. I wish I had studied abroad as a student. I’m so glad I’m traveling now, as a faculty member.

To learn more about study abroad opportunities at Marywood, talk with Nancy Maloney in the International Office. Take a chance, will you?

Here’s a link to my Ireland 2014 YouTube playlist, where you can check out 9 videos from our travel experience. They include student projects, faculty projects, our community service project, and our pub night performances!


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