AICUR Conference

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Last year, I completed my Co-Operative Education, or work placement for six months as administrative assistant in the Regional Writing Centre. The Writing Centre is under the department of the Centre for Teaching and Learning here at the University of Limerick, which also runs many other learning centres for students which include the Maths Learning Centre, ICT Learning Centre, ECE Student Support Centre, Language Centre and Science Learning Centre.

While on my Co-Op, I was working closely with the senior administrator of the department of CTL in organising the All Ireland Conference for Undergraduate Research. The conference was a great success and it was held in UL again this year. Once I returned from Erasmus, I was offered a position in CTL, 9am-5pm on Fridays to cover the senior administrator of CTL – who also works as personal assistant to the dean of the department – as she works a 4 day week. I gladly accepted this role and the project of the organisation of AICUR was handed to me.

I had many tasks in my role such as send out emails to students of all faculties inviting them to submit their research, categorise submitted abstracts by faculty, ask lecturers from various faculties to act as reviewers for student abstracts, forward abstracts to delegated reviewers, return abstracts to students informing them if their research was accepted or rejected and include the reviewers’ feedback to help improve their work, book suitable rooms, organise catering for the day, design name badges, certificates, programmes and booklets, request sponsored prizes, pack information bags and advertise the event.

AICUR is a wonderful initiative developed to encourage students to present their undergraduate research in 5, 10 or 15 minute presentations or in “Research in 3” or in a poster format. There were prizes within each category and also a participants’ choice award. AICUR also includes an “Ask Your Lecturer” session where a group of lecturers sit in the front of a classroom and students are allowed to ask them any questions they wish, within reason of course!

This year, AICUR was held in the Graduate Entry Medical School or GEMS on Thursday the 7th of April and it was a great success. Check out the website linked above or the opening ceremony last year for a deeper understanding of it and if you’re an undergrad, why not submit some research of your own next year? You’ve got nothing to lose!

Charles Dickens

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*Source: http://www.biography.com

Charles Dickens is considered the best English writer that ever was, with the exception of William Shakespeare. He is the creator of the “cliff-hanger” that we see in many modern-day texts and is a master of coming-of-age narratives, or what one may call a “bildungsroman” (derived from Latin; “bildungs” meaning “developing/growing” and “roman” meaning “novel”). In my mandatory English literature module, Victorian Texts and Contexts, Great Expectations has been one of the texts which we are required to study and I was eager to learn more of Dickens as a writer.

Dickens was forced into work at young age, labelling jars of shoe polish. This life of childhood being cut short certainly had an impact on his writing. In the Victorian era, childhood was seen as a stage in life similar to a waiting room. Children were merely biding their time until they reached adulthood and could gain the best social standing they could. I found this a chilling element as childhood is such a short-lived period of life that should be embraced and enjoyed rather than shunned and disregarded.

Great Expectations is a coming-of-age novel and I enjoyed reading about the loss of innocence of the main character, Philip Pirrip, or more informally known as Pip. This narrative technique can also be seen in books such as Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and J.D Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye.

To gain a greater knowledge into the life of Victorian England, checkout this website where you can book the grand tour to truly experience the world in which the writings of Dickens is set. Definitely a go-to spot for all you die-hard literature students! Comment below if any of you have already been, I’d love to hear what you think.

The Poetry of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill

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As today is Easter Monday and this year marks the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, I thought it fitting to reflect on my studies of the poet Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill in my module Irish Literature 1930-1990.

Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill is a poet who wrote poetry in the Irish language only and refused to translate them to English herself. The work of Ní Dhomhnaill’s which we have studied is Pharoah’s Daughter. This collection of poetry consists of the original poems “as Gaeilge” and the English translations of them by poets such as Mahon and Heaney, whom Ní Dhomhnaill hired to recreate the poems in English rather than have a direct translation of them and lose some of the eloquence and flow which exist in the originals. She once said in an interview; “Poems cannot be translated, they can only be transposed”.

Ní Dhomanaill was born in England and moved to Dingle at the age of five. It was here that her interest in Irish folklore sparked and this interest was nurtured all the way up along when she attended secondary school in Nenagh and studied in University College Cork.

Ní Dhomnaill was always said to have been a bad girl of some sort in school. I found this intriguing as normally when we study key personalities (particularly in literature) they are known to have been introverts. The fact that Ní Dhomnaill broke moulds in this respect alone, immediately made me more interested in her as a character and a writer.

The significance of Ní Dhomhnaill as an Irish female writer is that she spoke of men in a sexual manner, objectifying them, if you will and writing about them in a manner that men would traditionally write about women. She reverses the theory of Mulvery’s male gaze (think of Hale Berry and other Bond girls who are being gazed at by males) and she makes it work. Particularly, in her poem “Island”, she compares her (male) partner’s naked body laying on the bed to an island stretched out on water.

I enjoyed reading Ní Dhomhnaill’s poetry and her empowerment of the Irish language and femininity. Here’s a link to a short speech she gave discussing the loss of the Irish language and heritage – I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments!

*Image of Pharoah’s Daughter source: http://www.googlereads.com

Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

This semester, I opted to take on the module TESOL1 (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) which is the first in the series of three modules which I intend on completing. The module consists of a two-hour lecture and a two-hour tutorial every week. In the lecture each week, we go through the various teaching and learning styles. This week, we focused on audiolingualism, behaviourism and structuralism.

Audiolingualism is a teaching method which focuses on accuracy and the target language (in this case, English) is used one hundred per cent. It was first developed in the 1950’s in  America and is based on the behaviourist learning theory. Drilling is a key characteristic of this method and the use of pairs to practice the language is also used. Drilling is a technique which avails of positive reinforcement, which in my view, is essential in the classroom, particularly for beginners.

Behavourism is the method where the idea of learning exists through habit and there are zero tolerance for errors. I think this method is a little unrealistic as language learners learn most through the mistakes they make.

Structuralism has no focus on semantics or pragmatics which causes a huge problem in the written language. Structuralism focuses on morphology, syntax and phonemes which greatly aids the spoken version of learning a language. Structuralism is influenced by the behaviourist teaching method and thus, should be used with more advanced students rather than beginners when in the class room.

I’ve included links to short Youtube clips showing examples of each method and explaining them in more depth. I’d love to hear from you in the comments about your own learning style and which method you would favour.

 

Being a Writing Tutor

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I completed my Co-Operative education as Administrative Assistant in the Regional Writing Centre, here in the University of Limerick. For the most part, adjusting to my 9-5 schedule, Monday to Friday, was the greatest difficulty for me. The 40 hour week was a far cry from my initial 15 hour week of classes! However, it was the first taste of the “real world” for me and I’m glad it got me into a routine.

While on my Co-Op, I also took the module Peer Tutoring in Academic Writing. On successful completion of this module you can tutor in the Writing Centre. Once I returned home from Amsterdam, having completed my Erasmus there I began to tutor in the Writing Centre.

At the Writing Centre, we offer a free service and grant students the opportunity to come in and discuss their writing assignment with a tutor in a friendly and relaxed environment. We are not a proofreading service, but we provide students with planning, writing and  proofreading strategies to students so that instead of us making one paper better, we make the student a better writer which will result in the student producing well-written pieces with more confidence. Appointments can be made via the Writing Centre’s website.

Initially I found it a little intimidating when I would have Masters, international and mature students booking a session with me but the knowledge which I have on the writing process is helpful across all academic levels. I thoroughly enjoy my job as a writing tutor and learn so much from all of the various students whom I tutor along the way too.

A Land of Langers?

Fr Jack

As I’m sure every student and staff member is aware, this week – week 6 – is RAG (Raise And Give) or Charity week in the University of Limerick. Of course, the “charity” receiving the most “donations” during the week are all retailers of alcohol.I was never aware of how accurate the stereotype of Ireland being a nation of drunks until I studied abroad. I completed 5 months studying (and of course partying) in Amsterdam and was shocked at the cultural difference in socializing. In Amsterdam, all clubs are open until at least 5am – and you know why? Because Europeans have much more of a mature attitude towards alcohol. In Ireland, the norm is to go for the top shelf – vodka, whiskey, brandy, you name it – and drink it in the shortest time possible in order to “save money” buying drinks in the club. Disclaimer: saved money results in sacrificed dignity and before you know it you’re kicked out, sitting on the side of the street, shovelling a garlic-chip-and-cheese into your mouth with some gobshite you just met holding your heals at 1am.

In Amsterdam, however, because people only tend to drink beer or wine – and they enjoy it as opposed to drinking it to get drunk –  they are able to party until 5 or 6am. I’ve left many clubs at this hour and did not manage to find anyone as much as stagger around the street – in Ireland at Christmas, I entered a pub and 9pm and had 2 drinks spilled on me and had a young lad fall up against me within 10 minutes.

To give another example, tonight, despite being the first night of RAG week I decided to stay in to get some college work done, tidy my room and get a good night’s sleep as I had a busy schedule for Monday; class from 9am-12pm, meeting with my FYP (Final Year Project) supervisor at 12pm and tutoring in the Writing Centre from 2-4pm. I was okay with my decision to stay in (finally overcame my FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) by the way), even though all of my house-mates were drinking downstairs and going out, I knew I was making the right decision (I really sound like a boring old fart here, I wasn’t always like this!). Next thing I knew, a friend of my house-mate came up to my room to investigate why I was not going out. When I told him of my responsibilities and role as a tutor he responded with a question “are you smart?” and a shocked expression. I’m going to leave you to make your own judgement on that one …

I’m sure this young man is quite intelligent himself as he’s made it to third year in university. Yet, it’s excessive amounts of alcohol that induces such moronic actions and statements as I’ve just described and I’m sure you can all well-imagine.

Frank Kelly, who we all knew and loved as Father Jack of the programme “Father Ted” passed away today. I was so sad to hear of his passing and it was my inspiration for this blog. The character of Fr Jack in Fr Ted was mould-breaking at the time as it was the first time the issue of alcoholism had been tackled in Ireland. Despite the humorous connotations which the character of  Fr Jack exerted, he did not stand to encourage alcoholism, but to make a mockery of it, in the hopes of discouraging people for reaching for the top shelf bevvies.

So, don’t be that drunken mess at 3pm in the day this RAG week. Make like Father Jack in the episode where he is judging the wet T-Shirt competition and opt for “More Water” every now and then! 😀

 

 

 

 

Be More Like Cats

“Askhole: a person who repeatedly asks your advice but never takes it”

This week, my inspiration has sparked from a couple of different situations. I particularly liked the definition of an “askhole” above, which I read in the latest edition of Cosmopolitan (March 2016).

We all need friends to listen to us and share advice every now and then. However, what really gets my goat is people that cannot be comfortable in their own skin and be independent. Having grown up as an only child, I have always been extremely independent. In today’s society, teens and young adults “travel in packs of twos and threes” (P!nk – Stupid Girls) and cannot seem to make a decision without conferring with each and every member of their group. I simply cannot fathom why people cannot have enough faith in their own instincts and just do what you like. If I need to go to town and do some shopping then I am hella-happy to go and do it by myself, if there’s lunch involved, even better! In 2014, The Netherlands opened a restaurant called “Eenmaal” which is Dutch for “Once”, specifically for dinner reservations for those going solo and I am glad to inform you that it has been such a success that a branch has recently opened in London!

I have a huge obsession with cats and before you ask – yes I am single and I am going to end up as one of those crazy cat ladies – but you know what? I am going to be a happy and independent cat lady because I’ll have gotten into that situation by myself, without being an askhole (fully aware of how similar to a crazy cat lady I sounded there, by the way)! Besides cats being fluffy and adorable, I love them because of their independence. Of course I like dogs too but personally, I just find them a bit too needy and too similar to having kids – which I never want. Dogs are always like “walk me now, love me all the time” – my life is too busy for this kind of commitment. Cats, on the other hand can happily entertain themselves all day and appreciate the affection whenever you feel like giving it to them – great! You do you and I’ll do me and we’ll meet somewhere in between for some tickles and belly-rubs – yep, I can totally commit to this.

This also brings me to the connection between cats, independence, askholes and the dating world. Now that I am 21 and have returned home from my exchange in Amsterdam, I really have grown up a lot, learned a lot about  myself and what I truly desire in life. Of course we all want to find that special someone – for me it just hasn’t happened yet. I’m totally okay with being single. Honestly, I don’t see where I could find the time for a serious relationship and I’d rather wait until I know it is right than to settle for anything less than the best. Swiping through this dating app “Tinder” I realize I am not interested in the same types of guys as I used to. Now when I see pictures of guys partying in Ibiza wearing a onesie while holding a bottle of Lidl vodka in one hand and a rollie in the other I’m not thinking “ooh he looks like fun”, I’m thinking “so you’re 26 and this is how you want to present yourself to girls?” while swiping left.

So this is how it’s all connected; I am independent, because I am so independent and avoid askholes, I end up single forever and as my only fellow independent creatures are cats, once I have traveled the world, I purchase many feline friends and live happily ever after. I urge everyone not to settle for anyone, trust your own judgement – I know I’m not the only one as the rise of solo restaurants are underway – be independent, you are the only person in the world who knows best for you. Be more like cats!

I leave you with a picture of my cat, Princess, who sat into my car today. I took a picture of her on Snapchat as she looked so cute and put my phone down on the seat to pet her, and with her paw she set it as my Story. That’s my independent kitty – what have you done for you lately?

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Home – A Culture Shock

From the moment I set out for university, I have found the time to fly by particularly fast. In secondary school it can feel like there is no life outside of the dreary classrooms and corridors. Life in university is a wild and thrilling experience and I can honestly say that I have loved every minute of my time at the University of Limerick.

Before I knew it, I found myself a year and a half into my degree – New Media and English – and carried out my Co-Operative education as Administrative Assistant at the Regional Writing Centre within UL. It was a strange transition from having 15 hours a week of classes to 40 hours a week at work but I enjoyed the responsibility I had – the sense of being needed at work was motivating.

Next came the most exhilarating experience of my life – Erasmus. I attended the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam from August 2015 to January 2016. From the moment I arrived there, every day was more positive than the next. Academically, the greatest difference to Ireland was the way in which the semester was broken into 3 periods. As opposed to studying 5 modules from September to December, we studied 2 modules in period 1 (September and October), 2 modules in period 2 (November and December) and 1 module in period 3 (January). I found this system so much more manageable as when you are not overwhelmed by the workload of 5 modules at the same time, you are so much more motivated to do your work in full and to the best of your ability.

Returning home has proved to be quite difficult for me. It’s amazing how in 6 short months you adjust to different cultures and try to learn the norms of home again as though you are a foreigner in your own country. The best advice I would have for anyone having trouble re-adjusting at home is to keep yourself busy. Besides my classes, I also work as a tutor in the Writing Centre and am working on the organisation of an upcoming undergraduate conference here too – so never a dull moment!

If you would like to know more about my time at the VU, here’s a link to an article I wrote for the university’s website.

I’ll be back for you, Amsterdam!

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Monday’s Munch

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So, above is a picture of the weeks’ worth of ingredients delivered to me. I was a little apprehensive about cooking as I somehow seemed to survive on pizza, pot noodle, toast and tea in First Year (which is no fun for the waistline, trust me!), therefore, had no prior culinary skills at all. I opted for the chicken pasta bake and followed the simple guidelines on the website. The guidelines are so helpful and if, like me, you are a complete beginner at cooking, there are even definitions of common cookery terms and videos that show you what to do.  In no time at all I had my task well underway with my wholegrain pasta boiling and chicken, vegetables and seasoning frying.

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Once my chicken was golden and pasta was “al dente”, I placed it all into an oven-proof dish and popped it in the oven to bake.

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Ten minutes later, my masterpiece was complete! I was overwhelmed at the satisfaction I got from actually preparing my own meal from scratch. It tasted absolutely amazing and it’s so convenient that you are given just the right amount of ingredients so that there was no waste or I didn’t over-eat. So here’s a picture of the finished product and I surprisingly find myself looking forward to whipping up my home-cooked meal again tomorrow evening!

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Tasty Tuesday

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Having a little more confidence from yesterdays’ success, I was ready for round two and decided to have a go at cooking the homemade burger with wedges. Firstly, I preheated the oven to 200°C and gathered all my ingredients. Secondly, I washed, peeled and chopped the potatoes and garlic and put them into an oven-proof dish with some oil, mixed herbs, salt and pepper and put them in to the oven to cook for 30 minutes.

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While to wedges were cooking, I popped the burger on the George Foreman grill for 15 minutes, turning every now and again until it was properly cooked.

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Once the burger was cooked and the wedges were soft I sliced some tomato and served it on top of the burger. I have to admit, the meat was so amazing and I really surprised myself at how capable I was of making wedges (I really never knew it was so simple!). Again, I enjoyed my delicious meal, while thinking how convenient College Dinners really are. It means you don’t have to walk in the rain with bags of groceries or think of cooking ideas, and you know exactly what you’re eating because you’re preparing it all yourself!

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