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Class profile: Irish eyes are smiling

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What do Guinness, potatoes and James Joyce have in common? They are all Irish. But Ireland is much more than that. The University of Calgary's travel study to Ireland allows students the opportunity to learn in depth and first hand about the country's origins, history and culture.

Travel 149 Ireland: Myth, History, Culture is one of those travel study courses available to students and has been immensly popular in the past couple years.

"Irish was the dominant ethnicity in Canada at the confederation-- not many people know that," said professor Mary Murphy, who runs the travel study to Ireland.

"Huge numbers of Canadian people identify some kind of Irish ethnicity. It's interesting in very many ways."

In addition to traveling from city to city beginning in Belfast on May 4, 2012 and ending with six days in Dublin, students are also getting three and one-half course credits-- FILM 301, COMS 401, GNST 501-- applied to their degree.

So be ready to "learn your ass off," as Conall Minter puts it, who went to Ireland in May for his second travel study.

"Students are required to understand and present on a variety of topics, read a number of texts and watch 14 films. It's no cakewalk," said Minter.

The hands-on learning aspect of the course, however, is exactly the reason Murphy feels it has an edge on traditional classroom learning. "There are things that students see that we could not give them in the classroom that underscore what we've talked about. It's so abstract."

Minter agrees. "How many people can say their classroom was in a jungle or on the streets of Dublin?"

An average of 22 students take part in each tour and three professors are with the group and available to the students constantly over the course of the 21-day trip.

"By the end of three short weeks, many of us had formed friendships that will not be easily forgotten. Many of us still hang out on the weekends," said Minter.

Students should plan to spend $6,530, which includes "everything but sweaters and beer," said Murphy.

Applications are being accepted and recruitment is underway for the 2012 tour on a rolling acceptance basis as long as spaces remain. The course is expected to fill quickly.

"Lots of people start out choosing Ireland because of the pastural romantic and fall even more deeply in love with it once we're there," said Murphy.

Minter adds "the best part of singing and clapping along with a traditional song in a 300-year-old pub while getting your classmates acquainted with the taste of Guinness? The entire time you're gaining a deeper understanding of Irish culture!"

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