Digging and Learning in Cork: Alex Ewing's Off-Campus Experience

 

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Ewing in his trench at an archaeology dig in County Limerick. An economics and management major at Albion College, Ewing is the son of Mark and Ellen Ewing of Frankenmuth and a graduate of Frankenmuth High School.
For the past few months, I have been living here in Cork, Ireland, studying at University College Cork. It’s strange being in large lecture halls for some of my classes, because Albion College has such small and intimate classrooms. It is also strange to not discuss the material for the day in class, as is the case with most classes in Albion. The professors here don’t know names of students for the most part, unless there are some out-of-class experiences that go with the course, such was the case for my archaeology class.

We went on a training excavation for that class, to a 13th-century nunnery. Most of the walls are still standing, mostly intact but buried in heavy vegetation. It was incredible how much of the work was trusted to the students. I actually got to unearth and lift the bones of an adult skeleton. It was a strange and surreal feeling when thinking that the skeleton was there even before the United States was conceived.

I also was fortunate enough to find a piece of medieval colored glass and some pieces of pottery. It was certainly a once in a lifetime experience for an economics & management major – although I am a history fanatic.

 

I have also done quite a bit of traveling and exploring, from Galway on the west coast to Dublin on the east, from Cork in the south to Belfast in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is a bit different from the Republic of Ireland, being that Northern Ireland is legally part of Great Britain. Road signs in Northern Ireland are in miles, as opposed to kilometers in Ireland, and Northern Ireland uses the pound for money, while Ireland uses the euro.

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Albion College student Kaylee Pope and Ewing in front of basalt columns at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.
Between Belfast and Dublin is an ancient mound called Newgrange, where the single opening for the mound only allows sunlight to penetrate into the heart of the chamber for 17 minutes the entire year, at daybreak on the Winter Solstice. While the mound was constructed over 5,000 years ago, this effect still can be seen today as it was then the mound was newly constructed. I also visited the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, which consists of 60-million-year-old columns of basalt, which naturally formed into mostly hexagonal shapes. Some of these columns are towering.

 

While I’ve been in Ireland for over four months now, it feels like I’ve been here for a lot less time than that. I’ve come to know the city of Cork extremely well. It’s a small city for being the second largest city in Ireland, but then again, the island of Ireland is only about one-third the size of Michigan. I hope that this is far from my last trip to the Emerald Isle.

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Ewing on the staircase of the famous Blarney Castle near Cork