Inaugural Transylvania in Ireland program a ‘stunning success’

Transylvania in Ireland is a partnership with Burren College of Art, an independent art school on the northwest coast of County Clare.

Students in the inaugural Transylvania in Ireland program spent much of last month immersed in the Emerald Island’s rich tradition of art and literature.

Based at Burren College of Art in County Clare, the three-week program featured courses in drawing, watercolor painting and literature — along with travel and visits by experts in a variety of fields, from politics to folklore.

Not only was it the first year for Transylvania in Ireland, but it was the university’s first travel-based, in-house summer program. (It was open to Transy students and to those from other universities.)

“The Transylvania in Ireland program was, without a doubt, a stunning success,” said Professor of Art Jack Girard, who taught courses in the program with Liz Corsun, associate professor of English. “Nurtured by a long-standing relationship with the Burren College of Art, the program provided students with a life-changing immersion into the Irish culture. They interacted with local residents on a daily basis, forging long-term relationships with many of the locals. The program provided students with a first-rate model for how one goes about shaping a cultural and global empathy.”

Travel included art-related excursions to Dublin’s historical Abbey Theatre, Trinity College (for a viewing of the “Book of Kells”) and the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

They also traveled to smaller towns and explored the countryside. “Overnight visits to Galway and the Aran Islands offered a stimulating contrast to a more cosmopolitan Dublin, in service to our commitment to providing students with a broad exposure to the larger Irish culture,” Girard said. “Kilfenora, known as the ‘City of the Crosses’ and home to internationally known ceili dancers, afforded students a lesson in set dancing before participating in a spirited evening of dance with the local community.”

After the program ended, Olivia Forester ’21 wrote Girard to thank him for the “lovely study abroad adventure,” which also earned the dozen participants academic credit. “It was nice having someone who had been to Ireland many times with you, planning things so we could make the most of our time there,” said Forester — who already misses Ireland. “When I think back on it, I will always be grateful for every day spent there.”

Through promoting study abroad, Transylvania helps students better understand the world by traveling to unfamiliar settings and meeting people with different backgrounds.

Courtney Smith ’16, director of global and intercultural engagement, visited the participants in Ireland. “Seeing the students make the Burren their home away from home and realize that their world is bigger than just the ‘Transy Bubble’ makes all of the work that was put into creating the program worthwhile,” she said.