Ireland 2016: More Than Just Leprechauns and Potatoes

Ireland 2016: More Than Just Leprechauns and Potatoes

By Anoop Chinthala

To be honest, the only reason I chose the Ireland January Term class was to go to Ireland with my friends and have a good time. I had no intentions to learn much of anything, just to have fun. But what I got out of this class was much more than I expected.

I didn’t really know anything about Ireland before coming to the class; I could barely show you where on the map it was located. The only things that I associated with Ireland were leprechauns, potatoes, and St. Patrick’s Day. Funnily enough, St. Patrick’s Day isn’t celebrated much in Ireland; we actually celebrate it more than the Irish. Otherwise, everything else is true. Every meal consisted of some form of potato, but that’s far from all I learned.

I learned a lot about the history of Ireland. Ireland is full of rich history that I never knew about. The most memorable spot we visited was Newgrange. Newgrange is a passage tomb that was built over 6000 years ago. A passage tomb is just a small burial chamber covered by stone, dirt, and mud. These were typically made during the Neolithic Period, which makes Newgrange older than the Great Pyramids and Stonehenge. This is so famous because it is totally preserved; everything is intact, and there is no water damage at all in the ceiling. It was insane how these people with only stone tools and rope could make this huge tomb. They had no technology, and they were still able to do these incredible things. One of the really cool features of Newgrange was that once a year, on the winter solstice, the sun will shine directly through the top of the entrance and illuminate the entire chamber. (This chamber is really small, it could fit around 35 people in it.) It’s just baffling to me that these prehistoric people could build such complex things with no technology. And it wasn’t just a coincidence; other passage tombs have been recorded with similar features. We visited other amazing places as well, but this place will always stand out in my memory.

Now, I didn’t think about what Newgrange would be like during the 2 weeks I was in class before the trip. I just thought it was some old stone thing, just like Stonehenge. I never really understood what was so cool about some dirt on stone above some dead people. It wasn’t until I experienced it that I understood. Walking into Newgrange was like walking back in time, 6000 years ago. I felt small. It was just crazy to think about all the people that could have walked the same I ground I was walking on. I started to wonder what things looked like back then and what the people were wearing or carrying. It was here that I could truly visualize the history of this passage tomb, and I knew that this was a moment that I would never forget.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that we, the students at UHS, have such great opportunities to learn through J-Term. It’s not just learning about something to take a test and then forget about it. After we learn and study, we can go experience it outside of the classroom and visualize it for ourselves, and that’s an awesome opportunity for high school students to have.

Image: courtesy of Duncan Turner

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