Aug 11, 2012

Please don't stop the music!

(That's right, friends...I did just make a Rihanna reference.  What can I say?  The woman's got style!)

Riddle me this: one class, seven books.[1]  How does that make sense?  I guess this is a taste of what it’s like to be an English major.  Being a Biology major, I’m used to buying three or four textbooks for an entire term – and sometimes, I can use one book for two different classes!  Crazy, I know.  Oh...I should also mention that as a Biology major, I'm also used to teasing English majors :)

So what is a science student like me doing, buying books for an English class?  Well, one of the courses I’ll be taking this fall will be taught by an English professor: Union’s very own Hugh Jenkins.  Prof. Jenkins, by way of explanation, is the faculty advisor charged with supervising the twenty of us – ten from Union and ten from Hobart and William Smith Colleges – for the next few months.  (And for the record, I’m using the term “supervising” very loosely.  I know some professors who would be more than happy to parent and police a gaggle of college students.  Thankfully, Prof. Jenkins is not one of those professors.)

Of the four courses I’ll be taking at NUIG, two are required “core courses”.  Of those, one varies by term (i.e. is constructed by the faculty advisor).  This year, that course is entitled “From Bogs to Bluegrass”: The Evolution of Irish Music.  (If you’re interested, here’s some background information on Irish music.)  From Prof. Jenkins’ description, I gather that it’s less a music class than it is an anthropology-of-music-type class, but I take no issue with that.  In fact, I’m curious to see how this class will pan out; Irish music has always interested me, and I figure that studying its origins will only make it more relevant to the other kinds of music I listen to[2].  The other core class, Contemporary Irish Culture and Society, is a survey course taught by NUIG’s director of Irish Studies, and will probably enrich my experience of – surprise, surprise – the culture and society.  My other two courses are electives, so I’m hoping to enroll in science courses (specifically, Neurophysiology and Endocrinology) so that I can satisfy some LIM requirements and learn about things that might give me a head start at Albany Med.

A little bit more on why the music course is as important to me as it is: back when I was still scoping out various programs (Union has a lot of choices for students who want to study abroad), this course caught my attention.  When, at the Ireland information session, Prof. Jenkins began his spiel not by talking, but by playing a few minutes of an Irish reel, I was sold on this program.  Why?  Because I generally make it a point to insert music into my life wherever possible – from traditional places, such as the shower and the stage, to slightly less conventional spaces, like dorm elevators[3] and behind my cart at Costco[4].  Now, given the choice, I gravitate toward more popular, mainstream music (from Katy Perry to The Band Perry and beyond), but don’t get me wrong – I appreciate classical music, and certainly believe that an understanding of it is a necessary foundation for any musician, formal student or not.  But having studied music at Union for three years now, I’m itching to step away from Bach and Liszt and toward the paradigms of traditional Irish music – that is, reels, slip jigs, and drinking songs ;)  So once I’m in Galway, I plan to make full use of all music-making opportunities that are available to me.

Especially if there’s an elevator in my building.


P.S. Speaking of music-making, I really hope I can bring my guitar along.  I don’t know what I’d do without it for four months!  Looks like a few calls to the airlines are in order.  Since I’m flying with two airlines (American Airlines into London and Aer Lingus, a local Irish airline, from there to Shannon), I wonder whose baggage regulations I'm obligated to follow...
Our last day together for many months...

[1] I must note here that I bought all seven for $28.20 – $23.94 of which went to shipping costs.  And in case you’re not a math person, that’s seven books for $4.26.  I like to think I’m a pretty savvy online shopper.
[2] I listen to pretty much everything but metal, punk rock, and other such genres.  If I can find the melody, you can bet that I’m either singing that or making up musically-sensible harmonies.
[3] If ever you are lucky enough to find yourself alone in an elevator, take advantage of it!  Rest assured: no one can hear you except for those two seconds when you're passing a floor.  (Trust me; I've tested this theory.  Let's just say that my friends are good to me.)
[4] I’m happy to report that for the most part, this particular compulsion garners me more appreciative smiles and requests to join in than annoyed stares.


  1. Hi dearie! Not all English courses involve 7 books (some involve more, others less). And I love amazon and inexpensive books too. But just saying hi, and letting you know that I'm enjoying reading what you write.

    <3 Teresa

  2. Kind words, roomie - thank you! It's always good to hear from you. I love that you're defending the English department...but just so you're aware, I doubt that I'll ever tire of ragging on it ;)