Dane Schmidt Letters Home

Dec. 15, 2011
Dear Members, Friends and supporters of the Robert Emmet Society Scholarship:Dane Schmidt

Time flies when you are having fun, but time REALLY flies when you are having great craic (Irish fun)! A lot has been happening since my last update, both in my life and in Ireland overall. Classes are keeping me extra busy these days it seems. This semester I am enrolled in three third-year modules. I have Heritage Tourism, Modern Irish Literature, and Geographic Info Systems + Database Applications. Heritage Tourism has really shown me how Ireland is faced with the challenge of promoting tourism while conserving heritage. There is a delicate balance between making money through tourism, while staying true to the heritage and country. This class is taught by John Tunney, who also made an appearance in Petoskey in 2003 to help the society, the college, and the county, commemorate the 200th anniversary of Robert Emmet’s revolution against the British rulers of Ireland and his brutal execution by the British. I still remember renting the video of John Tunney’s speech at the NCMC library when I was writing my Emmet essay! I consider myself very fortunate to be in Ireland and hear Tunney lecture every week.

Modern Irish literature is a class that I was a bit worried about initially, but it turned out to be great. The professor, John Hynes, makes a special effort to ensure that we non-Irish students (there are 4 of us in the class of about 25) understand the Irish references. I wrote an essay for the class on the Irish author Liam O’Flaherty. I highly recommend an adaptation of one of his works, the film “The Informer,” which is a regular offering in the society’s ongoing series of history-based films.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS for short) has been a very interesting class. It continues to amaze me how thoroughly Ireland is mapped and recorded. Ireland even has its own grid reference system for mapping coordinates of important geographical features.  Paul Gosling is the class instructor and he knows his archeology craft well. The huge amount of archeological information about Ireland is organized into various databases. Learning how to use databases is a big part of the class as well; this is great because I can use that knowledge when I come home and continue to pursue my IT degree at NCMC.

I’m sure by now most everyone has heard of Ireland’s financial crisis. We are in a global recession, that’s for sure. Recently this has had a direct impact on me here. There are a few ways to move money around internationally, but arguably the easiest and fastest is getting a cash advance through a credit card. As of last week Bank of Ireland (the bank I use) has stopped their cash advance service altogether, meaning I can’t pull Euros out of my credit card to spend here. Fortunately, I have some cash set aside and will be fine, but this happening certainty reflects Ireland’s financial climate. In addition to this, rising college fees for Irish students have really been a hot topic here. Many Irish students here have participated in protests, which have regularly made the news here.

My Thanksgiving here in Ireland was something I will always remember. A couple of American friends invited me, about 10 Irish students, and 5 other international students to a feast that they spent all day cooking. It was an extraordinarily fun night.

I went to check out Edinburgh on a recent weekend – what an absolutely magnificent city! There is so much to do and see; I want to go back some day when I can spend more time and money. A severe snow storm kept me grounded in Scotland for an extra night, which was perfectly fine by me!

It has been an amazing ride here in Ireland for the past 3 months. I will be forever grateful to the Robert Emmet Society for allowing me the opportunity to take this fantastic journey. While I look forward to coming home to my friends and family for the holidays, I can tell already I will be missing Ireland within a few days!  Any potential applicants for the RES Scholarship should feel free to contact me about this life adventure offered to NCMC students.

Dane Schmidt

Robert Emmet Scholar, 2010

Sept 27, 2011
Dear Members, Friends and Past Winners of the Robert Emmet Society scholarship,

I am finally here. I have arrived in Galway and become acclimated with my surroundings. Thankfully, my journey from Gaylord to Galway was safe and stress-free. I arrived in Galway on the 1st of September; my classes at the Galway Mayo Institute of Technology did not start until the 13th, so luckily I had plenty of time to explore. On the downside, it was very quiet around the student housing development I am living in. I think I was the first person here! Of course that has changed now; I put earplugs in to sleep at night because I can always hear the commotion of some late night gatherings (the earplugs are to keep me from getting up and joining in myself!). I have met international students from Spain and France that are also living in the student housing. I have noticed that Hispanic and French-speaking students are always apologetic about their “bad” English (even though I can usually understand them fine); I always reassure them that their English is far better than my Spanish or French!

I have been on a couple of spectacular guided tours so far; Kylemore Abbey and the Cliffs of Moher.  Kylemore Abbey was the first of the two tours, and really opened my eyes to the rich culture and heritage here. Kylemore Castle is about 150 years old, and is currently run by Benedictine nuns. The land that the castle was built on is, in a word, exquisite, with deep green rolling hills everywhere. The Cliffs of Moher were breathtaking, and I fought an overwhelming desire to jump the tourist wall and get closer to the edge for a great photo. Later that week in my Heritage and Tourism class, the professor John Tunney made a joking note about how it always seems to be Germans that have “accidents” at the cliffs, and now I know when I return to the cliffs again this semester, to fight my German heritage that  wants to go “just a little bit closer.”  All joking aside though, they are absolutely magnificent. The Cliffs of Moher stand 650 feet tall and run 5 miles long. It was hard for me to gauge the scale of exactly how enormous the cliffs were, until I spotted a tiny white speck flying around against the dark backdrop of the cliffs – a sea bird.

I had made plans to venture over to Scotland, but to be completely honest, I’m finding it hard to get out of Galway. There is so much going on in this city, from Arthur Guinness Day, to the International Oyster Festival, it seems as though there is always something to do. At some point I will make it to southern and northern Ireland. Don’t worry, I am not taking my time for granted here, I have a list of things I want to see before I come home, and am keeping close tabs on how much time I have to do it!

My studies at GMIT are proving to be interesting and challenging. I have managed to meld both heritage studies and IT courses together in my curriculum.  I’ve always regarded history as a generally dry subject. The past 25 days have shown me exactly how wrong I was. Here in Ireland I have the unique opportunity to almost re-live the history firsthand. Walking through the halls of a church or castle, and then learning more about the location in my Heritage studies program at GMIT is amazing, and has me addicted.

I would like to sincerely thank the Robert Emmet Society for his tremendous opportunity. I am having the time of my life over here in Ireland, and I encourage all NCMC students to visualize a semester in Ireland, and then make it happen!


Dane Schmidt

2010 Joseph W. McCarthy & William L. McCullough, M.D., Scholar