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US Postgraduate Testimonial Series: MA in The Beginnings of Irish Christianity

Name: Allison Meyette

Hometown: Pawtucket, Rhode Island

Undergraduate Institution and Major: Wheaton College (MA), Art History & History

Postgraduate Program at UCC (and focus if possible!): MA in The Beginnings of Irish Christianity

Career Aspirations: Museum curator or Gallery curator, professor, professional bee enthusiast

What about this postgraduate experience has been the most rewarding and/or eye-opening for you thus far?

 I’m so lucky to have found the chance to branch out and study all kinds of topics. Since the beginning of the academic year I’ve been engaged with learning Old Irish, which is completely a niche language but fun all the same. I’m sitting in on a course about early Irish law as well, and absolutely loving it. My MA dissertation is (currently untitled) about bees in Early Christian Irish society, and the research for it so far has proven to be endlessly fascinating. Did you know there’s a whole Irish law text about bees? It’s called Bechbretha, ‘Bee-Judgements,’ and I highly suggest reading it for a good time. You won’t bee disappointed.

What about this postgraduate experience has been the most challenging for you thus far? How did you overcome or how are you working to overcome this challenge? 

There are a few challenges that I have steadily been working to overcome through the course of my programme, but two in particular I would like to highlight as I feel they’d be the most likely for others to come across.

The first is academically-aligned. The department is small, and it’s easy to feel inadequate when you’re coming from a really tangential type of background (the other three MA students are all previously involved in Celtic Studies in some way). I’ve been struggling with my academic confidence, especially in relation to my dissertation and its scholarly usefulness. It’s very easy to get yourself down and not feel ‘good enough,’ but it’s just as easy to remind yourself of the many reasons why you are. I like telling myself that I bring another facet of perspective to my courses and to my work here, and often have to remind myself that because everyone else has had so much exposure already to the topics we explore in the department, it makes it easier for them to explain it to me when I don’t understand!

The second is socially-aligned. I don’t live in the city, I live in a commuter town nearby as it is cheaper and quieter than the UCC student accommodation (in my opinion). While I’ve grown to not mind the commute, it makes me feel isolated some days, since it’s more of an effort for me to get into the city where all the hip and happening events are. I see one of my friends once a week for dinner, which I really enjoy, and another of my friends I see moderately often during the week on-campus since she’s part of the department. Overall, making friends hasn’t been as difficult as I thought: there are two magpies that live near my house, and I like leaving each morning or coming home each day and seeing one or both of my avian pals playing in the trees. My human housemates are also a great source of comfort, especially when it comes to providing chocolates and delicious food during bouts of unhappiness. Having the chance to understand yourself better is always helpful, and I feel like I learn more every day (as cliché as that is).  

Beyond your postgraduate experience, in what activities, clubs, societies, etc. are you involved? In the Autumn semester I was lucky enough to participate in the UCC Works program, and through that held an internship at the Lewis Glucksman Gallery. Otherwise, I did not get involved in other activities or societies since the scheduling often didn’t work out with my commute. I’m technically a member of both the Historical Society and Knitting Society, though,

If you could give future postgraduate students in your program one piece of advice, what would it be? 

The same advice my programme co-ordinator gave to me: go to the Research Seminar; sit in on the other classes in the department (if you can); make an effort to get to know the other postgraduates; go to lunch or coffee before Seminar. You’ll not only learn a lot from incredibly intelligent people, but find funny things to bond over. One of the students in the Early & Medieval Irish programme and I love making memes of our professors since they’re so quotable. The student in the Celtic Civilisation programme and I bonded over how we never quite fully understand the jokes in Seminar, but we laugh anyway. I thought I was the only one!  Finally, everything will work out in the end – after all, St. Patrick managed to get all the credit for converting Ireland to Christianity, even though Palladius got there first!

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