Sunday, 8 September 2013

Who is Zack Twamley? Part One: College.

Hello history friends, hope this post greets you well. I've been asked many times exactly what it is I'm doing in college. Some of you would know that I'm studying History and Politics with International Relations in University College Dublin, but those of you that know universities and know them reasonably well may want a little more info on exactly what it is I'm studying when I mention it ad hoc on the podcast. Apologies if this post seems a tad self-indulgent or long-winded, but I feel as my listeners, you do have a right to know what it is I study, so that when I do go to inform you of something of the podcast or perhaps teach you something you weren't aware of, you can see here that I at least have a bit of a right to do that. Maybe.

the UCD logo>

A little bit of background info first. University College Dublin (UCD) is the largest college in Ireland with about 30,000 students. Its campus houses other buildings such as Engineering and Science, and I understand  that a Law building is being made, as well as an expanded Engineering campus for all those tech heads. There is also a great deal of nursing, agricultural science and technology courses available. For me though, and thousands of others like me, I am studying arts. What is arts you may ask? Well, for starters, it has nothing to do with actual art. What it does entail is either picking two subjects (a joint major) focusing more on one subject than the other (major-minor) or just focusing on the one subject (single subject major) for your degree. This is where I come in. I am a part of the arts program, which means that at the end of my 3 year course I will (hopefully) receive my Bachelor of Arts (BA) from UCD, and progress onto other things from there if I wish.

One of the many lecture halls I find myself in>

I am doing a joint major in history and politics, which means that I should be spending equal time between both history and politics for my studies, and means that I don't have to have a favourite, though realistically I often do. The BA program is split into 2 stages in its 3 year form. 1st year is referred to as Stage 1, in which you have 60 credits. Each subject is worth (generally) 5 credits, so that means I should complete 12 modules over 1st year within my BA program. Honestly, 1st year was a bit shit, since I had to do certain subjects and didn't really get a chance to specialise. That's what made 2nd year at least somewhat better. 2nd and 3rd year are grouped together in the case of the BA program into what's called Stage 2. I'm not really sure why they do this, but regardless, I must complete 120 credits for Stage 2 which, yes, is just the same as completing 2 years worth of credits (60 and 60 again).

2nd year itself was ok; I was introduced to some subjects I did like (International Relations, Comparative Politics, International Peace and History) and some I did not (Individuals and the State). The exams went quite well to be quite honest, and by the end of it I had completed 60 credits, and knew that for 3rd year I'd have to do another 60. Then a few things changed, including the history course, and after a bit of stress I was at last able to register for my 3rd year subjects and see the final stages of my degree flesh itself out. I have to say, I like what I see.

On a sidenote, electives are subjects that do not necessarily have anything to do with my core subjects (in this case Politics and History). For Stage 2 (remember 2nd AND 3rd year) I had to take in total 20 elective credits to make up my 120 credits, but didn't take any in 2nd year, thinking I'd save my 20 elective credits for 3rd year. To cut a long story short, it's all worked out, so here's what my degree looks like in 3rd year.

Semester One.
=> Politics, Culture and Diplomacy in Post-Westphalian Germany.
Yes, this is EXACTLY my cup of tea. This module covers the rise of Prussia as the Holy Roman Empire declines. It follows from 1648 onwards, which should give an indication as to why the special I'm doing on the 30 Years War is so well-fitted to my degree at this stage too. In short, it's exactly what I want, and I'm so pleased to be able to specialise in this way. Hopefully, the course WON'T cover the entire period we all know so well (1870-1945) since I really feel it's been done to death. I'll keep you guys posted, but I am hopeful that I'll be seeing parts of Germany that I haven't really seen before.

the post-Westphalian peace settlement is a concept we'll examine in the not too distant future

=> Debates in History.
My only core module in 3rd year history. It covers the kinds of ideas propagated by history peeps and I'm looking forward to debating with people over things that they are wrong about. Seriously, I am looking forward to writing my mandatory 4,000 essay (or paper to my American friends) on something I'm passionate about. The possibilities are hopefully endless.

=> Latin American Politics.

Interesting ay? I went for this subject on a bit of a whim, but I am looking forward to learning more about a region in which I know very little. Also, because I'd be interested in learning more about the history of the region, I figure gaining a good grounding in the politics of those states now would be a good place to start.

Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, second right, with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez,
Bolivia's Evo Morales and Ecuador's Rafael Correa at the meeting in which they
talked about regional integration in Manaos, Brazil, October 2008. Go team South America! 

=> Integration, Fragmentation and the Global System.
A rather long title for a subject that basically translates as 'we're gonna look at the world today and decide how things have changed, how they've stayed the same and why; on international terms.' It's one of those standard international relations modules which, while interesting, usually don't go into too much detail. Hopefully for 3rd year this will change.

Semester Two.

everyone knows about knights, but I'm looking forward to seeing a different side of the Middle Ages too.

=> Kingdoms and Empires in the Restless Middle Ages.
Focusing on the period 800-1300, this module will give me a better understanding of a period I've kind of been avoiding in the podcast. The world was a very different place at this time, different ideas were floating around and the map of the world looked vastly different to how it looks in most of my episodes. It'll be a trial run for me in many ways, to see if bringing the podcast to any part of the era in particular would be viable. Of course, it'll also be incredibly interesting to venture through a period of history I hadn't given much thought to before.

=> Politics of the European Union.
Yes, it does sound a bit lame, but the hope is that there will be a proper focus on the EU's acting in the world, and its place in it, as well as the world views it, rather than the extremely dull focus I'd been subjected to before, in which we spent a nerve freezing semester examining the institutions of the EU and what they did. I'm a tad skeptical that UCD will satisfy my craving for a proper EU politics module, but I'm willing to be proven wrong!
=> Politics of Constitutions.
Now this one may sound a bit iffy, but I have a good feeling about it. It examines basically what states are made of from the ground up focusing on, you guessed it, their constitutions; the blueprints of those states. It then compares states across the globe and determines who takes their constitution seriously....and who doesn't. Should be an interesting change of pace.

Perhaps the most famous constitution, but I hope to see some others too!

=> International Political Economy.
Two of the words in this module title I like, the other scares the crap out of me. I'm not one for economics once it starts to really put a microscope over heavy economic terms, so I'm hoping that this module won't do that too much. On the one hand, it could be a good change of pace from what I'm used to; looking at the world through the eyes of money, rather than just politics. On the other hand, it could be a horrendous mistake, and I could be bombarded with terms that I have no hope of remembering or understanding. Here's to it being the former.

=> Homer and the Age of Heroes.
Introducing the first of my electives that take a giant leap out of my apparent comfort zone; this module deals with Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, with special reference to the epic heroes Achilles and Odysseus. The lectures will begin by examining the historical background of the Trojan War, and the context in which the Iliad and the Odyssey were composed around 725-700 B.C. The lectures will also discuss the structure, characters, and main themes of the two works. I'm not too keen on the text examination part, though I do feel that that'd do no harm to my overall historical skills, and I do look forward to learning more about the period.

Time for a trip to Troy perhaps? Definitely have to rewatch the movie at least! 

=>Virgil's Aeneid.
When Virgil began writing his epic poem the Aeneid, Augustus was establishing his imperial rule. While Virgil's contemporaries, and generations to come, greeted the Aeneid as a celebration of Augustan Rome, modern readers tend to view it as a powerful denunciation of war and imperialism. This module explores the ways in which the text engages with both political ideologies and the literary tradition. I am certainly looking forward to examining the historical era, but as I said before a heavy examination of any text isn't really my cup of tea.

And that's about it. Two things you should have noticed from this outline of my 3rd year. First, I have way more work in semester two than semester one, yes I realise this, but it just kind of happened that way because of timetable constraints etc. Second, I am on paper doing more politics than history modules. In actual fact, the workload should be the same. The way it works in 3rd year history at UCD is, those two awesome sounding modules on the Middle Ages and Germany are worth 10 credits each, and require a more intensive learning process than the other subjects (worth 5 credits each) in politics (or in my electives) as a result.

So that's me then, if you have any questions, or have been genuinely intrigued by these revelations I'd love to hear from you, so please contact me via the Facebook page or via email,

Until then, thankssssss, and I hope to be working on part three of the 30 Years War Special very soon!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing! I was rather curious what you studied. My university degree (which I got so long ago we won't mention the date) was a BS in Business with a double major in Information Systems and Accounting. Sounds boring, right? But I was lucky enough to get in a few electives in history. I took be fabulous course on the Age of Exploration 1750 - 1850 which was taught by a professor from New Zealand if I remember correctly. It was facilitating and I remember getting to write a paper on a James Cook's famous first voyage to Tahiti. One of our libraries actually had original copies of the journals he published after voyage. Super cool. I wish I had had more opportunity to do stuff like that in college. But your podcast helps makes up for some of the history that I missed. Thanksssss!