An Irish Field Diary

With just 5 days left in Ireland, I’m reflecting on the Museum Building that has been my home for a full year. I came from the University of Brasília as a visiting student. Although my friends and family thought it odd, I could not have made a better decision when I chose to move from sunny Brazil to this tiny, rainy island.

I chose Ireland for two reasons: they speak the English language (sort of!) and Trinity has a longstanding reputation. My biggest fears related to problems with the language and making friends. Would I be able to understand the lectures? To read and write in English? Will I be able to communicate with the other students? Language was a hurdle, and it was difficult to follow continuously the lectures the whole time. But lecturers and students were patient and with brute force, time and practice, thinking in English became a habit and speaking and writing became more natural. I’m glad that, in the end, I can read and write in English and speak grand, like!

museum
The Museum Building on a dry day.

And as for making friends, there was no time for this to be a problem. The Irish are like Brazilian people with red hair:  most of the time they are happy, cheerful and they will make you feel home. I was lucky to be in a such a lively, fun department. The physical presence of the university and department is awesome – it’s only a cool 370 years older than my home uni. The Museum Building is grand and beautiful but on wet days, somewhat tired-looking with buckets catching water dripping through the ceiling. It has so much character with so many conversations absorbed into the stonework.

clare-field-trip
Logging in County Clare, Ireland.

By far the best academic experience was the field trips. The first was to County Clare as part of a petroleum geology module, solving field problems with high-resolution facies analysis and sequence stratigraphic principles. The weather was Irish! For four days it rained strongly with gale force winds. The shear horizontal rain was a great challenge for me and two other Brazilians – not the field weather we’re used to.

spain-field-trip
Trinity and WashU students in front of a cliff of gypsum crystals recording the Messinian salt crisis.

Our second field course took us to Spain with the final year Trinity students and a class of Americans from Washington University in St. Louis. Although I had far less experience in the field than the other Irish students, we learnt so much. We made our first geological maps! We spent 10 days in and around Lucainena de las Torres in Almeria visiting a young fold belt with well-exposed regional tectonic structures, volcanic rocks and sedimentary basin-fill. On top of all this learning, it was a great international experience meeting new US staff and students. 

mapping-terraces
Mapping beach terraces to investigate recent sea level change in Corinth.

On our final field trip, we spent two-weeks in Greece. We began in Corinth logging several sections, making sedimentary environment interpretations and mapping beach terraces. These days were followed by a ferry ride to the island of Naxos, mapping a complex metamorphic dome complex. It was our first multi-day mapping exercise. The feeling of having the geological map and a cross-section ready from our four days of work was very rewarding and worth all the hard work! The last stop was after another ferry journey to Santorini, one of the most famous stratovolcanoes in the world. Entering into the caldera by boat gave an incredible perspective. We saw such an exhibition of volcanic products, covering many styles of volcanic activity, and is both well exposed and accessible. We spent several days looking at the volcanic cycles and products, producing logs and interpretations. Our last day we realized that through all the information we collected in previous field exercises, we were able to construct the eruptive history of Santorini from 180 000 years ago until the earliest eruptive phases.

logging-in-santorini
Logging volcanoclastic units in Santorini.

My year at Trinity has made me realise that geology only can be truly learned in practice. Theory is important but the practical learning has made me a geologist. At Trinity, I’ve had a perfect combination of both, seen more geology than I could have imagined, and had a great cultural experience with Irish and American professors and students.

This amazing geology and incredible people have made this year the best adventure of my life…yet.

Thanks Ireland – hope to see you soon!

By Alissa Alvim, visiting undergraduate student from University of Brasília.

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