Schreyer Honors College (SHC)at Penn State

Walking in the Footsteps of the Irish During the Potato Famine: Examinations of New World Crops in Old World Societies

May 10-19 2020


  • Class: 2.5 credits, Spring 2020, Time TBD
  • Trip: 0.5 credits, Maymester 2020
Statues remembering the Irish Potato Famine

This program is for Schreyer Scholars in all majors, and at any Penn State Campus, who want to learn about the relationship between Old and New World crops and their impact on civilization. The course will highlight the role of the Irish potato in the Great Famine (also called the Irish Potato famine) that struck Ireland during 1845 to 1852 and the resulting loss of population to Ireland and the wave of Irish immigrants to the US. We will travel to Ireland during Maymester to visit important locations associated with the Famine and observe current agricultural industries and potato production in that country. This experience will emphasize and highlight the importance of agriculture to global experiences. Students need to enroll in the spring semester based course and the Maymester travel component of the course.

Course Information & Requirements

"Walking in the Footsteps of the Irish During the Irish Potato Famine: Examinations of New World Crops in Old World Societies" is a 2.5 credit interdisciplinary course (during the Spring semester) introducing the students to new world crops (crops that were native to North and South America before 1492) such as potato, corn, bean, tomato and chocolate. Crop discussion will include areas of origin, history of uses, and current production along with how these crops "migrated" to Old World Societies (Europe, Asia and Africa or those parts of the world known to Europeans before 1492) often coinciding with exploration to influence those societies. One to two new world crops per week (during a 2 hr class period) would be discussed followed by some hands on sampling of some of the culinary uses of some of the food crops would end each class period.

The later section of the Spring course will include a more in-depth 5-week study of the Irish potato and Ireland. This will prepare the students for the international travel part of the course to Ireland. Pennsylvania has a long, storied history of growing and processing potatoes (such as into chips). We will discuss contemporary production practices of potatoes in Pennsylvania with on farm and in processing plant class field trips. A discussion on the Irish potato famine and its effects sociological and political effects on Ireland and the US would culminate this section of the course.

The international study portion would be a 0.5 credit Maymester summer offering to travel to Ireland to retrace important steps of the famine and the emigration and death that resulted. We would couple with researchers in Ireland to provide a 10 day emersion into this subject and not only observe cultural impacts of the famine but historical sites but current production practices of potatoes in Ireland and compare and contrast those with US practices.

Trip Information

May 10-19 2018

Trip to Ireland

All students will be responsible for securing their own air flights from Philadelphia to Dublin (and back to the US). We will coordinate the departure time on May 10 as a group because we have arranged transportation from the Dublin airport to our hotel in Dublin. Given the itinerary and travel schedule in Ireland it is critical we all fly out and arrive together at the beginning of the trip. If you do not fly out and arrive with the group you will be responsible for your own transportation to the hotel in Dublin. We will depart from Dublin on May 19 for Philadelphia.

CIEE, one of Penn State's main study abroad partners, will arrange lodgings and transportation within Ireland.

The estimated program fee is $1800 (including subsidies from the SHC and the College of Agricultural Sciences), plus the cost of a round-trip ticket to Ireland from your point of departure, plus the required 0.5 credit of Penn State tuition and fees. The program fee covers lodgings, in-country transportation, admission fees, and some meals. Cost information will be updated in Fall 2019.

An additional $800 is suggested as spending money for things like non-covered meals, snacks, pub visits, and souvenirs.

Application Process

Please check back in Fall 2019 for more information.

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