A Travellerspoint blog

March 2012

Fin's Blog

EEBE Exchange Student in Ireland

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The project wrapped up on Friday March 16th just in time for us to head to Dublin for Paddy’s Day. It’s hard to believe 3 weeks is over already. It has been a wild ride, and in the end I was very impressed with the results everyone came up with.

The project was to retrofit a standard Irish home to meet the PassivHaus (Passive House) standard. PassivHaus is a German standard that focuses on extreme energy efficiency. What a lot of people don’t know about PassivHaus is that Dr. Wolfgang Feist was inspired to create PassivHaus after viewing a house in Saskatchewan, Canada. Over a quarter century ago Canadian’s built a house so energy efficient that you could heat it with a hair dryer, and then we forgot about it.

Retrofitting our existing buildings is vital to using energy sustainably. Even if every new building were built to the best green standards it would have a small impact on the total building energy consumption because of the amount of buildings that are already built. Projects like this get us thinking about the challenges we are faced with in the existing built environment.

Retrofitting this building all the way to PassivHaus didn’t make financial sense when we crunched the numbers, but some of the strategies that are combined to meet PassivHaus could be employed individually with some success.

I’m ready to go home, but I’ve had an amazing time. Ireland has exceeded my expectations by far, and I will definitely be back some day. I’ve experienced a lot of Irish culture while I was here. I attended my first football game (we call it soccer). I’ve been inside my first castle. I travelled to Belfast in Northern Ireland and visited the troubled areas of West Belfast where the conflicts occurred, and signed my name on the peace wall. I made my way to the Guinness factory and learned how to pour the perfect pint. I even travelled into the middle of rural Ireland to visit an eco-village where residents live more sustainably than anywhere else in Ireland.

So long Ireland, its been grand!

Posted by NSCC Intl 08:55 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Cynthia's Blog

EEBE Exchange Faculty in Ireland

overcast 8 °C

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While in Ireland I have noticed differences in construction fire regulations. For example, I have yet to see a sprinkler head at the college, in any hotel room, restaurant or bar. I’ve also noticed that in every hotel room, even in a tiny B&B, each room door has an automatic closer. I stayed at a lavish new hotel in Dublin (those on-line deals are a wonderful thing). We had to use our card key to operate the elevator. One morning I was on the elevator by myself and my key did not work. I was travelling up and down on the elevator because it was being activated by people waiting for the elevator. It would not stop at my floor. So I got off on the 4th floor and planned to walk up to the 5th. When I reached the 5th floor the stairwell door was locked and a sign indicated that it was locked because it is a fire door. I could get into the stairwell but to exit it I had to go to the ground floor and outdoors. I went back into the lobby and it was obvious that having tourists run outdoors to get back into the lobby was a common occurrence. They laughed and said, “Irish fire regulations are different than most”. I said, “So, I can’t walk up to my room?” “That’s right”, she said. Oh well, I now have another excuse to not exercise. I can’t take the stairs. I’ll just have another one of those big Irish breakfasts.

Upon completing this blog, I thought I should speak with the architects here at IT Carlow because being locked in a stairwell did not seem like a logical fire code requirement... and it is not. The hotel locked the doors exiting the stairwell to each of the floors for the same reason we needed a card key to activate the elevator. It is a security measure. I believe that the front desk clerks did not know the difference and that they were told to tell tourists that the exit requirements were due to Irish fire regulations.

While here in Ireland and our students are working on a project to reduce energy consumption in low income housing using passive means. I think the Irish have it right. One of the most obvious ways to reduce the cost for heating is by reducing the set point temperature. Our parents and grandparents understood that too. Turn down the temperature and put on a sweater unless you are in Ireland and then you would put on a jumper.

Cynthia Rogers
Mechanical Engineering Technology Faculty
Waterfront Campus

Posted by NSCC Intl 09:23 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Sarah's Blog

EEBE Exchange Student in Ireland

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We all have reasons for travelling. Some are superficial; to escape the cold of winter and procure an enviable tan (not to be found in Ireland), or perhaps to briefly escape the mundane of home and work routine. Others travel for seemingly more thoughtful reasons, to challenge themselves on a mountain peak, or perhaps to learn a foreign language (can be found in Ireland!)... Well at least to ask where the washroom is in it anyway. I suppose I have found that in my travels, a recurring theme would be Education, in whatever facet, and Ireland is no exception.
The groups from NSCC and Holland College have certainly travelled to Ireland, first and foremost, for the purpose of Education as most would define it. Our primary aim being to learn about sustainable building practices. In particular, the Passivhaus Design Standard that has come to the forefront of energy efficient building design in Europe. This has of course been a major component of our trip here, but our education has extended beyond that in many ways, as exploring another country inevitably does. In some of our lectures, we have learned things about the Irish culture and psyche that explain a great deal about Irish society in the present, but reveal even more about Ireland from the past. For example, the significance placed on the pride of home ownership. Ireland has one of the highest rates of home ownership in the European Union, and is considerably high compared to North American standards as well. There are certainly people that rent their homes or apartments, but there is much emphasis placed on the importance of owning your own home, regardless of demographic or income level. Of course, this explains the motivations behind the number of social housing organizations that assist people in achieving this goal (one of which our project is affiliated with), but it also leads one to ask why that mentality exists in the first place. Looking back on the past several centuries of Irish history, it becomes evident quite quickly why land ownership would be of utmost importance to the Irish people, and it is amazing to see how strongly this sentiment still runs. Sometimes learning a simple statistic can say a lot more about a place and its people.
Of course, we’ve learned many things outside of the classroom as well... such as in the kitchen. There you will always find your washing machine, which also happens to be your dryer, which dries clothes about as effectively as a sheep baaa-ing on it, or 3 buttterflies flapping their wings and taking a 20 minute break at 10 minute intervals. In the streets, LOOK BOTH WAYS BEFORE CROSSING. I can’t stress that one enough. And in the grocery stores, no eggs are refrigerated, and apparently they really don’t need to be at all. The space I’ve wasted in the fridge all these years... Of course I’ve learned some truly wonderful things as well. I’ve learned that the grass really is greener here in a way that can’t be described, and that incredible, diverse music is waiting to be heard in every pub in every small town, and that the rugged beauty of a place can astound you in the most unexpected ways. Education in Ireland so far has been grand....

Sarah Mitchell
Construction Management Student
Waterfront Campus

Posted by NSCC Intl 08:52 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Josh's Blog

EEBE Exchange Student in Ireland

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Two weeks into our international exchange and it feels like I’ve been away from home for months. I’ve already experienced more in my time here than I had ever imagined, and there’s still an entire week left that’ll be capped off with St Patrick’s Day in Dublin. The whole whirlwind tour started off with a pint of Guinness when we landed… ‘when in Rome’…and has been a continual cultural and educational experience.
So far I’ve been on a magical mystery bus tour around the rural Irish countryside to see ancient ruins and historic buildings, as well as an impromptu weekend road trip through the scenic fishing villages and impressive mountain ranges of southern Ireland. I’ve cheered for Ireland at an international soccer match in Dublin and caught Matt Anderson play a show at a pub in the middle of nowhere that holds around 30 people (one of the most powerful shows I’ve ever been a part of). I’ve been on a riveting tour of Belfast in the back of a black cab and spotted a herd of red deer on a hike through the national park. I’ve biked the streets of Groningen in the Netherlands where bikes rule the streets and taken a rickshaw through the streets of Amsterdam to the Van Gogh museum. I’ve visited more towns, castles, cathedrals, and pubs than I can recall, but the beauty of the countryside and the cordiality of the people has left the biggest impact on me.
Aside from the many adventures, we’ve also come together to participate in a great research project. I’ve been working with people studying programs very different from my own. They’ve come from NSCC in Nova Scotia, Holland College in PEI, and IT Carlow in Ireland. It’s been a great experience to see the different methods and approaches that we all take to the project but the real benefit has been the purpose of the project. We’ve been tasked with creating a retrofit design for a house in order to make it more energy efficient. This duplex home provides some means of independence for people who require assisted living and is owned by a volunteer housing association. Participating in a project like this that may have a positive impact on someone’s life always makes it much easier to get motivated for doing the work.
This exchange has been a great experience. I’ve made a lot of new friends and I have yet to be disappointed with the cultural experience. So with 7 days to go, the project and the adventures continue on….

Josh Murray
Electrical Engineering Technology Student
Waterfront Campus

Posted by NSCC Intl 08:48 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

My First Experience in Tanzania

Lynn McDonagh Hughes' blog

sunny 32 °C

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When we first found out that we would be part of NSCC’s EFE project in Tanzania I think I was in shock for weeks…in fact I know I was. It was absolutely surreal to truly believe that I would be visiting a place that I only dreamed of. So on the morning of our departure I fully expected the reality to set in but it didn’t. Still unbelievable and so this continued all the way to Dar es Salaam. Once we landed and felt the incredible heat it hit me that we were certainly in my kind of climate…but still could not comprehend that it was Africa. I cannot begin to describe or explain everything we did and saw and the people who have impacted my life.

My colleagues have done an amazing job with their blogs so there is no need for me to repeat what they experienced as I share in the words that were so eloquently written. So my blog is more about my personal experience and how waking up each day in Tanzania was a true gift.

The Tanzanian landscape is beautiful, the people are kind and genuine and incredibly welcoming to Lisa and me who was also experiencing Africa for the first time. Meeting the students was an incredibly fulfilling experience and their eagerness to learn about us, Nova Scotia and Canada was overwhelming but in a very positive way. Everyone at the Mikumi VETA campus made us feel welcome and Saronga and Patrick were especially attentive – thank you for making us feel at home. We know that there was a lot happening behind the scenes but we never felt that we were imposing on anyone.

It is an uplifting experience to visit a classroom where teachers are truly valued and treated with great respect. I can only comment on Saronga and Patrick as teachers – it is apparent that they love what they do and are eager to share their knowledge with their students and with us. It was a privilege to spend time in their classroom and with their students. It was also very interesting to see that although we may have different delivery methods, tourism is tourism - it was fascinating to hear the same things being taught in a Tanzanian classroom (but obviously with a Tanzanian slant)!

I too have to comment on the experience of the early morning assembly. We were honoured to be invited and again the pride felt by the people of Tanzania was evident as faculty and students alike sang their national anthem. It was quite emotional to be part of the raising of the Nova Scotia flag. It certainly made me proud to be Canadian and I think we are all very grateful for the tactfulness expressed by our Tanzanian friends as I’m sure that their true reaction to our singing was not being expressed – we knew we were bad but not to what extent until we heard ourselves on video – I think that is all that needs to be said about that!

It was a privilege to be able to share resources with our Tanzanian colleagues and to feel that our small contribution was appreciated. We are proud to have been included in this project and enjoyed seeing the successes that have been gained by the faculty’s’ visits to Nova Scotia. The new Visitor Information Centre shows great promise and it was amazing to see what elements have been incorporated from our own provincial VIC’s. (Principal Christopher Ayo brought this idea back from Canada with input from Saronga and tourism faculty at NSCC).

Thank you to Katie and Jim for doing such an amazing job preparing us for this adventure! Yes we experienced power outages, cold showers, finicky toilets (and strange animal noises at night) but I wouldn’t change anything – it certainly put into perspective the things that we often take for granted. And yes by the end I can honestly say that a hot shower, running toilet and power were very much welcomed!

Thank you to our Tanzanian friends for welcoming us into your classrooms and for participating in our sessions. Thank you to all the students who shared their culture with us and allowed us to share ours with them. I strongly believe that the shared experience will make each of us a better teacher, facilitator and most importantly a better person.

Did the reality of being in Africa finally hit home? It sure did – in the wonderful memories of the people we met, the experiences we shared and the absolute beauty of Mikumi, Tanzania.

Lynn McDonagh Hughes
Operations Manager, Nova Scotia Tourism Human Resource Council

Posted by NSCC Intl 07:08 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

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