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St Mike’s Faculty & Staff

A Cup of Joe... with Sarah O'Connor

St. Michael's: What is the greatest difference between teaching at St. Mike 's and teaching in Ireland?

Sarah O'Connor: I find the students here are very enthusiastic about learning. They' re always willing to talk. At home, they' re a little less forthcoming. I think students want to be here, and many seem to have jobs to support themselves. They are more dedicated to their studies than Irish students, probably because under- graduate education is free in Ireland. The relationship between professor and student is also much closer here. It' s more of a friendship, more equal.

SM's: What made you come to Canada?

SO: I had lived in Dublin for 10 years and was finishing my PhD. I had saved up to take a world trip. I had also applied for this post, not expecting to get it, but thinking it would be good for the experience, and to see if I was really cut out for academia. I've always wanted to live in a different country to challenge myself. My brother had worked in Whistler in 2001, and I'd visited him there. I thought Canada was beautiful. Now I have this dream of herding cattle and riding on horseback in the Rockies.

SM's: What do you like doing in your spare time?

SO: I love swing dancing, and I run 15 kilometres every two days. I go swimming, surfing and rock climbing. Last summer , I went canoeing in Algonquin Park and was blown away by the scenery. I also like snowboarding and skating, although I am dreading the Canadian winter . The novelty of snow wears off quickly when you've slipped and you' re sprawled on your back on Bloor Street! Cultural life in Toronto is really good. I enjoy going to plays, art exhibitions and the various festi- vals, like Nuit Blanche and Caribana, and experienc- ing diverse cultures through those festivals. When you've lived someplace for a along time, you just don' t bother to do these things. There' s no sense of urgency, and you think you have loads of time to do them. In Toronto, I make time to go.

SM's: What are your hopes and goals for the future?

SO: Academically, I'd love to secure a book contract to rework my PhD thesis on women and cultural change in Ireland. I focus on bilingualism and translation in contemporary Irish women' s litera- ture. I love the way some authors use folklore and bring it to a new audience. On the teaching side of things, I strive to simplify my lectures. The biggest rookie mistake I make is to cram too much information into one class. Personally, I want to complete a triathlon and go on a yoga meditation retreat. And I've always wanted to go skydiving. There' s just something about scaring your- self that' s fun and exciting.

SM's: How do you take your coffee?

SO: I'm going to sound like the pickiest person. I take a grande decaf, non-fat, extra-hot, no-foam latte from Starbucks. I was never one for fancy coffees. North America has done this to me. A woman ordered that before me in the queue one day, and I said, "That's exactly what I want."