Reading about Ireland is one thing but traveling down country lanes and city streets of Dublin and Belfast, braving the Irish seas, viewing the tombs of Newgrange older than the Pyramids, watching a Gaelic football game, and climbing the Rock of Cashel where St. Patrick once stood is an entirely different experience altogether.
These experiences were just a part of the 12-day study abroad trip that lasted May 24 to June 4. International Studies Program Coordinator Dr. Cheryl Brown, along with Dr. Jonathan Good, Dr. Katrina Smith, Dr. Donna Little, Peter Bromstad, Elizabeth Smith and Stephanie Marchant took 28 students to the European island to experience what students studied during the end of the spring semester.
Prior to the trip, students planning to go to Ireland took courses including Diverse People, Organizational Behavior, History of Ireland, International Business and Travel Writing. Sophomore Nataleigh Long took four of these courses and said they helped her feel prepared for the upcoming experiences.
“Each class gave me new insight into the history and culture of the country I was about to visit, and they helped prepare me to interact with the people there,” said Long.
Through the study abroad program, senior Ally Viera was able to take on an international relations minor and complete classes for both her psychology and sociology majors. She said she learned a lot about herself and others in the process.
“This trip gave me a cultural experience I wouldn’t have found anywhere else,” said Viera.
Brown said the courses were designed to show students key aspects of the Irish culture.
“They were able to create individual projects that looked at everything from early human settlements to Irish food and pub culture to the place of art as an identity marker,” said Brown. “Ireland is a study in contrasts. It rose from a poor country to the Celtic Tiger, an economic engine. It is a deeply religious country torn apart by ‘The Troubles’ and generations of people brutalized for their religious identity.”
Brown described the response to the possibility of seeing Ireland as overwhelming. After her personal two-week trip there herself in 2016, she felt it was the perfect place to bring students due to Ireland’s impact on not only the United States, but other places around the world.
“Some of the finest written works in the world come from the pens of Irish authors and poets,” said Brown. “The landscape is beautifully haunting, as the place many of us are drawn by the blood connections we share with those who created the stone walls and now lie in the small cemeteries that dot the countryside.”
Long believes the best education comes from outside of the classroom.
“Being able to see the principles from your class applied in the real world allows you to make deeper and more meaningful connections to the material you’re learning,” said Long. “You’re able to see that it’s more than just words in a textbook, but that it truly impacts and influences the world we live in today.”
Marchant believes experiencing another culture gave students better understandings of the way people live, why they live that way and they learn what is important to other people.
“It is one thing to learn about the Catholic and Protestant religion and how they shaped Ireland, it is a completely different experience to see it exist in a city like Derry, Londonderry or Belfast where murals illustrate the story and separation still exists,” said Marchant.
The opportunity to travel to Ireland is one that Long said she will treasure forever.
“By being able to see more of the world I was able gain a new perspective of it. One of the reasons I love travelling so much is it offers you the opportunity to expand the way you see the world,” said Long. “It gives you a chance to look at things in a way you may have never considered before. The experiences and friendships I was able to create and experience on this trip will stick with me the rest of my life.”