November 2004 Reflection

Greetings from Galway!!! What a fantastic, dream-like experience this Mitchell year has been and promises yet to be. But, without lapsing too far into grandiose hyperbole, I am happy to report that my three personal goals for the year appear to be within reach. I’ll highlight the major points…

Mitchell Goal Number ONE – Advance the Frontiers of My Economic Knowledge (or at least create a frontier). I originally envisioned an additional year of study as a means to solidify my understanding of intermediate economics and gain some practical economic skills for my job next year at the consulting firm McKinsey. Any notion that Irish universities might be a walk in the park has been thoroughly dispelled. I am taking four courses in different branches of economics as part of my MA Economics and MEconSc degree program. They have provided an excellent review of my undergraduate coursework at Princeton (where I was a public policy major) and the materials have just begun to extend into new academic territory (that is, new to me). The other students – all Irish save for one Belorussian – are very well prepared. However, the workload still allows for plenty of “extracurricular activities” and travelling, the two other year-long goals to which these reflections will now turn…

Mitchell Goal Number TWO – Enjoy Life in Galway. Before beginning the Mitchell year, I was told by friends who had ventured to the west of Ireland that Galway was one of their most enjoyable stopovers. I think those commendations have thus far been born out by my two months at the extreme west of the European continent. I arrived in Galway on September 6th with only my romantic preconceptions and no idea of where I was living or class schedules or bearings on the city or anything of the sort – though I cannot claim to have only the clothes on my back and not a penny to my name, thanks to the Mitchell stipends. Since then, I found a house on the water in the City Centre and happened upon some very fun friends. Galway is full of pedestrian streets full of Irish pubs, and exudes a distinctly “college-town” feel. The pubs are running full tilt seven nights a week, and so there is hardly ever a dull evening without lively Irish (or tourist) company. The theaters in town have put on some interesting shows, most recently two plays by John Synge.

I have had time to take a deep breath from my busy and at times stressful existence in the American school system, and focused instead on enjoying every day in this somewhat isolated enclave. As I plan to enter the working world next summer, this has proven a priceless opportunity to practice the laid-back and circumspect Irish attitude and to stop and smell the roses (if I may borrow a perhaps unfitting cliché, since there are no roses in Galway this time of year… and you can’t stop in one place for too long because it hardly ever stops raining). I have Trina, Dell, and the sponsors of the Mitchell program to thank; this intangible benefit has been probably the most rewarding part of the experience thus far.

Mitchell Goal Number THREE – Travel the World. If the world consisted only of the British Isles (Great Britain and Ireland), then I might have already succeeded in this mission this year.

Galway has three major touring regions in the vicinity (The Burren/Cliffs of Moher, the Aran Islands, and Connemara), and I probably know these places better than my hometown by now. Galway is a Gaeltaecht region, and these three areas really bring home the classic beauty of the Irish landscape and the traditional Irish culture. I have also ventured southwards, including visits to Waterford, Kinsale, Cork, Cashel, Limerick, Ardmore, Kenmare, Killarney, the Ring of Kerry, and Dingle and its associated Peninsula. The southwest coast, particularly the Dingle Peninsula, is hands-down the most beautiful environment which I have witnessed in my twenty two years. I have also journeyed to London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and St. Andrews, as well as several times to Dublin (including a planned trip on November 2nd to watch the U.S. Presidential Election at the Guinness Storehouse with the other Mitchells).

However, as I learned in Dublin, the politically correct term for the British Isles is the Northwestern European Archipelago, and the world is larger than just it. I was able to visit Turkey, Thailand, and Alaska this past summer on an around-the-world flight, and have trips planned to the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Czech Republic, Austria, and Switzerland later this school year – trips made possible by the Alliance.

I could do better than to just list these experiences and instead give a little taste of a few, but I feel the important point is in the scope of the opportunities.

A Few Last Words. So that completes my take on the Mitchell Program thus far. Of course, it is impossible to compress a month’s experiences into one journal entry. Ireland has a fascinating and, as any Irishman will tell you, often tragic history and current political dynamic; I have received a thorough informal schooling in both. The events with the other Mitchell Scholars have been unforgettable experiences with uniquely accomplished individuals, and it is a group with which I am very proud to be involved.

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