I am writing this final reflection while basking in the afterglow of a terrific celebration with my classmates to commemorate the end of exams. I am also feeling the remorse that one can only feel after making the ill-advised decision to imbibe more than a swallow of Buckfast. But most of all I am experiencing the familiar feeling that accompanies the culmination of an academic year as friends scatter around the country. The main difference, though, is that my friends are now scattering to Dublin, Tralee, Ballinasloe, and Roscommon instead of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. This year has been surpassingly rewarding in many ways but I hadn’t anticipated that my Irish friends would be such an integral part of that experience. I am currently making plans to return to Ireland next year for a visit when my academic schedule permits.
My friends and classmates in Galway frequently quipped that I saw more of Ireland and Europe in my one year here than they had in their entire lives. Thanks to the support of the Alliance, its friends and sponsors, and my flexible academic schedule, I was able to make individual trips to ten separate countries, and a standard week might include chatting with a famous musician in a Czech pub one day and having dinner with the Irish Minister of Health the next. Discussing healthcare reform in Ireland and the U.S. over dinner with Mary Harney (the aforementioned Minister) is representative of the unique opportunities that have made this year so valuable.
The course in Economic Policy Evaluation and Planning was also unexpectedly rewarding and will have a lasting effect on my academic and professional aspirations. Before arriving in Ireland I had hoped that a graduate degree in economics, a core academic discipline, would serve as a useful compliment to my future interdisciplinary graduate work in health policy. Instead of merely serving as a compliment for my future studies, however, my coursework and research here have motivated me to integrate a larger economic component into my evolving research agenda. In addition, I have developed a strong affinity for the collegial confines of the economics department here. I cannot think of a better way to attest to how positive this experience has been other than to say that the possibility of one day teaching at Galway will certainly remain in the back of my mind.
Since I realize that I haven’t included any block quotes in my reflections this year, I think that I will include a nice passage here that a friend back home sent to me. In a memoir titled “Harp”, John Gregory Dunne takes a trip to the “Auld Sod” and eloquently captures the experience:
“West on the N4, Dublin’s sprawl soon ending, and then, in Meath, the Irish countryside, and green, green as far as the eye could see: sage, olive and beryl; jade, emerald and alachite; celadon, reseda and Nile; grass, moss and turf; pea green, sea green, bottle green: green.”
I know that I’ll be forever grateful that I had the opportunity to call Ireland home for a year.
To conclude this entry I want to thank Trina, Dell, and Mary Lou for providing a tremendous level of personal attention and facilitating such a tremendous experience. Above all, though, I want to thank the other ten scholars. It has been a real privilege to call this group friends and colleagues. Although I will remember the brainy discussions, when I reflect on the year I will sooner recall Marcus causing our tour guide’s knees to buckle at Queen’s, Brittany being scolded by a Benedictine monk for picking a flower, or Geoff questioning his university’s administration about the ‘neo-Stalinist’ architecture on campus. I can say for certain that the experience wouldn’t have meant as much without them.