I’ve been here just about two months now and from the moment I stepped off the plane at Shannon Airport throughout each and every day, life has been non-stop, but not in the way one might think. Life here is fundamentally different than it was in the United States and with each passing day, I learn to appreciate the culture, the people, and the opportunities afforded to me through my study in Ireland.
Last week, I had my first opportunity to experience traditional Irish music and dance. Kate and Lizzy, two Americans who ventured to Ireland to pursue their undergraduate degrees in Irish Dance and Music at UL’s Irish World Academy, invited me to a small one room pub along the Shannon River to watch a “session.” Since I was not familiar with the lingo, I had no idea what I was getting myself into; needless to say the night turned out to be one of the best of my time here in Limerick. I not only got to hear traditional Irish music, but I also got to watch the first year Irish dance team tear up the dance floor. It was certainly one of those nights that will be amongst my favorite here in Ireland and I will look back upon it with fond memories.
One of the aspects I admire most about Ireland is its people. The Irish are kind, light-hearted, always willing to help, and truly value time spent with friends and family. One of my favorite things about being here is having time to get to know people, whether it is over coffee or tea at lunch or over a pint in the pub at night. Even two months into this remarkable year in Ireland, I can tell that one of the most valuable and long-lasting aspects of this experience will be the friends I make, friends not only from Ireland, but from throughout Europe and the United States. The friendships that I have started to forge here will be close friendships that I carry with me well beyond my time in Ireland.
Being a Mitchell scholar, the doors of opportunity have really opened up. From the receptions with business and government leaders in Dublin during the Mitchell orientation in September, to the informal events that we organize together, such as trips to the Aran Islands and nights at the theatre in Dublin, to the generous travel stipend that is afforded to each scholar to familiarize themselves with Ireland and Europe; being here for me represents one of the best opportunities I’ve had in my life to grow as a person. In the two months I’ve been here I’ve traveled to Dublin, Galway and the Aran Islands, London, and Rome. In the next two months, I plan to travel to Barcelona, Nice, Aix-en-Provence, and Paris with fellow Mitchells and friends. Beyond traveling, I’ve taken an active interest in student government, recently being elected to represent postgraduates as Deputy President for the Postgraduate Student Association at UL. Finally, a few of the Mitchells are working to organize an Ireland-wide service day where on a single day in the spring we will each coordinate a series of service projects in our respective university communities that will engage our peers in community service.
I don’t think it is easy to express in words how much the culture, the people, and the opportunities I have had as a Mitchell scholar will impact me in the future, but I know one thing is for sure – I’ll miss this place. I hope to take advantage of every moment I have here to grow, to learn, to have an impact because I know this is an opportunity of a lifetime.