I have felt overwhelmed, exhausted, and strangely elated these past two months. The more routine rhythm I had established during the first half of the semester has transitioned into an intense workload punctuated with travel and other amazing opportunities. One week I would be taking six final exams in a row; the next week I would be pulling an all-nighter at the Seville airport trying to get back from Morocco so that I could meet some friends for a party in Galway. What I have lacked in sleep, I have made up for in memorable experiences. Right after I finished my last March entry I enjoyed two weeks of traveling, one week through Spain and Morocco with some friends and another week through England to see friends in London. I also got a chance to visit Bunratty, Cliffs of Moher, Kilkenny, Connemara National Park, and Blarney Castle, just to name a few of the highlights. I really enjoyed discovering new parts of Ireland with my friends and watching their faces as we hung over the side of Blarney Castle to kiss the famous stone. Connemara National Park was the best experience, though—I got to drive a car on the wrong side of the road! This did not end in disaster, so I thought it was a huge success. OK, so maybe a few pedestrians do not agree, but the car is intact. I will need some more distance from the experience to fully reflect on my time on the island, but suffice to say it has given me a lot to think about.
I returned to Dublin inspired about research, and I got accepted to go to a conference on intertextuality in Stirling, Scotland. The conference was amazing, and overwhelming, but people seemed responsive to my ideas about the American cowboy references that pervade Irish literary culture. I am very excited about my research, although a bit overwhelmed with all there is to do in the next few weeks.
A welcome respite from my work was the Mitchell Scholar reunion in Dublin in May. Besides the wonderful feeling of receiving our class rings and spending time with my Mitchell class, it was an honor to meet so many donors to the Mitchell program. I also saw 2005 Mitchell Scholar Nick Johnson’s play in the Beckett Theatre, watched an eventful rugby match, and went to Victoria’s Trinity book launch. I am surprised by how many friends I have made this year, and how close I feel to people I only met in September. My course had one last goodbye at Mulligan’s Pub on the quays last week, and I began the process of saying goodbye. I realized that next year I will miss the view of the Liffey River from the O’Connell Street bridge, my favorite place to buy scones on Dame Street and people saying things like “your man over there” or “good craic”. The Mitchells, my Irish friends, and Ireland itself have all left a huge impact on me.
I think that the departure will be bittersweet. While I am looking forward to going back to the States to see my family and find a job to apply all the things I’ve learned this year, I will certainly miss Ireland. One thing that has been consistent throughout this choppy semester are the friendships I have developed with the other Mitchells and students and professors in my courses, for which I am truly grateful. One thing that hasn’t wavered has been my affection for this island and all the insights I have gained because of my experiences here. I would like to thank the US-Ireland Alliance and all of its sponsors for this opportunity.