I write this final journal almost in shock that the year is over. The last part passed so quickly. Now that I am home I am able to see what a great impact my time in Ireland has had on my life. I am sincerely grateful to the US-Ireland Alliance for allowing me to be a Mitchell Scholar. The experience has helped shape my understanding of Ireland, the world and myself.
In the last few months I finished school at the University of Limerick. My classes in the second semester were very interesting and I feel as though they introduced me to many topics that I will be able to continue to study and one day use in my career. In particular, my public international law class was useful in showing me the connections between law and development. I feel this course helped me focus my interests in a way that will be very beneficial when I begin law school in the fall.
In May my mother came to visit. We were able to travel to Blarney, Cork, Galway, Killarney, the Ring of Kerry and Westport. In Westport my mother and I were able to track down a distant relative that owns a butcher shop. We walked into his shop and were able to chat with him for a while. I have to say this was one of the highlights of my year. It was fascinating for me to meet someone that I was related to, but that had led such a different life. If my great grandmother had not set off on a boat for the United States life would have been very different. I think my mother really enjoyed her time in Ireland, especially seeing the places where the stories she had heard from her grandparents were set.
Also in May I went on the final trip with the Mitchell Scholars. This began in Dublin with the ring ceremony. We were generously taken care of while staying in the historic Shelbourne Hotel. At the ceremony I enjoyed hearing Ambassador Foley speak and also meeting with the other guests and supporters of the scholarship.
The next day we traveled to Newgrange, where we were able to enter the tomb. This was one of the neatest experiences of my life. It was both eerie and spiritual at the same time. We had to pass through a narrow stone entrance, hunching over. Our guide gathered us in the inner chamber and then turned off the lights and used a flashlight to simulate the way the sun enters the chamber’s window exactly on the winter solstice. It was amazing to think about the skill that was used to construct this tomb and how connected to the earth and the sky these people must have been. The ambience in the tomb was powerful.
The next leg of the trip brought me back to Limerick. Here we enjoyed an evening of music at the home of the O’Suilleabhains. The very talented father and sons serenaded us with original music and also amused us with delightful explanations of their songs. I have seldom been in a home filled with such spirit, enthusiasm and fun.
Finally we ended our trip in Dingle. Dingle is probably the most beautiful place I have been in Ireland. It is a shame I only saw it in my last few days, yet I am so thankful I was able to experience it. In Dingle I was able to walk around by the fishing ships and look in artisans’ shops. As a group we feasted on Dingle’s finest seafood (perhaps the best fish I’ve ever had). On our final day we scaled the second tallest mountain in Ireland. Our guide, Darach, led us up this steep walk in the rain and mud. The hike itself was quite challenging, but when we reached the top and stood there with the snow falling down, I felt accomplished and lucky that I had not broken an ankle on the crumbling rocks. That night we celebrated our last night together. Afterward some of us went to a very old pub that was full of life and good traditional music. The pub was packed with people, women in hen parties, men with their mates, and visitors from numerous countries. People were dancing, drinking, clapping and singing as a man and woman played fast traditional music. I could not think of a better way to end my time in Ireland. It was one of my favorite nights and I will remember it for years to come.
Thank you sincerely to Mary Lou Hartman and Trina Vargo for all of their help and support throughout the year. I would also like to thank the other scholars for their friendship and kindness.