A new segment of my Irish life has begun, even as some things remain the same: friends from home and other Scholars have been visiting, the Galway water supply is still infected with the parasite cryptosporidium, and I get bus sick during my Irish travels. April’s Easter Break brought a busy travel schedule. Friends from Minnesota came to Galway during the first week. We had a lovely day for our road trip along the coast of County Clare, finishing at the Cliffs of Moher, and arriving safely back in Galway after navigating roundabout after roundabout! I also took a quick trip over to London (thanks to USIT!) where I spent a few glorious days wandering in Notting Hill, through museums, along the Thames, and generally past any key landmark of London.
Spring exams finished in May and I have moved on to work on my thesis. For all those who are interested, my work centres on using gene therapy and constructing a lentiviral vector that specifically targets megakaryocytes, the progenitor cells of platelets. For the non-scientists out there, I am interested in delivering a gene or two genes to cells involved in blood clotting. It is exciting to be back in the laboratory!
The end of the year Mitchell trip was a great success. I loved the peaceful serenity at Glenstal Abbey and spending time again in the fishing village of Dingle. It was also good to see everyone together before we scatter to new schools and jobs across the world next year. After driving cross-country with my fellow Scholars, from Dublin to Limerick to Dingle, I can say that they are each incredible. They climb mountains (Mt. Brandon at least), stir-fry delicious meals, and remain down-to-earth people. Moreover, they have made my year in Ireland all the more rewarding as I got to know each of them individually through travels, hosting, and visiting them at their respective cities.
Just last weekend I indulged the tourist side of me and travelled down to Cork. I kissed the Blarney Stone to gain the gift of gab and wandered along St. Patrick Street for a bit of shopping. It is hard to believe that I can look at a map of Ireland and point to a region of the country (unfortunately not the North yet) and tell a story about my travels there. When I think back to my pre-Ireland jitters of moving to a new country, I realize that I have matured in subtle ways. I am more confident as a scientist and as a person, more patient, and more appreciative of small things during the day, such as sunshine and sharing tea with friends. The friendships I have formed this year with my Irish classmates will last a lifetime. Already I have plans in my mind to visit them.
Many thanks go out to Trina, Mary Lou, and the sponsors of the U.S.-Ireland Alliance for the wonderful opportunities that I have had this year. It has been a pleasure to get to know both of you this year and for the years to come. The Mitchell-related events, both formal and informal, combined with my experiences in the West of Ireland have made this an unforgettable year. Go raibh mile maith agaibh.