November 2008 Reflection

After only two months in Ireland, I’m happy to say that I am a bit more Irish now. The realization came to me about a month ago while sitting in St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral during an Irish-spoken Mass, wearing my Kerry jersey amidst a sea of other Kerry fans awaiting the Gaelic Football Match against Tyrone later that day. Or was it the 1916 Easter Revolution walking tour when—while running my fingers along the bullet holes in the columns of the General Post Office—I felt a surge of excitement as I imagined the fighting before my eyes as the Irish Republican Army fought for independence from the Crown in the same way we Americans did a hundred-plus years before? Or was it simply the good judgment I showed in Cork a few week-ends ago when I ordered a pint of Beamish instead of Guinness?

Mitchell scholars are ambassadors from the US to Ireland and Northern Ireland. And I cannot express how grateful I am to consider myself to be one of these twelve ambassadors. I feel that it is our goal to give Ireland a taste of American culture and for us to take a large bite out of theirs. From eating Burdock’s Fish and Chips with a pint of the black stuff in hand to attending Samuel Beckett’s ‘Happy Days’ at the Abbey Theatre, Mitchell Scholars dive right into the excitement and richness of Irish culture. I am most grateful to be surrounded by scholars who share this common desire to become more Irish.

Besides biking through the Island of Inishmaan and attending Cork’s internationally-acclaimed jazz festival, Lara and I made a trip to Zurich last October to admire some frescoes in Fraumunster and to see who could recite the most of Winston Churchill’s famous “Europe Arise” speech in Guild Hall. We soon met up with Vicki, Ryan, and Travis in Munich for Oktoberfest to down several one-Liter glasses of Paulaner in Hofbrauhaus and to take in the sights of the Bavarian Alps from Alte Peter. We learned some useful German drinking songs, too, like ‘ein prosit, eine prosit, der Gemutlicheit!’

In a few hours after finishing this reflection, Vicki, Lara, Adam, Andrea, Tyler, and I will be in Barcelona, Spain, with the hopes of seeing Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia and practicing our Catalan.

This is what the makes the Mitchell Scholarship unique. While we are all here to complete postgraduate degrees, I feel that the most important part of the Mitchell Scholarship are the scholars themselves and their particular love for learning more about Ireland and Europe at large. Never in my life have I been surrounded by a group of people who all share an unbound curiosity to learn more languages, to see more places, and to understand other cultures. From discussing Martin Heidegger’s concept of dasein with Ryan to making French crepes with my flatmate Travis Green, I can never get enough of our group’s cultural literacy.

Our group is also daring. Adam and I have planned an ambitious 1,170 mile roadtrip from Dublin to Rome starting on December 17th. With several sets of clothes, a 1983 Mercedes, and a few hundred euro, we plan to see Wales, England, France, Germany, Austria, and Italy as our Christmas/Hanukkah present to ourselves. I could only find someone this daring and worldly among someone in our Mitchell Scholar class.

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