Living in Ireland has been a complete, and welcome, departure from American life. Life is simpler, and I am so grateful for the opportunity the Mitchell Scholarship has provided me for meaningful reflection and further engagement in my academic life here in Ireland.
Since coming to Limerick, I tend to do one thing at a time. My new habits stand in stark contrast to the multi-tasking life I lived at Stanford. Internet access is limited throughout the university, and I’ve resisted the temptation to move my American smart phone to an Irish network. When I surf the Internet now, it is a deliberate act – not a passive reflex. Technology is a wonderful thing, but having distance from my previous life in America’s Silicon Valley, where the use of technology is pervasive and nonstop, I am disturbed by how much mental bandwidth those technological habits consume: it’s refreshing and liberating to not check one’s Facebook page, Twitter feed, email and favorite news site every hour of every day. My brain is freed to think; my eyes to see; my ears to hear. Ireland’s green countryside is ripe with wonderful sights and sounds, and the people of Limerick possess an extraordinary and kind character that becomes all the more apparent when engaging them in conversation.
Grocery shopping is my new favorite past time. The Irish have managed to keep their food systems disaggregated: there are numerous markets with fresh vegetables, countless butchers with fresh meats, and discount grocers with everything else in between. The produce and meat contain far fewer chemicals and preservatives than what is often offered in the United States. The resulting freshness of many of the foods makes for great home cooked meals. It takes time to identify and pursue the best deals hidden throughout Limerick each week, but it’s well worth the effort. In many ways, food convenience in America always made it easy for me to not actively scrutinize the food I was putting in my body. The act of shopping for fresh food sold by specialists engenders a different, healthier mentality around food consumption.
My coursework at the University of Limerick has been a strong complement to my studies at Stanford. My course on Human Rights in Criminal Justice has opened my eyes to the compelling and important debates raging around some of the world’s most pressing issues: terrorism and security, the social and cultural challenges created by a world rapidly converging in economics and the law, and the basic, largely unrealized rights of those living in extreme poverty throughout the world. Better understanding the international mechanisms that are currently in place to advance the agenda of human rights is helping me identify how I can have the biggest impact moving forward. In an increasingly complex world, the international consensus surrounding these tough challenges is evolving and is constantly in flux. Much of what I am studying is about negotiating uncertainty and attempting to resolve some of the tension found in these debates, so that a degree of progress can be achieved. Undoubtedly these are invaluable skills, which will only become more important moving forward.
Finally, my internship at Limerick’s Regeneration Agency, Europe’s largest regeneration effort, has provided additional dimension and texture to my experience in Ireland. While my work at the Regeneration Agency has only just begun, I am grateful for the insight the internship lends into Ireland’s pressing social concerns and the political challenges inherent in attempting to address these problems.