Spring has arrived. After a long and dreary winter, the clouds have parted, the rain has ceased, and the sun finally shines. And, what a beautiful spring it is! Students have taken to Limerick’s many green fields to play sports, to enjoy a summer picnic, and to relish the company of peers. The enthusiasm is on clear display on all faces throughout campus. Paroled from our long, winter imprisonment in the campus library, we are more than ready for a little fun in the sun.

For me, spring has brought more travel and more importantly, clarity of mind. After a remarkable trip to the EU in Brussels, I have a keener sense and a deeper appreciation of Europe’s governing institutions and its political process. For all the criticism surrounding the supranational structure’s purported ineffectiveness, the EU does an admirable job governing the continent across several policy areas. The technical expertise wielded by the staff and the passion of all of the officials working in the EU was vibrantly on display throughout our visit: these people care about Europe, its future and its leadership in the world. While there are many challenges ahead, especially in light of recent events in the Middle East, I have every confidence that the impressive team assembled in Brussels is up to the job. I also want to take this opportunity to thank those who so graciously hosted and supported all of us during our stay in Belgium: thank you!!! What a wonderful time.

I have also enjoyed more travel in Ireland. A few close friends from the United States joined me in Ireland, and we spent time enjoying the big city (shout out to Dublin and our good Mitchell friends there: YJ, Steven and Heather – all of whom so graciously hosted us) and the surrounding countryside. Dublin is amazing!! I have spent most of my time this year in Limerick (a two hour train ride from Dublin), and it was so refreshing to enjoy Dublin, an incredibly traditional yet cosmopolitan city. The food, the people, the pubs, and the music are extraordinary.

The surrounding countryside is equally impressive, if only in a different way. Lahinch and Ennis (where we ended up spending most of our time) are stunning places, full of natural beauty. Until visiting Lahinch, I was ignorant of the fact that people actually surf in Ireland (I know, who knew?)! How cool is that! While the water is freezing, wet suits ensure a good time for all, and the beaches afford a spectacular view. The pubs in the smaller towns, like Lahinch and Ennis, are also really fascinating. They differ somewhat from the pubs found in larger cities, as each small-town pub is truly unique in its character and feel. It’s hard to believe that many of these institutions have been in these communities for decades, often staffed by the same family.

Lastly, I am starting to achieve clarity on my thesis topic, which will focus on how criminal justice systems can help drive social change in a globalized and increasingly complex world. Limerick is the ideal place in which to pose and answer this question. While Limerick is infamously known as the “crime capital” of Europe, there is so much terrific work being done at a grassroots level in the City’s communities as well as its criminal justice system. I look forward to conducting research at this intersection and will report out in my next update.

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