When I sit back and think about my year in Ireland, I have a hard time comprehending what a great experience it is to be a Mitchell Scholar.
To begin with, Dublin City University has been a great first stop after graduating from the Naval Academy. Although I certainly missed a few aspects of military life and the camaraderie that comes from living in a military environment, I had a surprisingly good experience with my roommates in Dublin. I got to live with two PhD students, one from Albania, the other a native of Dublin. During the fall we ventured out to the Dingle peninsula and the Cliffs of Moher for a weekend of hiking and relaxing in Ireland’s lush landscape. My favorite aspect of living together was becoming a bit of a family. We shopped and cooked together and all around just enjoyed each others company, whether that involved watching soccer in the evening or going for a walk together in Albert College Park. Although I wish I could continue to live with my roommates into the future as they pursue their PhDs, I know it’s time to move on to the next stage in my life.
When it comes to places to live, Dublin will forever be high up on my list. I am an avid cyclist and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to take my single speed all around town. The defining aspect of my life in Dublin is the connections and friendships that I made at Adelaide Road Presbyterian Church next to St. Stephens Green. The community welcomed me with open arms. The pastor at the church was coming into his own as a cyclist and I often rode to the manse on springtime Tuesdays and Thursdays for relaxing cycles into the Wicklow Mountains or along the coast road up to Bray. I also became close friends with a retired British Army Major who is currently working in Dublin. He and his wife were too kind and had me over for dinner on a weekly basis. There are many great things about Dublin, but what will resound for years to come will be the friends I have made.
One of the biggest blessings of my year in Ireland is the lifelong relationships I now have with each and every one of the Mitchell Scholars. Ryan, Ibrahim, Fagan, Joey, Deirdre, Yongjun, Stephen, and Steven are some of the most impressive, humble, and good-natured people I have ever had the pleasure of getting to know. This group has helped me discover my place in the world. As I reflect on how far our friendships have developed over the past year, I cannot help but believe that this is nowhere near the end of our work together. Each of these individuals have so much to offer to this world and I just hope that as we progress in our lives we will be able to work together towards a better future for our country and for humanity.
This year afforded me the opportunity to get to know all of the island of Ireland as well as many European countries. The list of places I have traveled is long and I will limit my reflection to one experience that I will remember forever. My whole family came out to Ireland to visit me during my year and I planned a week of traveling around the different sites. By far, the family favorite was a hike out to the end of the Cliffs of Moher and the ruins of the Norman Castle at Hag’s Head. We clearly walked right past the “Do Not Enter” sign, but our risk was well worth the reward. The roaring Atlantic relentlessly pounded the cliffs as we watched from a safe height. When we reached the old castle my brothers and I sat down, leaned back against a thousand years of history and admired the vastness of the Atlantic as it met the enormous cliffs below us. I am very thankful for the chance to show my brothers the beauty of the island that became my home.
In May of 2010, I graduated from the Naval Academy, excited and slightly overwhelmed by the awesome responsibility of taking a commission as an officer in the US Navy. My first year as an officer is certainly different from the majority, and nowhere is that more clear to me than in my marriage. My wife is currently serving on a US Navy ship and her service has kept me grounded as to what I am returning to after spending a year in Ireland removed from any sort of military environment. I truly believe that this year abroad will help me bring a thoughtful and global perspective to the service I am about to enter. The next few years for me entail hard work on board submarines, and I am thankful for the opportunity to spend a year in Ireland before entering this world. I know that I will carry the lessons of this year throughout the duration of my military career and into the future.
Most of all, I am utterly thankful to so many people for this incredible experience. I am thankful to the sponsors of this scholarship, thankful to the US-Ireland Alliance, thankful to the people who welcomed me all across the island, and thankful to my fellow Mitchell Scholars who have made this year such a blessing.