Surprises in my Mitchell Experience

This year isn’t what I had planned.

In many ways, I have done what I set out to do with my Mitchell year: I traveled, I studied, I met amazing people, I did work I am proud of, and I am leaving with a more complete understanding of myself and my goals. I am so glad that I had the chance to study human rights and international law from this particular vantage point, seeing global issues through the particular frame of a staunchly peaceful country from this European perspective. Some of the people I have met in my classes and in my volunteer work are folks I hope to maintain as friends and touchstones over the long term. I feel fulfilled, and tremendously grateful.

However, I also got a whole dose of experiences I did not expect.

Aside from the above, and my joyful exploration of Ireland’s beauty and culture, this year has been about music. That wasn’t planned. And it’s been about music in this totally offbeat way, which has repeatedly taken me on the road with rock artists from the UK, touring Ireland with some of the big emerging artists.

Like several Mitchell Scholars before me, I have become romantically entangled with an Irish guy.   The Gentleman in Question is a music photographer, so I’ve had the chance to witness the music industry from the inside: the joys and struggles of touring; the complexity of the business/artist relationships; and the pure adrenaline-fueled passion of the live performance. I have seen some concerts that left me reeling with joy afterward. I’ve been mistaken for a band manager, have been backstage at the RTE TV recording studios, and have put my writing skills to work as a guest music blogger.

A year and a half ago when I was applying for the Mitchell Scholarship, I never would have imagined that I would spend my year in Ireland partially wrapped up with pop music and the art scene on this side of the world. But I am so glad I did. When I travel, I always try to do one thing that most people don’t get to do. In Chile, it was taking a two-seater flight with a student pilot. This year it’s been seeing Frank Turner perform eight times, and witnessing Bastille front man, Dan Smith, hoist my boyfriend through the suspended ceiling backstage.

It’s meant that my year has been a bit bi-polar. I’ve dashed from a late-night gig to an early-morning meeting with ex-prisoners, or rushed from a class presentation to a sold-out show. I’ve balanced schoolwork with adventure in a way that was of great importance to me, and which is very Irish at its roots: I’ve prioritized relationships and enjoyed the “craic,” and then showed up and got the work done as well.

My Mitchell year has moved me forward with my goals, my academic hopes, and my ever-expanding network in my chosen field.   However, it’s also put me as a ‘guest backup singer’ in front of 3,000 people.  That wasn’t the plan, but it’s made for quite the journey.

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