Ireland seems to run on inside jokes, playful self-deprecation, and good-natured resignation to whatever the future may bring. In other words, I have found Ireland remarkably similar to my upbringing – the casual familiarity, the nod of a head imbued with as much meaning as a thousand words, the needlessness of spelling out the meaning, and the fierce and raucous laughter. Spending time with my friend Aisling and her family in Co. Cavan and Co. Longford in the Midlands, ‘having the craic’ (i.e., having a great time) with flatmates in Maynooth and fellow Mitchell Scholars, and enjoying the beauty of sun-showery days across Kildare are major reasons why my time here has been so rewarding. The enriching coursework, intellectual atmosphere, and tranquility of Maynooth’s campus are wonderful, giving ample space for contemplation (the contrast between my life in Maynooth and life in Washington, DC is staggering!).
I have yet to make the time to drive out west into County Clare, along the flaggy shore (thank you, Seamus Heaney), but I hope to visit soon. Heading out to Galway City at the end of the month to wander a bit and get at least nominally acquainted with the West.
I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Professors Jim McAdams and Joe Buttigieg from the University of Notre Dame for their keen insights, encouragement, and guidance throughout my studies and career. The Nanovic Institute for European Studies and PhD in Literature Program, under McAdams and Buttigieg, respectively, were instrumental in guiding my studies and inspiring me to pursue the George J. Mitchell Scholarship to continue my study of literature. There are dozens upon dozens of friends and colleagues from the State Department (you know who you are!!) who I am forever indebted to. Many thanks to the U.S.-Ireland Alliance for making this entire experience possible. This year at Maynooth University is truly a gift.