One of my favorite parts of traveling is the clarity of thought that comes with sitting isolated alongside a window and watching the world rush by. Insulated from the clamor of everyday commitments and sheltered from the elements you’re free to let your mind wander; daydreaming, thinking, reflecting. This welcomed reprieve comes amongst the challenges navigating new places, confrontations of differing perspectives and the friction of peculiar environments. It’s here that I ponder the quotes and tidbits of wisdom I collect, and it’s fitting that in this space during my travels across Ireland I’ve found an expression that seems to capture my feelings towards my Mitchell experience, “the people make the journey.”
One of the most magical parts of living and studying abroad for the last four months in Ireland has been being a part of an incredible cohort of remarkably intelligent, talented and friendly people. Perhaps the most important attribute these scholars share is their passion for their unique fields and commitment to directing this passion towards some greater contribution to society. There isn’t a single conversation I walk away from without some new perspective or understanding about the world in an enlightening way. Each one of these scholars inspires me through their virtues to be better in a different way. From watching them compete for their university, perform at arts events, reading their published work, speak at conferences, grind away for exams and interviews, run marathons, or crush it at various receptions, each one makes me strive to reach higher and do more.
Being part of such an intimate group has distinct advantages. We collectively share in each other’s successes and shoulder the losses, we support each other by showing up for the events that one of us is a part of, helping to create a tighter community. By now we’ve gotten to know each other well enough that we have taken several opportunities to travel together. Experiencing a new place is always so much more memorable when you have people to share it with. There is a study that shows that sociality is the number one factor in a person’s happiness, which explains in part why we have so much fun together. Perhaps most important is that each one of these experiences traveling together creates memories that over time become bonds, bonds that will help us stay connected after we go our separate ways. Moving into this new year I look forward to sharing so many more experiences with this class and hopefully a full measure of traveling with each and every one of them.
Although our class is spread out over the emerald island, everyone is accessible and only a few hours away from the others. Having our friends at a distance gives us an incentive to break out of our own bubbles to visit these places in a way that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. This encouragement comes in part at seeing the communities and places our friends call home at the different universities across Ireland. Experiencing these places with a local guide makes all the difference and allows the trip to become more intimate by sharing the local networks and places we’ve discovered with the others. At this point in our program, each scholar has taken their turn playing host to some of us and everyone has at a minimum visited several others, taking full advantage of number of couches to crash on at our disposal.
The Mitchell Scholarship has been an incredible opportunity but not in the least because of the people who we are joined with. The combination of the quality of scholars, sharing experiences, and encouraging each other to leave our comfort zones has been a reward in itself. In closing, the people make the journey.