When I accepted the Mitchell Scholarship, out of all the council I received, one piece of advice struck me as particularly concerning. An acquaintance who had lived in Ireland before told me that I should not expect to make too many close Irish friends and to focus more on building bonds with Americans I met abroad. The memory of this commentary weighed on me for months, and when I finally arrived in Ireland I felt somewhat hesitant about trying to make new professional and social connections. This was only exacerbated when I realized no one in my shared apartment was Irish. As my year in Ireland was just beginning, it felt like I might not actually get to know any Irish residents all that well. Luckily I soon had an experience that has set the tone for my first semester of study.
Two days after arriving, I explored Maynooth University’s grounds. While doing so, I stumbled onto the grounds of the farm owned by the Irish Catholic seminary with which Maynooth University shares its history and campus. Directly in front of me was a small herd of cows. They seemed interested in me but a little hesitant to come too close. Remembering that I had also found an orchard on campus, I backtracked and then brought my new acquaintances some apples. This helped quickly break the ice, and before I knew it I had a big group of Irish friends. Whenever I need excuse to stretch my legs I’ll walk out to the farm knowing that I’ll be met with welcoming, and hungry, faces. My early success with my bovine buds reminded me that I simply needed to be open to whatever opportunities presented themselves here, and I have found the Irish to be welcoming in all instances. I’ve been embraced as I build academic, professional, and political relationships in this country, and the idea that I would live in Ireland separate from the Irish people has been proven repeatedly false.
Early this week, I went to visit my four-legged friends and found a new and younger group of cows chewing the cud. I don’t know if the first group has been rotated to a different pasture or met a more morbid fate. Either way I greatly appreciate the welcome they gave during my first days in County Kildare. I’m excited to see where the growth they helped foster takes me in the coming months, and I hope to see them around. As aside, one other piece of advice from before arriving in Ireland stuck with me. Trina Vargo made clear to us before we left that she welcomed almost any pictures we wanted to share, with two important caveats. First we needed to be in the picture if possible, anyone can google scenic images of Ireland if that’s what they want. Second the pictures should not be of sheep. Everyone has seen more than enough Irish sheep. I hope my picture for this blog honor my first Irish friends while following that aesthetic directive. Now I just need to figure out if they are dairy cows or londondairy cows.