On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, I sat overlooking the Galway Bay as I listened to a virtual sermon about the importance of having a sense of community. The Pastor, Ryan, pointed out that “happiness doesn’t come from our circumstances. Instead, it comes from our communities.” The current global pandemic – and the isolated world that it has created – has magnified the necessity of having a community of friends, colleagues, and loved ones to fall back on when we need them the most. Our communities help us remain resilient when our circumstances seem insurmountable.
In that moment of reflection, I thought back to my journey across the Atlantic a few short weeks before. In between conversations with Becca, a fellow Mitchell Scholar, a housemate in Galway, and seat buddy on the flight, my thoughts were consumed by how I was leaving my entire community across the world. I wondered if I would be able to find a sense of community in Galway. Quickly, as we settled into our new home, I realized that the Irish prioritize making others feel like a member of their community.
Marie and Therese, my program directors, went above and beyond to make sure that I had a successful start on the island. They both, separately, offered to pick me up on campus when the bus dropped us off from the airport so that I did not have the drag my luggage to my apartment. How thoughtful!
One of the first people that I met was our landlord, Peter. As soon as we had finished discussing the details of the house upon our arrival, he showed us to the nearest grocery store so we could grab essentials for our new home and offered to introduce us to a fellow American staying in another of his properties in town. A few weeks later, when we could not open an Irish bank account due to a delay in paperwork, he took me down to his local bank and attempted to circumvent the paperwork by personally vouching for me. It didn’t work, but it was an incredibly thoughtful gesture! Peter made us feel so welcomed.
John, a fellow Purdue University alumnus and Ireland native, sent me an email the first week I was in Ireland to invite me to a virtual event for an agricultural alumni organization that he leads. The event was full of insightful speakers and featured topics that gave me great context into Irish agriculture. John called me after the event to ask me if I had any questions. He even invited me to become an associate member of the organization. I’m thankful that John welcomed me into his community.
I came to Ireland to learn more about how Irish rural communities have remained resilient despite famine and hardship. My experience thus far has been a great reminder about what makes a community resilient: its people. A strong community – full of thoughtful residents that care for one another – can conquer any circumstance.