Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Final Thoughts

What Does it Mean to be Irish?

When I think about it, before this trip, I don’t really remember ever meeting anyone from Ireland, or even thought about their identity. I had no idea that Irish history was so rich and dramatic, full of life changing events that carry on through history to today. While we learned about the history of Ireland and the Irish people before we came to the country, actually being there and hearing real Irish people talk about it made everything much more clear and easy to understand. 

Since the beginning of Ireland’s history, Protestantism was the majority religion in Ireland, and Catholics were widely discriminated against. Starting with the Penal Laws, which restricted Catholics from having land, owning horses, having education, and eventually resulted in their loss of the right to vote, throughout history, and continuing today, most recently with the Troubles in Northern Ireland, religion plays a huge role in Irish identity. 

We can see from all of the events that have happened throughout Irish history involving religious tension, that religion is a huge part of the Irish identity. What does it mean to be Irish? To me, it means to be proud. It means understanding loss, and being strong when faced with adverse conditions. And I truly feel that this applies to all Irish people, not just Catholics, because not just the Catholics were involved. Every person living in Ireland has some sort of Catholic or Protestant background, and every person living in Ireland during the times of these events was affected. 

So to be Irish, from what I have been able to tell, means being proud of where you came from. It means accepting your history, along with the history of other people. While there are definitely some people who still discriminate, either against Catholics or Protestants, they still all share a history. Everyone has been affected, and that brings a sense of identity to the Irish people that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. 

Now that we have returned from our trip, I was able to really think about the experience as a whole. Before going to Ireland, I didn’t really have a reason to go, other than I thought it would be a fun trip, and I wanted to travel. I had no idea that Ireland’s rich history would affect me so much personally. 

“That’s what being Irish is a lot of the time, passing for something else – the Paddy, the European, the peasant, the rocker, the leprechaun. It’s sometimes funny; it’s sometimes dangerous and damaging” (Doyle, Home to Harlem). This isn’t done by the Irish people themselves, its done by all the other people who truly have no idea what it means to be Irish. It is so easy to believe a stereotype when you don’t know the history behind them. And while some Irish people will laugh and joke around about being drunks, or conform to stereotypes in order to make money off souvenirs, that’s not what it truly means to be Irish. 

Studying Abroad

My study abroad experience is something that I will remember for the rest of my life. In Ireland, I feel like I was able to get in touch with myself more, as well as understand more about the world outside of the United States. 

Sometimes, we forget that we aren’t the only country in the world, and we are often not taught of any other history than our own. That was the biggest benefit of the trip, to me; being able to learn about a history other than the one I grew up learning about, and learning it from people who have been personally affected by it. 

Being able to actually sit in the Parliament building, where leaders gather to make legislative decisions, that’s not something you get to experience in America. Some people in America may never even see the White House in real life. 

Another benefit, and my favorite part of the trip, was being exposed to scenery that we could only dream of seeing in America, at least for me, coming from South Bend, Indiana. (By the way, someone literally referred to South Bend as the “armpit” of Indiana while we were in Ireland.) I’ve seen the ocean before, but never like the sights I saw in Ireland, especially at the top if Killiney Hill and the Cliffs of Moher, and even at the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. These are some of the best memories I’ve made from this trip.

Dear Future Candidates,

If I had to say something to pass on to future study abroad candidates, I would say, first of all, do it. When I first heard about the trip, I was interested in it, but didn’t really look into it. It wasn’t until the professors sent me an email after the initial deadline that there were still spots open, that I knew I had to take advantage of the opportunity.

 My next question, then, would be why not? Why not take the chance to experience a different culture and history? Sitting in a classroom can be boring, and let’s face it, how much of what you learn in a classroom are you going to remember after college? Or even 6 months from now? Studying abroad gives you an experience that you will remember for the rest of your life. 

If you never study abroad in college, you may never get the chance to travel after college. Once you get a “real” job, and start a family, you may never get the chance to have a trip like the one we just took. So, my advice, or “words of wisdom” to future candidates would be just that:
Do it! Why not?

The True Irish

The True Irish Experience 
We all have heard of the Irish stereotypes,

  • green
  •  leprechauns
  •  drunks
  • witty
  • fighters
If anyone of these stereotypes are most true it would be the fighters. The fighting irish has never been so true in my eyes after learning more and more of their background.
As an American, i never learned of the Irish history i only learned our American history, which is unfortunate because you can learn a lot by knowing the history around us in the world. Anyway, I've grown to have a certain kind of respect for the Irish and their persistence.

This is probably the most famous mural in Derry because it represents the most unlawful deaths of PEACEFUL marchers. This day is known as bloody sunday and has affected many families in Derry. I took a tour of in a museum about Bloody Sunday which was super personal and emotional. I know that i always remember that museum and the people it was made for.  That place is a reminder of the strong fighters the Irish are because after that horrific act in Bloody Sunday by the police, the families took it to court and got justice for the ones who were shot and killed unlawfully.

Our first day going through Dublin we saw our first protest, I didn't stop and ask what it was about, however, i thought it pretty cool since in class our professor told us just how much they protest for equal rights throughout the country. I was blown away about how the Irish are so passionate about their country and politics but on the same note can have a civil conversation with someone who has a different  belief unlike other countries...by that i mean America.

 I guess I would define a true Irish person as kind but witty(So funny), strong willed, yes, they have many pubs and the Irish drink...who doesn't though? In class we would read things from the past and the stories would be written by an English person. The english were not fond of the Irish, they descried them as peasants who dressed in rags and who fought as a sport or for fun, as people who were uneducated and just horrific things.
Cliffs of Moher

In "Home to Harlem" we read in class about an Irish man who came to America for college and his struggles with Identity (He was Black Irish) but anyway, every other word was the "F" word. I've heard this stereotype before that the Irish cuss a lot and it's just the way of their everyday talk. I didn't find this to be true, i mean they cuss as much as anyone/anywhere else.

What i Found
In Dublin it was mostly tourist and we ran into Americans everywhere which was extremely annoying. BUT, Derry is way more...i want to say private. We met locals the first night and now they're great friends of ours. I found none of the stereotypes with them, the only things i found to be true is that they all are strictly Irish. 
"She looks up at him"
"African-American?", she says"
"I'm not American"
"you sure?" "she says" 
"well-what are you?" 
"I'm Irish" 
In "Home to Harlem" it talked a lot about identity for example in America people love diversity. Its "cool" to be of different ethnicity, like me, i'm Italian-Amercian even though i was born in America and my parents were born in America so i should probably just say i'm American... but thats boring. In Ireland no one identifies themselves other than Irish. 
As i listed some stereotypes above, and they're kind of out there...but i also saw that in Ireland the irish entertain the Green, and Leprechauns, for example, they literally have a Leprechaun museum( Leprechaun Museum). They do this i would say for tourist attractions. 

This study a board trip was absolutely the best decision I've ever made, it was the highlight of my college career ( well...ya know bedsides graduation) and if i could i would do it all over again. If i had to say anything to someone who was wondering if they should go on a study abroad trip, i'd say just do it. Go have that adventure of a lifetime and have no regrets. 


Submit to Ireland

After visiting Ireland and meeting “real Irishmen” it was evident that the Irish people hold their history dear to them. As a group, we went on many tours and we were met with the same charismatic, knowledgeable, and proud Irish person everywhere we went.
I think the Irish identity is something that has only gotten stronger with time. The Irish are proud and resilient. Throughout history, the Irish have fought countless battles to secure the rights of their people, and although they were often unsuccessful, the Irish never gave up, they never wavered, and they always came back stronger than before.

While in Dublin, the mark left by the leaders of Easter Rising was shown almost everywhere. When we met at the Spire, we stopped at the General Post Office which was the site the rebels declared Ireland an independent republic. We were able to see the bullet holes on the pillars, and also the proclamation.

Mural of Bloody Sunday
Another event in history that left its mark was Bloody Sunday. In Northern Ireland, "The Troubles" were a turning point in their history and are remembered across the city of Derry. As we were walking through the Bogside, we were able to see the various murals on the sides of buildings depicting scenes from Bloody Sunday. There were also various flags, plaques, and memorials to commemorate the lives lost and battles fought.
 In Derry, I could still feel a divide between the people. There was an awkwardness to the community as if everyone was walking on eggshells, but at the same time displaying their views aggressively enough to warrant a similar behavior on the other side.

A reoccurring theme in our class readings is that the Irish people are extremely hospitable, and I definitely saw that in both Dublin and Derry. Even our servers at restaurants were extremely kind even though they didn’t have to fake it just to get tips, and the people at the stores we shopped in were welcoming and helpful.
I was expecting people to not be so fond of Americans, but the whole time I was there, I never encountered someone that treated me poorly. Robert Bell speaks of the Irish hospitality in Document B when he says, “Such a visit, so far from being deemed an intrusion, gave pleasure to every individual of the family, who were not only impelled by their natural feelings, but conceived themselves bound by a kind of sacred duty, to perform those acts of hospitality.”

Another personal example of mine is when we hiked to the top of Killiney Hill and I managed to come into contact with stinging nettle. I was honestly freaking out and so scared I was about to have a major reaction to it, but then a local man offered his help.
He stopped what he was doing and began to search through the brush for another type of plant to help the pain. Instead of just pointing it out, he got me the plant and helped me try to stop the burning. That just shows how kinds and selfless the Irish are and how willing they are to lend a hand.

The thing that stuck me the most was the history. Our country is relatively young, so to be able to see buildings, churches, schools, and castles that date back 1000 years, it was amazing. We cant get that here.
When a few of u went into the church Christ cathedral, my jaw dropped as I stepped in. I’m not a very religious person, but the sheer beauty of the building and its contents was almost bringing me to tears. I’ve honesty never seen anything like it.
Overall, I'm obsessed with my experience on this trip and I have so much respect and love for Ireland and its people. If I had a word of advice for future students going on this trip it would be: Submit to Ireland, experience all it has to offer even if it scares you. This trip has given me a gift that I will forever cherish. I was confined to my American bubble, but now I feel more aware of the world we live in, not to mention I've made such wonderful friends.

 Now that I’ve been to another country, I’m addicted, all I want to do is travel more, experience more, and see more. where shall we go next?

Ireland Study Abroad Experience

One of the first Irish readings we read before leaving to Ireland was an excerpt from “The Poor Scholar,” Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry, which is based on (or at least influenced by) William Carleton’s personal experiences in Ireland.

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Picture from "The Poor Scholar"

 A powerful statement helping define the Irish identity is when the famous Irish author Carleton wrote, “An Irishman will make you laugh at his joke, while the object of that joke is wrapped up from you in the profoundest mystery, and you will consequently make the concession to a certain point of his character, which has been really obtained by a faculty you had no penetration to discover, or, rather, which he had too much sagacity to exhibit. Of course, as soon as your back is turned, the broad grim is on him, and one of his cheeks is stuck out two inches beyond the other, because his tongue is in it-at your stupidity, simplicity, or folly.” (Carleton, 260-261).

 We all took a weekend to describe what this phrase meant. To me, this defines the Irish as being coy, and left me the impression that the Irish would be deceitfully fake. There was an underlying theme that pointed out others to be the butt-end of their jokes and to yank on and make fun of these others in subtle and keen ways. Although this is an impressive feat for people that I initially thought were under-educated in comparison to others, the Irish culture blew my expectations away almost as soon as I landed.

The vast historical knowledge the Irish have predates the United States. Some of history is well known among Irishmen while other have different variations of stories (due to different upbringings and different perspectives from the past and present tensions of catholic and protestant.) An example I can think of that fits the above quote to the explanation of the formation of Giant’s Causeway. Science has explained this natural phenomena being formed by lava. A bus driver in Dublin had told our professor of how he would tell tourists that scientists were all wrong about this formation. He would proceed to tell visitors the tales of the legendary Fionn MacCool (FinnMcCool) as solely responsible and not the preposterous molten lava. Although he was kidding, he was persuasive and funny. 

Pictured is myself on Giant's Causeway

True Irishmen hold heart to the incredible history of their lands and that is what makes America different from Ireland. Here, in the states, people are so eager to conform to change. Everything and everyone are always moving so fast to update and pave new roads and paths without being conscious of what lies underneath. The Irish are a proud community that may fight as brothers and sisters at times (between the Republic and the North,) but their faith and voice carry themselves through even the most adverse moments. The “Fighting Irish” has only stood for Notre Dame to me, but after visiting Ireland I now understand the name.

Irish flag flying outside Kilmainham Gaol

Monday, June 26, 2017

My Irish Experience

My time in Ireland brought many experiences that I never thought I would get to encounter. I toured a castle, ate lunch on the side of a cliff and many other things I never dreamed of experiencing. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I decided to study abroad. I knew leaving my home and family would be very hard, but I knew I needed to do this for myself before I graduated. Now that I have returned home and experience Ireland, I am very glad that I decided to go on this trip.

Malahide Castle

The thing I was most interested in was getting to know the Irish Identity better. To me, the Irish seem to be proud of their heritage and where they come from. They had to fight for a country of their own and break away from England. They aren’t ashamed of being Irish, in fact they show much pride in being from Ireland. 

I was talking to someone from Northern Ireland about how the felt about being part of United Kingdom. What they said really shocked me and got me thinking about Irish identity. They said “when people ask about my heritage, I don’t say that I am from the United Kingdom. I simply tell them that I am from Ireland and that I’m Irish”.  This really showed how strongly the Irish feel about their heritage.

Bloody Sunday was a very heart breaking event to me. Seeing the museum made it more realistic. I personally thought the museum was so special because many people who worked there had lost loved ones in the massacre. At the end, it made my feel happy that the victims had finally gotten justice. They were no longer seen as "bombers".

It reminded me of the poem “Easter Rising”.  The poem says, “Wherever green is worn, Are changed, changed utterly”. This saying means that the Irish went through terrible times to be able to have their freedom. They will never forget what happened to them, but they are still proud to be Irish. The time of The Troubles were very hard on the Irish, but they stayed strong and fought for what they believe in.

Being raised in the Catholic faith, I was very excited to go to Ireland. The trip the Maynooth and seeing St. Patrick’s Cathedral was very exciting to me. The beauty of the church was amazing. My personal favorite part was the angels and saints that were painted on the ceilings.  It was also really interesting for me to learn about the conflicts between the Catholics and the Protestants. Going to Derry, it was really interesting to see the wall that divided the Protestants and Catholics. 

My study abroad experience was amazing. It was very hard to leave my family and friends at home, but I quickly formed new friendships while in Ireland. I thought the experience was once in a lifetime. Not many people get the chance to travel all over Ireland for two weeks. My advice to future study abroad students is to not waste time sleeping! Make sure to experience as much as you can while your there. 

I would say overall this trip taught me a lot. I learned about the Irish history and culture, but I also learned how to travel and be away from home. Now that I have left the country, I can’t wait to do it again. Although the site seeing was very fun, I thought being on the trip and making memories with new people was a really fun aspect of the trip. 

I learned that Irish stereotypes aren’t true. Many people accuse the Irish of being uneducated, mean drunks. I however found them to be fun-loving people. I think this trip was important to show us who Irish people really are and the struggles they went through.