Sunday, May 25, 2014

Ireland 2014

The international learning trip to Ireland was an absolutely amazing educational experience. Throughout the trip, everyone attempted to turn every experience into an educational one. From talking with shop owners and cab drivers to listening to various educators and psychologists, the entire trip was an endlessly fascinating learning adventure. The first weekend involved a great deal of sightseeing and learning about Irish history. The Cliffs of Moher were truly an incredible experience. Nobody never shied away from the difficult hikes, and we always made sure to take advantage of photographic opportunities.  Journeying through the Irish countryside by bus was fantastic, as it provided us with a view of the breathtaking Irish countryside and quaint towns along the way. It seemed like there were castles everywhere!

As we departed for Mary Immaculate College Monday morning, several of us were curious as to what our educational lectures would be like. Every day we met with various individuals at various sites, including Mary Immaculate College, Limerick Social Services Council, The Blue Box Art Therapy Project, University of Limerick and a local school. Meeting with these individuals was so much more than just a lecture, it was always an interesting, engaging, and energetic discussion experience. Everyone was incredibly knowledgeable and personable. We learned about a wide variety of topics including the education system, mental health systems, social services, child welfare, religion, economics, and politics. It was amazing being able to learn about Ireland from such a variety of knowledgeable individuals.

However, among the wide variety of really incredible experiences, I did have two favorite days. The first being the tour of the University of Limerick and discuss with Dr. Patrick Ryan, who is head of the psychology department. The University of Limerick has a fantastic campus with unique architecture. Dr. Ryan took us on the tour and spoke with us about various psychological services available to children and young adults in Ireland. The discussion was both fascinating and informative. During this discussion we learned that Ireland has only put into place laws against child abuse within the past few years. There are also limited mental health services available for youth, and alcoholism is on the rise. After our discussion, we were able to sit in on several music performances by graduating students who were performing their final pieces. The traditional music and singing was amazing, as well as a fantastic cultural experience.

My second favorite day involved a visit to a very small town called Kilcommon (Cill Chuimin, in Irish), in County Tipperary. Father Michael Wall, from Mary Immaculate College, who had led an amazing discussion about religion and politics in Ireland earlier in the week, led us on a tour of a prayer garden and then an excursion through the Irish countryside. Despite the fact that I am not personally a religious individual, the prayer garden was something to see. It’s unique design and flowing water throughout the garden from a local river was beautiful and serene. Father Michael then led a group of us on a two and a half hour pilgrimage through the Irish countryside. The Kilcommon loop retraces ancient paths used by individuals to celebrate mass and religious holidays, and dates back to medieval times. I cannot stress enough how amazing this hike was. It takes you through countryside, forests, up part of a mountain, and through amazing fields with beautiful flowers and babbling brooks. You will not ever get a chance to do or see anything so extraordinary as the Kilcommon loop. If you ever have the chance, take it! Father Micheal was also a fantastic guide (with a good sense of humor), as he was willing to engage in several discussions, answer questions, provide us with snacks, and even teach us some Irish phrases.

If anyone ever has a chance to be part of an amazing adventure and educational experience in Ireland, do it! Engage in discussions, kiss the Blarney Stone, walk the Kilcommon loop, and experience everything you can squeeze in. 

-Jessica Hatton
Irish breakfast at Corbett Court, halfway to Cork.

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