Having been here in Ireland for over a month now, I have begun to pick up on the distinct charm held within this lovely country. Being exposed to new scenery, people, and situations has opened my eyes to not only the way of the Irish but also my own culture. I am learning a lot about myself in this semester of discovery, and I am enjoying every minute I get to dive into the Irish culture and land.
Thus far, I have visited Meath, Galway, Clare, Cork, Wicklow and of course Dublin. As I have explored each area, I’ve noticed how different the land of Ireland can be depending on where you are. I’ve found that Dublin is, indeed, much different than Wicklow and the other places I have been. It’s somewhat disappointing to me that I don’t get to walk past pastures of sheep and green meadows on my stroll to class every morning, but I’m learning to adapt and embrace my home county.
Most of all, I appreciate the time and planning it has taken from our organizations to give us authentic tastes of each location we’ve visited. Baking bread in Meath was by far a highlight in my time so far; I felt like I was truly getting a taste of how people live their every day lives in the more rural areas of Ireland. With the smells of “home” surrounding me — the rich aroma of baking bread, the light air on our sunshiny day, and some less pleasant scents around the barns and animals — it almost like catching a glimpse of what it might be like to live there.
In Galway, we were able to experience the various shopping areas and pubs that are so popular, as well as drive through the beautiful landscapes surrounding us. We also took a ferry to the Aran Islands and avoided falling off the cliffs near the semi-circular stone fort of Dun Aonghasa. Next, in County Clare, we enjoyed a stop at the Burren National Park and of course marveled at the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher.
Some friends and I took a tour down to Cork where we walked through the Cork English Market, Ireland’s most famous covered food market, after we kissed the Blarney Stone and acquired the “gift of the gab” at Blarney Castle. Then, when I toured Wicklow, I was able to explore the wild terrain and historical monastic settlement at Glendalough Park.
At each destination, I found myself savoring the little pieces of Irish charm around me. In each county, whether it was at a local pub, a famous scenic spot, or a random conversation with a native, I felt like I was really and truly in Ireland. But this feeling was not the same in Dublin. Something was lacking.
I was the problem.
It wasn’t until I put away my preconceived notions and began to open my eyes and ears around me, that I started to realize the rich Irish culture and history that’s here in my own backyard. With the vast locations of Phoenix park and Glasnevin Cemetery, the famous statue of Molly Malone, the beautiful port city of Howth, the ever-present Guinness Factory and all it’s contributed over the years, I have only barely scratched the surface of all there is to uncover here in Dublin. I couldn’t be happier to have this opportunity to experience Ireland in such a way. With a newfound sense of appreciation and wonder, I continue to look forward to each new day, whether its a simple walk to class or a trip across the country, and hold onto the hope that I’ll encounter a little more of the Charm of Ireland.