By Sarah Davis | Echo
Eleven nostalgic Taylor students and alumni are spending spring break in Ireland this year, celebrating the centennial of the Easter Rising.
In 1916, a violent six-day rebellion sparked movement toward Irish independence from the United Kingdom. The resulting political tension between the British-supporting Unionists and the Republicans continues to influence Irish culture, making this anniversary a significant landmark for the Irish people.
Among those planning to return to Ireland is junior Bekah Estes-a participant in the Freshman Irish Studies Program.
"Throughout this calendar year, various conferences, galleries and exhibitions have been put on in Dublin," Estes said. "This is all leading up to the celebration's culmination in a grand parade."
The parade takes place March 27, Easter morning, in downtown Dublin. While this celebration was the initial reason for students' desire to return, many are hoping to simply explore the places they once called home.
Callie Haven ('15) admits that some of her fellow Irish studies friends have been planning a trip back to Ireland ever since they left.
"I know there will certainly be a lot of celebration in and around Dublin regarding the Centennial," Haven said. "But I know a lot of us are hoping to revisit some of the places we saw the first time we came to Ireland."
One of those places is the coastal town of Greystones, in County Wicklow, Ireland. The group plans to stay there during spring break, at the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Coolnagreina facility. The students stayed at Coolnagreina during their time in the Irish Studies Program, so it will be a familiar home base.
Haven and Estes specifically share a desire to revisit their home churches. Haven never felt better connected to a church than she did at Greystones Presbyterian and can't wait to be there again.
"My church home was Dun Laoghaire Evangelical," Estes said. "What I'm looking forward to most is reconnecting with friends and reacquainting myself with that depth of history embodied in the church there."
Estes also hopes to lay low for the week, despite the multitude of activities available.
"I'm planning on visiting my favorite nooks for coffee, hiking in the Wicklow mountains and reading the day away in some of the sleepy little villages along the Dart line," she said.
The spring break trip is led by psychology professor and Irish Studies Program Director Vance Maloney. Most Irish studies students travel with Maloney during their semesters abroad, so making the trip with him again is an exciting bonus for many.
Since founding the Irish Studies Program, Maloney has maintained a love for the country and its integration into the college experience. His enthusiasm is part of what makes those four months abroad so unique.
"I've never seen someone more passionate about the nation of Ireland, its history and its people as Vance," Haven said. "I know that having him there with us will be one of the most beneficial things for us."
The opportunity for these students to study in Ireland during the semester is already an unforgettable experience. However, to return to the Emerald Isle for this celebration is a special adventure most will never know.
"It feels a little bit like going home," Estes said. "I can already hear the welcoming lilt of the Irish tongue, and I eagerly await filling my lungs with the salt air of the Irish Sea."
Junior Bekah Estes looks forward to exploring her favorite spots in Ireland once more.