It is always cold and way too early as we assemble in preparation to step onto Clifford, our
small red bus. With Clifford and Brian—international man of mystery as well as our bus driver—we have traveled all over Ireland.
Though based on the east coast in the greater Dublin area, the Irish Studies Programme (ISP) takes students on three trips to other parts of Ireland, emphasizing the diversity within the country we experience for three months. The first trip is to Northern Ireland, which is technically a part of the United Kingdom. The others are to Dingle and Kilarney in southern Ireland and to Galway in the west.
While ISP directors do their best to prepare students for this time, I have come up with a few tips I wish I knew before these trips.
Within the moments of sadness, be willing to find joy.
Some of the trips are geared to instruct in some of the bleaker periods of Irish history including The Troubles in Northern Ireland.
Despite these difficult topics, we continue to find joy in our travels, whether that be in celebrating the diversity of the towns we go to or enjoying the beautiful landscapes we see. It is the people that make the experience.
Some of the best moments on our trips are outside of the structured program and take place during spontaneous ice cream runs, walks through town or even just spending the long drives to and from places splitting earbuds with your seatmate and listening to an eclectic playlist of both of your music tastes.
There are times during a trip when you hit a wall from constantly doing things. When it hits, it can be tempting to opt out of participating. But when you have the opportunity to tour the garden of the castle you are staying at, grab a cup of coffee and a friend who hypes you up and run through it.
The trips are mostly centered around nature or as Brian would say, “You focus too much on these hikes.”
As part of the program is receiving a physical education credit in the form of a hill climbing class, every trip includes a hike. When you go to a city as cool as Belfast or Galway, it can be disappointing for some to learn that we will not be spending all of our time there.
However, Ireland is a place of awe-inspiring natural beauty which create lasting memories students share. Through these hikes, we shared bonding memories of struggling against 40 mph wind at Giant’s Causeway in the north, catching our breath at the valley floor on the southern Torc Mountain, or looking out at the bog land in the west asking ourselves “What on earth is a bog and why can no one explain it to me?”