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Immersed in Ireland

04/10/2013

Twenty-one students in Dr. Anthony Daly's "Ireland Travel Class" recently explored the rich history and culture of Ireland over their spring break when they visited some of its most vibrant cities and took in the breathtaking Irish countryside.

The trip - which began in Belfast and concluded in Dublin - included visits to the city of Derry, the Antrim coast, the Hill of Tara, the hills of Wicklow and the valley of Glendalough.

For Lindsay Green '13 of Hampden, Mass., the trip provided an opportunity to return to her roots.

"I wanted to immerse myself in the Irish culture and in my family's history, so this was a perfect opportunity," she said. "The entire trip was amazing. I guess I would have to say my favorite part was walking along the Giant's Causeway. The views were breathtaking!

Going to Ireland marked the first time that Chris Goodell '13 of Wareham, Mass., traveled outside of the United States.

"I had always found Irish culture and history to be very interesting. I wanted to feel comfortable in an English-speaking country while still being able to experience an entirely new culture and way of life," he said.

Lindsay said there's no better time to travel than when one is in college.

"I felt that I got more out of the Ireland experience through the travel course because there was meaning behind everything that I did," she explained. "I was more than a tourist because there was significance behind the 'attractions,' and I understood the history behind them instead of seeing them for face value."

Goodell agreed. "It definitely enhanced my educational experience to be able to see firsthand the sites where famous battles took place and the lasting impact of historical figures. The Irish people certainly celebrate their history, both the good and the bad, and throughout both Ireland and Northern Ireland there is such a strong sense of national pride."

In Belfast, the group spent a few hours on a black taxi tour, which was a unique way of understanding local perceptions of "The Troubles."

"We had four taxis, with a mixture of Catholic and Protestant drivers," Daly said. "When we got out in Protestant areas, for example, to see murals, we were led by a Protestant; the reverse was true in Catholic areas. The drivers were knowledgeable, friendly and passionate. While the peace has largely held since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, it was clear that community tensions remain, and that there is a long way to go before the two sides leave the past behind."

Goodell explained, "In class we learned about the conflicts that have been going on between the two groups for hundreds of years, but it was an eye-opening experience to see how cities and neighborhoods are still divided, literally, by walls. It made me appreciate just how comparatively tolerant the United States is."

"There's only so much that a textbook can teach," Green said. "The trip brought to life many of the things that I learned in class. I was able to experience the culture and history that I read about, and while a textbook is replaceable, the experience is not. After my trip to Ireland, it is impossible for me to forget anything that I learned in class."

"The travel course provided enough structure to be educational, but also allowed us the freedom to explore the culture for ourselves," Goodell added. "Traveling to another country is exciting enough, but being able to do so with a group of my friends was an experience I'll always remember."