Mon. Jan 17th, 2022

Just a few months ago I had my life mapped out for the remainder of my college career. I saw myself taking an internship in Philadelphia, spending my free time working toward a car, and was satisfied with the current condtion of my life. Then July came, and I completely threw the blue print of my life for the next few years out the window. I went to Ireland with Dr. Lordan, one of West Chester’s communications professors, on his “Media in Ireland” trip at Dublin City University, and I have not looked back since.
During my stay in Ireland, I deeply fell in love with the environment, the culture, and the general way of life of the Irish people. Never in my life had I felt so comfortable around strangers nor had I felt like I was surrounded by people with the same attitude as me. The Irish people were the best lot of people I have met yet. There is no way I could not have fallen in love with their sense of humor, generosity, and confidence with themselves.
Dr. Lordan made the trip particularly special, as he himself was starstruck with Ireland back in his twenties and has made it a point to return again and again. During our trip, he encouraged us to meet the locals and to go out and explore. Simultaneously, he gave us opportunities that are not normally given to foreigners. He got our group into the General Post Office for a tour, when they do not give tours. He took us to every landmark our group studied, and fought hard to make sure no plans were cancelled. And when I said I wanted to visit London for a weekend, he told me, “Go!” without hesitation.
Without Dr. Lordan’s enthusiasm and love for Ireland and his incredible contacts (he even met the President of Ireland!), I do not know how the trip would have went. I owe my opportunities and experiences in Ireland fully to Dr. Lordan.
But I did not start out too excited, to be honest. When the time came to go to Ireland I found myself panicking. I had my paper perfected, I had the necessities packed, and I had my ticket in hand, but suddenly I feared being away from everything I knew. I teared up on the plane to Ireland, already missing my friends and family. I was homesick for a week, but at the same time, kept myself busy. I could not sleep for I was in Ireland!
Even if I knew no one, not even my American group so well, I knew of Ireland. My Mom-Mom (what I call my grandmother) is an Irish woman, from the North, who never lost her brogue and who always fascinated me with her stories of Ireland. Ever since I was a child, I believed I had a right to Ireland and I knew I would get there someday. Well, the time had come. By the end of that first week, I had grown close with my American group and shed my homesickness. I wanted to meet the Irish, I wanted to explore Dublin, and I wanted to find out everything about the etiquette and culture of the Irish people. I forgot about my home life very quickly. And the romanticized version of Ireland I had sketched out in my head all of these years, was exactly what I found Ireland to be: beautiful, peaceful, happy, lovely, perfect.
Dr. Lordan told me travelling abroad is scary, “but that’s one of the things that makes it great – it forces you to grow, to put yourself in positions that you aren’t comfortable with and then succeed in them. And when you do, you feel like you can take on the world – because you can.” By my second week in Ireland, I knew I could conquer anything. And I did. I felt so comfortable with the Irish and as a shy person, I naturally do not go out of my way to strike up conversations that are not necessary. And in the Philadelphia area, neither does anyone else. In Ireland, I felt so comfortable going up to strangers to ask for directions or just to ask about their day because they welcome it so warmly. It may have helped that I appeared Irish at first sight, until my American accent gave me away. Regardless, I felt at home.
I visited London my second weekend in Ireland, as Dr. Lordan gave us the weekends to ourselves. I took the Dublin bus, an airplane (equivalent to the Metro Bus on air), and then a train to reach London and met my friend from West Chester University who was also travelling throughout Europe. Anyone who knows me knows that I have no sense of direction. To this day, I get lost on West Chester’s campus. But I mapped out absolutely every single step to get from DCU to my hostel in London. When I reached the hostel, I hugged my friend with sheer joy that I had gotten myself to London alone. At that moment, I realized that I could travel alone anywhere and I would be okay.
Upon returning from London, I was confident I did not need to be attached to anyone to assure I would get back to my place in one piece. I felt free. And I had two weeks left in Ireland that I was not ready to have end. I spent my time happily exploring everything I could within the area we were staying at. I found myself realizing so much about American culture, and was fascinated to find that the Irish knew just about everything there was to know about the U.S., including geography I did not even know. As Dr. Lordan stated, there is a media megaphone extending out from America that reaches far and wide, yet we don’t get any major returning media megaphones to the states.
By the end of the trip, I felt like the Little Mermaid’s daughter in the Disney series who wanted to get back to sea after her mother grew her legs and started a family on land. Cheesy, I know, but true. I felt as though my Mom-Mom came over to the states to secure a better life for her children and grandchildren, but I just wanted back in Ireland. Like the Little Mermaid’s daughter, I was set on returning to my roots. Luckily for me, Ireland accepts citizenship through descent extending as far back as one’s grandparents. Suddenly, I realized I was going back to Ireland; there was no doubt in my mind. I cannot remember the exact moment I decided I would be returning, but it became set in stone in my head. I was going back to Ireland!
I decided, and pursued, my stay in Ireland. I am returning for the spring semester and extending it for a summer internship. Call me crazy if you will, but I think I am beyond lucky to have found such passion for something in my life at such a young age. The opportunity is there, and I am taking it. Period. And because of my roots, I am able to secure dual citizenship and work in Ireland if I please. And who knows, maybe I could end up living there. But all that I know is that three weeks in Ireland was only the beginning of my exploration of the country. And for me, that is enough.
Colleen Cummings is third-year student majoring in English writings with minors in journalism and graphic design. She can be reached at CC763510@wcupa.edu.
 

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