Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Everything Must Come to and End

 As everything came to and end today I started to think back to all the memories made. From kissing the Blarney Stone to almost getting lost trying to find James Joyce's house ( Dr. Aliaga knew the way the whole time just didn't let us know that) everyday in Ireland was a blessing. These past 12 days were an experience I will never forget. 19 associates became friends and will forever share these memories even the ones not in the itinerary like staying up late and playing cards and sharing funny stories from the day or previous days.

Today we had a free day and most of us went and saw St Patrick's Cathedral and James Joyce's house and then the rest took a kayaking tour on the river. We all managed to find time to shop though before we met for one final dinner and shared favorite parts of the trip and what we will miss the most.

The group then surprised me with a card for my birthday. It was hard being away from my family on my birthday but in a way this group became a sort of family. The end not only brought me knowledge and memories but a new set of friends who I will forever share my time in Ireland with. 

--Kayla Hall 

Kayla kissing the Blarney stone


Selfie at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin

Closing our journey

Having the task of completing my blog for the last day of our trip is a difficult one. All I can think of doing is to look back and reflect on each day and the individual aspects of the days that attributed to this comparative education journey that we all took together. I apologize up front for any lengthiness my blog has to offer, for I have a lot to say.

At the beginning we awaited to board our plane to Atlanta, which would then lead us to Ireland. We were all still unacquainted for the most part, and looking forward to a trip to Ireland, no matter whom we were surrounded by.  Our main focus at that moment was “wow I am going to Ireland!” Or it could have been “We are going to crash,” “We are going to be TAKEN,” and “Our luggage will be lost.” Whatever the focus we were in way prepared for what was going to happen to us in Ireland.

A journey to Ireland was not just going to learn about our topic of focus; it was learning and growing both intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and as human beings in general. We will all leave this trip changed in some manner for the rest of our lives. How we may have changed and what we took from this trip varies for each of us, for we are all our own person. 

Getting to know the individuals in this group was the greatest pleasure of all. They made the trip for me. Seeing the free spirits and happy faces everyday made my day no matter the weather or conditions we would face. Each person had something different to offer, which means I had the honor to learn something from someone. The art therapy group had different classes and meeting for most of the trip. To reconvene- and here what their experiences and learned was informative. Although, they were not going in with the same objectives, I can use their knowledge and skills to help better me as a teacher and human being.

Each day my most valued part was observing everything that was happening around me. Listening to the citizens of Ireland speaking and watching them interact taught me a lot about their culture. I learned that they are united in love in Ireland.  They do what is best for the whole and not what is profitable. Each day I personally was uplifted by the love and care given to me at no cost.  Learning their language compared to ours, sharing knowledge, and speaking honestly felt AMAZING. Sometimes we can be so guarded and afraid to share our thinking and share with the world who we are, in Ireland I felt I had no issue doing that within that community. Feeling that comfortable was never an expectation of mine. Especially experiencing street artists, bands, singers, and dancers was a sight to see. It was nice to see that our cultures blended in places such as that.  

The days in Limerick embodied joy and wholeness in me. When we arrived in to our spiritual walk with the Fr. Michael Wall, or as I call it marching with the priest, I have not expected to go on such a journey in 3 short hours. After the first beautiful scene I saw, I realize I forgot my phone to capture that moment. At first I was extremely bummed, but I realized that we all took the same picture 19 times anyway, so I could borrow the images others captured. Forgetting my camera was the best thing that ever happened to me. I did not have to stop and worry about taking pictures the whole time. I was able to walk and observe everything going on around me, breathing in the air, listening to the wind and plants move, watching as the landscape changed throughout this walk. I was finally able to really experience Ireland. What resonated me the most, was knowing people made this same journey to practice their religion and beliefs in secret when Catholicism was oppressed in Ireland. To go to such great lengths to do what you believe in is heroic at the least. After my march with Fr. WallI felt rejuvenated.

Cliffs of Moher! Woo-wee that was another experience I will take with me forever. It is hard to explain how I felt. Seeing such a beautiful and wonderful sight was breathtaking. Our small group ventured to the side that has a no liability warning sign. Are we crazy? We may be, but we had a spectacular time. Gathering up the courage, we creped close to edge on many occasions to get a better view, or take an interesting picture. Whatever the reason, we all pushed past our boundaries and made our experience one to never forget.

Aside form the Limerick experiences, I absolutely loved going to the Morning Star school. I was in Early Childhood HEAVEN. It was interesting to see their teacher qualifications, ratios, early intervention, and the school as a whole.  I could have spent my entire trip in the schools. I was disappointed to miss the protest in Cork for better conditions for the Early Childhood Educators in Ireland, for we too have the same issues they face in America.

Kissing the Blarney rock, running in a rain storm in Kerry, walking the beaches, hiking up a waterfall, taking a spiritual walk, visiting castles, walking everywhere, taking taxis/trains/planes/buses, trying new foods, eating locally, renaissance castle dinner experience, visiting colleges, attending lectures, visiting schools, hanging on the cliffs, lugging around luggage, dancing and singing, depriving ourselves of sleep, and taking the “best picture” made this trip with all my certainty an everlasting event in our lives.

Closing our trip with a kayaking adventure down the Liffey River in Dublin. This was an experience of a lifetime. The city tends to be hectic and loud with all the people, taxis, and cars. However on the river all that noise faded away creating a mesmerizing outing. As we paddled along the six our us (two per Kayak) didn’t have to stay along side one another, or race (although we did one time through a bridge), we simply enjoyed the journey along the river. Listening to the water flow, the oars splashing through, the breeze passing by, and the seagulls flocking with the warm sun shining down on our faces was surreal.  Kayaking was an opportunity to see the city from a different standpoint and was outside of the typical “tourist” things we did. It was the best end to our trip.

In true Irish Spirit I leave all my LOVES with an Irish Blessing:
“May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rain fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.”

--Whitney Thompson-Martin

Street art in Cork

Bridget Donoghue and old man at bus station

Blarney stone

Enjoying the view at the Cliffs of Moher

Reinassance dinner at the Knappogue Castle

Monday, June 8, 2015

Interesting facts about Ireland: American's guide to not looking like an American

Interesting facts about Ireland: American's guide to not looking like an American 

1) Streets signs are on walls and not poles
2) There are 8 million sheep to 6 million people
3) There are Gaelic-only towns in Ireland that you can only live in if you speak Gaelic fluently
4) The Blarney Stone gets sanitized everyday 
5) Pass oncoming foot traffic on left side of sidewalk instead of right
6) The only art therapy program is in Cork
7) Tallest building is only 17 floors and located in Cork 
8) The Cork psychiatric hospital has 8 beds for adolescents and 50 for adults
9) Live music is predominately American blue grass
10) University of Louisville and University of Limerick share the same abbreviation
11) Dublin restaurants that are a definite destination are crack bird and pieman 
11) Chester Beatty Museum is a rare find with the oldest bible pieces in the world and free
12) After throwing a rock over the Cliffs of Moher, it will come back to you
13) Teaching is highly respected profession 
14) Tuition is free but there are fees up to €3,000 
15) There is such a thing as Irish reggae and it is very worth finding 
16) Up to 12 drinks a week is considered an acceptable amount for woman according to the drug and alcohol task force 
17) Irish time means 15-30 late is on time
18) 10% gratuity is typical
19) The Castle feast is a grand and worth while adventure back in time
20) Rain gear should be carried at all times
21) Wool is cheaper in Dublin
22) You can buy stamps at Centra (newspaper/ snack shop).
23) Post boxes are green and look like trash cans 
24) Art therapy is primarily for adults 
25) Bathrooms are called toilets
26) Cafeterias are called canteens 
27) There are 234 steps up to the waterfall in the ring of Kerry tour
28) Trinity College was used as a prison in the 1700's 
29) The locals call you endearing words like, "May I help you with your bags, Love"
30) I <3 Ireland 

--Katharine Kressler

Sunday, June 7, 2015


We began our day with a two hour train ride to Heuston Station in Dublin. The last leg of our trip has approached rapidly. We will be staying at the Jury's Inn Christchurch, across the street from the beautiful Christchurch. Chiming bells can be heard from the church if you crack the window in your hotel room. It is beautiful!
We ate lunch at Taco Taco and the food was delicious. From there, many people shopped and others watched the Ireland versus England football (soccer) game. This was an important game because it was the first time Ireland and England played each other in Dublin for 20 years. People flooded into the city for the game. It ultimately ended in a tie.
We finished our day with dinner at The Porterhouse Brewing Company. There was a live band playing Irish music; it was great!
I cannot wait to see what Dublin has in store for us in the coming days!
--Caitlyn Sampson

Movement Through Time

One thing I have truly come to appreciate about Ireland is the movement of time. Slowing down to appreciate the small things, the new, the old, the broken, the beautiful, and all the greens in between. The morning we departed Cork I found myself lingering at the kitchen window, looking out over the hillside, just before sunrise I felt time slow, and as my eyes moved across the beautiful greenery, houses, churches, and smooth river flowing at its own speed, in that quiet moment I feared I would never get to move at that pace, envious of the duck sliding across the water, concerned that I will always be have to move to the rhythm of the ticking clock.
However, as I moved through the day I decided to acknowledge the smaller moments in time and create my own pace. This provided several beautiful moments to reflect on. While jumping from train to train there was a moment where time was moving too quickly, trains were moving too fast, luggage was moving too slow but our group was moving in unison, extending an extra hand, sending signals of communication and in the middle of time constrained pressure and stress often produced by travel everyone still offered a smile. So my advice is to appreciate the small moments, the minutes, and the smiles. Because at the end of the day if you throw a rock over the cliffs of Moher it will always come back to you... So sit back, let time be, and enjoy.
--Aubrey Alshouse

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Treated like Royalty

Today we were transported in time. We walked through the rooms of Bunratty Castle, treading the same steps as those who lived there hundreds of years ago. The halls were alive with history. We then had the unexpected pleasure of visiting the beach when we stopped in Lahinch for lunch.

Our next stop was the Cliffs of Moher. The view was absolutely breathtaking. I felt small, while also feeling like I was at the center of everything. It is a once in a lifetime experience to stand on the edge of everything looking at that vastness. Several members of the group said that the Cliffs were their favorite part of the trip so far, and I have to agree.

We finished the evening with a spectacular experience at Knappogue Castle. We were treated to a medieval dinner as lords and ladies, and received the utmost in service and entertainment. Dancing, singing, and laughter filled the room, and our very own Zach and Aubrey even presided over the feast as King and Queen!

-- Jessica Jacobs

A perspective of the heights of the cliffs.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Visting Limerick, and walking Kilcommon

This morning began as we loaded our suitcases, stuffed full, onto a bus bound for the train station. The first half of our trip has flown by and our time in Cork is gone just like that. We load, unload, and reload our luggage several times as we traveled to Limerick for the second part of the trip.

We quickly dropped of our belongings and left for our visit at Mary Immaculate College. The comparative education group got the opportunity to meet with the president of Mary I, Dr. Michael Hayes. We were also able to have lectures and ask questions of Dr. Eugene Wall and Dr. Patsy Daly of Mary Immaculate College. It was fascinating to hear the variations between the culture of education in the United States and Ireland. So far I have heard many accounts of the high value placed on professions in education in Ireland, differing from the “those who can’t do” philosophy of the United States. Irish teachers are trusted professionals, who are not constantly monitored and evaluated based on standardized scores. While students in Ireland take standardized assessments, they are not made public. School effectiveness is not based solely on these scores, removing the high stakes aspect of testing found in the United States. 

After our visit, we hopped on a bus bound for Kilcommon, where Father Michael Wall led us on a hike through the amazing fields and forests in the Irish countryside. We saw a mass stone, where Catholics practiced in secret under the penal laws. Three hours and hundreds of pictures later, we ate another enormous meal and headed off to our accommodations, another successful day on the books.

--Kelsey Thomas