Three weeks, three different cities in Ireland, and a new sightseeing location every 45 minutes—that was the mobile classroom in which Anna Caselli learned during her 25-day participation in the Ireland study abroad program.
Although Caselli’s favorite destination in Ireland was Connemara, the bucolic gem, it was her time in Kilkenny that served as her best exposure to real Irish culture. Following each daily bus tour, Caselli and some friends would talk to one of the owners of Lanagan’s Pub about Ireland. The owner was Hungarian by birth but had lived in Ireland long enough to be able to provide the students with invaluable insight into the Irish experience.
Caselli described the entire Connemara region as “a real testament to the beauty of unadulterated nature” and labeled Ireland much more eco-friendly than the United States, with the only human influence in the region being scattered hatched cottages and wind farms.
In Kilkenny, she stayed in Lanagan’s Hostel, owned by the same proprietor as the pub, where she roomed with ten other girls, sharing two bathrooms. “That was the hardest to adjust to,” she said, “because many of the girls had not shared rooms before. But we made it work, and it wasn’t too bad.”
She and her classmates also stayed in dormitories at the University of Galway and Trinity College in Dublin. Caselli took two courses—Introduction to Irish History and Independent Study. Her favorite was Irish History, because it applied to all of the sightseeing the class did.
The course work consisted of two essay tests (a midterm and a final), daily journal entries about the places the group visited, and a few essays. In short, she said, the course work was similar to that of a Stony Brook class.
You can’t eat the scenery, as the saying goes, but Caselli had ample time to sample the Irish cuisine. The day would start with a full Irish breakfast consisting of eggs, sausages, baked beans, bacon, two blood puddings, and chips (home-style fries). Lunch was generally soup with sandwiches and scones. “Dinner could be anything,” said Caselli, and her group’s favorites were Guinness (beef) stew, shepherd’s pie, bacon-stuffed potatoes, or various meat dishes. Being a vegetarian did not present problems for Caselli. “Italian foods and salads were surprisingly good and never hard to find,” she said.
She recommends Ireland as an ideal first study abroad experience for a variety of reasons: even in regions where the Irish speak Gaelic, she said, the people with whom she spoke switched to English.
Much has been said about Irish hospitality, and Caselli said she experienced it firsthand. When one of her friends broke her shoe in Galway, a restaurant owner took about ten minutes to try and fix the shoe herself. Afterward, the restaurant owner kept coming back to see how the glue had set and seemed concerned for her well-being.
Since her return to the United States on June 24, Caselli has had time to reflect. She said she plans to enroll in another study abroad because she does not want her Irish experience to be her last overseas academic adventure. She plans to travel either to France for a semester, trying to perfect the language she studied in high school, or enroll in a summer session in Madagascar, which would complement her major, anthropology.