Student applies classroom learning to cultural experience in IrelandBy Francis Ittenbach | 07/01/2015 12:44am
Francis Ittenbach, a senior English major, is studying abroad in Ireland. Photo courtesy of Francis Ittenback
Ireland. To my mind, the island’s name has always acted as a sort of spark that inevitably leads to a blaze of wanderlust. I have had a strong desire to visit the country for as long as I can remember. This summer, one of the University of Alabama’s faculty-led programs has allowed me to make my dream a reality and study at the National University of Ireland in Galway.
While in Galway, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in the hustle and bustle of everyday Irish life. Studying abroad forces one to step out of their comfort zone in a massive way, while providing a true opportunity for self-growth as well as a lovely way to experience a new slice of the world.
Of course, this is an academic trip first and foremost; yet, the classes have extended themselves beyond the halls of academia and have influenced my experience of the local culture. The classes here have helped to synthesize my knowledge of the ancient past and the present into a better understanding of the multiplicity of Irish identity, and have enriched my every experience. Whether I am having a pint of Guinness at a 400-year-old pub or gazing out across the ocean atop the Cliffs of Moher, I feel the weight of history and cultural pride lingering in every moment that I am here and in every interaction I have with the beautiful people of this country.
I may be a foreigner, but this culture has welcomed me and my fellow UA students as if we were its own. Yes, the accents are different and we may have a different idea of what “football” is, but at the core we are all human and my time here in Ireland has given me a glimpse into the lives and hearts of a people and culture half a world away from home.
Francis Ittenbach is a senior majoring in English.