[dublin] When communications senior Jimmy Donnellon signed up to spend the summer of 2003 abroad in Dublin, Ireland he did much more than simply study the Irish Film and Literature that the program required. He traced his family’s roots back to the home where his great grandmother grew up, learned how to drive on European roads, and even gained a new appreciation for Irish cuisine and the ever-versatile potato.
“The coolest thing about visiting Ireland for me was the fact that I have relatives there,” he said.
Jimmy’s great-grandmother immigrated to America at the age of 15. While he was in Ireland, Donnellon met up with one of his Irish cousins, Sarah, who took him to see the house where their great-grandmother had lived before leaving her homeland. Taking Jimmy to see the house was a very emotional experience for Sarah. It meant a lot to her to have a family member from America come back to Ireland and show appreciation for the country and people that he came from.
Thanks to Sarah, Jimmy was able to experience a different aspect of Ireland than many of his study abroad peers. She took him on weekend trips and even let him drive a little, an experience many travelers avoid because the Irish drive on the left side of the road.
“The only thing weird about it is shifting with your left hand,” he claimed.
One of their weekend trips was to a sports complex where Jimmy was able to meet a lot of other Irish people his age. There, they taught Jimmy the art of “hurling,” a game that he said is similar to field hockey except the goals have uprights that can also be scored in. After mastering hurling, as he claims to have done, Jimmy took time to teach a few of the Irish students one of his favorite pastimes, Ultimate Frisbee.
Jimmy’s academic portion of the summer was centered at Trinity College in the heart of Dublin. On his particular program, a typical day of classes involved watching Irish movies in the morning, listening to lectures on poetry in the afternoon, and attending stage productions in the evenings.
“We would get up in the mornings and walk to an Irish film center in downtown Dublin,” he remembers. “The films and books usually ended sad, but they would also mix humor in with it. You could be crying and laughing at the same time,” he added.
Another memorable discovery that Jimmy made in Ireland was his love of “chips,” the UK version of the french fry. “I ate a lot of fish and chips,” he said. “I just loved chips with vinegar.”
“The service in Ireland was amazing,” Jimmy added, remembering one of his favorite restaurants, The Couch Potato. As one would assume from its name, this restaurant served mainly stuffed potatoes and offered just about every potato topping imaginable.
While he wasn’t feasting on potatoes, hurling, or climbing the family tree, Jimmy also found time to experience Ireland’s typical tourist attractions—walking along the Cliffs of Moor, visiting Aran Island, and of course, kissing the Blarney Stone.
Not only did Donnellon’s study abroad experience introduce him to Irish film and literature, fish and chips and of course an authentic pub or two– it also allowed him to learn about his family’s history firsthand. His was an experience that’s not typically outlined in a study abroad syllabus.