International Studies & Programs

In Their Shoes

In Their Shoes

By: Molly Cook

In my Nike sneakers I got my first glimpse of Irish soil. My first interactions with the people were cultivated through tired eyes as I managed to listen to our guide talk about their beautiful country and culture. I listened as the customs agent asked me a question in a thick accent, and gave me a quaint smile to greet me into Ireland. First impression? Pleasant.

In my rain boots I learned the history of Galway, Ireland from a sweet old man named Liam. I witnessed the amiability between the people as he greeted a few men with a hello and a wave of his cane. I saw the friendliness and shy waves of children in strollers as they made their way through Kennedy Park, which I learned was famously named after our own John F. Kennedy. I saw the ways of nightlife while it poured and I stomped through puddles on the cobblestone. Bartenders gave you a smile and joked around even when they knew you were a traveler. First impression? Comfortable.

With no shoes I saw a whole other side of Ireland. I was isolated in a small dorm room in the middle of Antrim, Ireland which is infested by green fields and farms only. I witnessed the quiet solitude one could find in the heart of Ireland’s beauty and nature. The social impression I had obtained from the country now been challenged by the small town twenty minutes away that seemed deserted except for a person here or there. First impression? Confused.

In my hiking boots I discovered the true history of Ireland: the Gaelic community, language, and ways of life. A woman showed me their traditions of making food and upholding

the house, which sported dirt floors and a kettle over the fire for cooking. Their historic meals and treats they make was demonstrated for us, and she offered for us to taste samples to distinguish the difference between their food and what we would find in the cities. She sang an ancient song for us in the native language of Gaelic, and explained how they are one of the villages who still rely on the traditional Irish language and practices. First impression? Eye-opening.

In my heels I had the opportunity to witness an iconic Irish production: Riverdance. The story of Ireland’s struggles and rise to independence portrayed through song and dance was uplifting and entertaining, let alone known worldwide as a professional renowned production. I saw how invested these actors were into the performance and how well they showed the emotion and suffering of the Irish people. Truly a show that changed my outlook on the history of Ireland and how appreciative I should be for my ancestry. First impression? Amazing.

In their shoes I stepped for two weeks, my existence feeling like I had been thrown into the bodies of the Irish people for longer than I had imagined as I discovered the history, horror, and hierarchy of the small island. I walked the cobblestone streets and rode the crowded buses in search of a way to understand a way of life not only for them, but for myself back home. First impression? Inspired.

In my shoes I stepped back on U.S. soil with a new outlook on life and a sorrow for leaving my short-lived life in Ireland. The culture I was immersed in felt like a routine and the ways of my own people felt more foreign than where I had just been. The appreciation for friendliness and history I obtained was phenomenal, the roots I saw they still had tied down in their culture and put to use everyday was inspiring. Study abroad made me think and see in ways I have not before and I can owe that to the dear citizens of Ireland. The culture difference will impact my career in Psychology for the better and I feel the about of communication I learned to require will benefit working with families and children. Final impression? Changed.

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