Story by Sam Bell, Opinion Editor
Photo courtesy Sam Bell
About 14 months ago, I, as well as 19 other Aquinas students, received the news that we had been accepted into the Ireland Study Abroad Program for the Spring 2017 semester. Fast forward to present day: we have been living our dream for the past three months. Over the weeks and months, we have made this place home.
We stay in cottages that range from two to five people and have one study cottage. The cottages line the main road in Tully Cross, and on the other side of them are the two pubs and the home of our dog companion, Bertie. Behind the cottages we are lucky enough to have a beautiful view of Maol Reidh, one of the many hills (mountains) in the area. It’s truly a great way to wake up every morning. Our cottages are allowed to be heated for two hours a day or so, so most of the students have become professional turf fire builders to keep our homes warm. This has been an adventure and great life skill to learn, as well as something we are very proud of. Refer to our Snapchats for proof of our fire pride.
We have also gotten involved with the locals by working at various locations for internships. Some work with nonprofits, the local doctor, and even a radio station! It’s a great way to give back to the community we stay in and learn valuable skills that we will use in our lives.
Outside of classes and our individual internships, our free time is spent at the pub. We have built strong relationships with the owners and staff and they treat us as if we are locals, which, in a way, I suppose now we are. We have become close with a handful of the local lads as well, who never fail to give us a laugh. They are a great group of guys, and really have made us feel at home since day one. With their help, we have also improved our pool game tenfold since we arrived. Pool is a huge part of Tully Cross culture, and we jumped right into that hobby here. Four of us have even won the mixed doubles weekly pool tournament!
The most important thing I’ve found over time here is the family I now have that I didn’t, prior to this trip. This group of people who were basically strangers when we hopped on the plane not even three months ago are now people I turn to every day and have become some of my best friends. They are there for me on my bad days, willing to do anything to help, and are there to celebrate any of life’s victories or just relax and listen to Ed Sheeran on repeat, which tends to be a daily occurrence. I have found in these people a group that has all of the best qualities; qualities I strive to have. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to call best friends and family.
It is hard to believe we have already been in Ireland almost three months and have one month until returning to the States. I can’t imagine not waking up in the morning to my cold cottage with my three amazing roommates and beautiful scenery right outside my front door. This experience has taught me so many important lessons, and I’ve learned so much about Ireland as well as myself. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.