This summer I had the indelible opportunity to spend three weeks in Ireland thanks to the Alice and Ray Drum British Isles Summer Travel Award. I am forever grateful for that life-changing opportunity, in terms of the learning experience, cultural experience, and friendships I have made. (In photo #1, I am on the right with my new friend Veronica on the left).
Although the Yeats Summer School which I attended did not begin until July 21st, I arrived two weeks earlier to spend time exploring the country as a whole. For this part, I brought my grandpa (photo #2) who was very excited to be out of the country for the first time, as well as to reunite with the land of our ancestors.
We spent the first week in Dublin, exploring the many museums, castles, and icons that the city had to offer. Although it proved to be a little too big and busy for my grandpa, I fell in love. The city was vibrant and exuded history, culture, and adventure. The brick buildings crawling with ivy felt like home.
The picture to the right is of an amazing statue in Trinity College (photo #3) which, for some reason, reminds me of Yeats’ “The Second Coming.” I think maybe because it looks like a crumbling world (or maybe it’s just because I was in Yeats’ country and everything reminded me of his poetry).
From Dublin, we also took tours to the Giant’s Causeway, the Dark Hedges, and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge one day, and the Wicklow Mountains, Glendalough Nature Reserve/Monastic City and Kilkenny Castle another.
After that, we left Dublin and stayed with a lovely couple in Carrigaline near Cork. We visited the beautiful University of Cork, the English Market, and a festival in the park. Then, Limerick and the cutest little town in Ireland: Adare, where we tried homemade fudge, visited the shops, and took in the thatched roof cottages.
We also visited the Bunratty Castle and the Blarney Castle (photo #4), where we kissed the Blarney Stone (hopefully I’ll get the “gift of gab”).
From there, we moved to Galway and took a tour to the Cliffs of Moher, which were absolutely splendid. Part of me never wanted to leave. But when I got to County Sligo, I was glad I did.
On July 21st, the 10-day Yeats Summer School program--and the real fun--began. I met friends from all over the world! We bonded over our shared slang and taught each other weird phrases specific to our own party of the world. I’m sure we all went home saying them. The blending and sharing of cultures was one of the coolest parts of the international school.
However, the school itself had a lot to offer on its own. A typical day included:
- Two morning lectures by brilliant professors on topics varying from Knocking Yeats to Yeats and Plantation Modernism
- A small seminar group in which we discussed the poetry of Yeats, Heaney, Boland, and other modern Irish poets
- Readings by new Irish writers such as poet Paula Meehan and novelist Colm Toibin
- And a variety of cultural experiences that varied from excursions to Yeats’ tower Thoor Ballylee and Coole Park, a boat trip to the Isle of Innisfree, hiking Mount Knocknarea (photo #5), and visiting Yeats’ grave at Drumcliffe (photo #6), to Christine Toibin’s scintillating jazz renditions of Yeats’ poetry, as well as plays, musical seisuns, and Irish step dancing. (Personally, as a cellist, I was astounded by the brilliant, wicked improvisation of the cellist in Christine Toibin’s jazz ensemble and had the great opportunity of meeting her and discussing the music and her cello-oriented life after the concert!).
Honestly, I can’t choose my favorite part, because all of it was amazing. As a photographer, the beautiful countryside (photo #7) entranced me. As a cellist, the music and dance enthralled me. As a writer, the inspiring landscape and readings of Yeats’ poetry bewitched me (especially when combined at once). As a (lifelong) student, the brilliant lectures, discussions and teachings expanded my mind in a way it had never been before.