Above, all 15 students who participated in the Irish travel study course taught by Dr. Anthony Daly, associate professor of history, at the Black Freren Gate, entrance to medieval Kilkenny. Below, from left, Kelly Charest ’16, Jessica Wojcik ’16, Nicole LoGiudice ’17 and Alexandra Kadell ’16 on the Antrim Coast.
Students Explore their Irish Roots
For Jessica Wojcik ’16 of Cheshire, Mass., whose great, great grandfather came to America from County Cork, Ireland, the opportunity to visit the homeland of her ancestors was irresistible.
“I thought it would be cool to study their history,” Wojcik said. In addition, “I had studied some of Ireland’s geography in the past, and thought it would be great to finally visit the places I have researched.”
Like Wojcik, Joshua Hunter ’16 of Schenevus, N.Y., and Alex Hicks-Courant ’16 of Watertown, Mass., also have Irish roots.
“Having family ties in Ireland made me want to go and learn about the history of the country, and really submerge myself into a new and different culture,” Hunter said.
“Irish culture has always interested me, particularly art, storytelling, and music,” Hicks-Courant explained. “The opportunity to study Irish history and travel to Ireland with a group of fellow community members was too good to pass up.
“I didn't realize until the course started that Irish history is also fascinating,” he continued. “I've never been so interested in history, as I was in this course. … This trip gave me a new way of looking at history and absolutely contributed to my understanding of globalization, politics, culture and the human condition.”
For Wojcik, the highlight of the trip was a tour of the Antrim Coast: “The views were breathtaking,” she said.
“We saw the Dunluce Castle, the Giant’s Causeway, and walked across the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. I wanted to see the Giant's Causeway ever since I did a report on it in the fourth grade,” Wojcik said.
“The coast was gorgeous. The sun was shining bright all day. I was able to get some amazing pictures on the edge of some cliffs, as well as walk among the 40,000 basalt columns that were formed by a volcano over 60 million years ago,” Wojcik added.
Ireland’s cities fascinated Hicks-Courant.
“We spent four days in Dublin, and walked all over,” Hicks-Courant said. “It was walkable and clean, with historically relevant statues and structures all over the place. We were steeped in culture, old and modern, with every block.”
At Kilkenny, the students listened to “amazing music,” played a Gaelic sport called Hurling, and “saw many more incredible pieces of history, such as streets, statues, churches, towers,” Hicks-Courant said.
Another highlight was a Black Taxi Tour in Belfast, where local guides shared their personal stories of life in that city.
“[They] drove us around segregated Belfast and broke down for us the history of the neighborhoods, the events that transpired, and the experiences they had that contributed to the modern culture surrounding the Catholic/Protestant tensions,” Hicks-Courant said. “It was incredible, and probably one of my favorite learning experiences in my four years at MCLA."
The trip deepened Hunter’s appreciation for Ireland.
“The Irish people have gone through so much, and throughout history have shown so much passion for their own country,” Hunter said. “When I stood in the middle of O’Connell Square in Dublin, surrounded by all of the monuments representing Irish history, I felt pride for Ireland. It was amazing and cannot be explained in words.”