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Exploring Agricultural Leadership in Europe: Ireland, the Celtic Tiger and Modern Agriculture: Andrew Schlegel

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Posted: November 10, 2011

Growing up I always heard people talk about Ireland and how beautiful it is and that if I ever got a chance to travel there I should take it. In the Spring semester of 2011 that opportunity had presented itself...

...and I decided to jump at the chance of a life time that I had heard so many people talk about. I had traveled to England, France, Switzerland, and Germany in high school and then I traveled to Paris, France for 2 weeks after the spring 2010 semester with The College of Agricultural Sciences and I was expecting Ireland to be similar to these other European countries. Since Ireland is an island and very close to England I was expecting for my experience from England to be very similar to what I was going to experience in Ireland. After spending two weeks in Ireland, my assumptions about Ireland were completely different than what I expected.

The first thing that I can share is that the weather in Ireland is unpredictable and changes constantly. From my trip to Paris during the same time of year I expected the weather to be in the 70°F range so I packed several pairs of shorts and only two pairs of long pants. I sure do wish that I would have packed more pants because for the trip being from the end of May into June, it sure was cold and windy in Ireland. It also rains a lot in Ireland and is very windy especially if you are near the Ocean we were in both Dublin and Galway.

For this trip the group of Ag Advocates stayed in Dublin for the first week and then moved by train to Galway, which is on the west coast, for the second week. While in Dublin we toured some of the popular tourist attractions, did a city bus tour, visited the Guinness Factory and the Jameson Distillery, we visited Alltech and the Irish National Stud and we also visited The University College Dublin. I liked Dublin but at times I felt like it was a little more touristy than what I liked. Being a Food Science major I enjoyed visiting the Guinness Factory and learning about how they make beer. I got to learn about how Guinness is made differently than other beers and why it has such a darker color. Also, a fun fact that I learned was that Arthur Guinness leased the factory and land for 9,000 years and that there is still 8,748 years left on the lease. SchlegelIreland2.pngAlltech was also interesting because they are becoming a big company in the Agriculture field dealing with food, feed and animals and we got to learn about all the scientific research they are doing across the world. I am not a horse person but visiting the Irish National Stud was a great place to visit and learn about horses and how the race horse industry works. The place that I wish we would have visited and had planned to visit was the US Embassy in Dublin. Our visit got cancelled because President Obama was in Dublin and giving a speech so we were not allowed to be near the embassy. The University College Dublin was great to walk around the campus and see their agricultural college. Their college is all in one building as compared to different buildings like here at Penn State. Some professors talked about to us about rural and community development and also their dean came and talked to us about the college in general. So I got to learn a lot about how the two colleges are different from one another and how they are similar. Probably the coolest place we visited in Ireland was the Newgrange which is a huge mound with a stone chamber inside that we went in and explored. Newgrange is older than the Pyramids in Egypt and on the Winter Solstice there are two beams of light that come through the chamber and meet at a spot right in the middle of the chamber. It was such an interesting place to explore and learn the history of.

After traveling to Galway, we visited the National University of Ireland, Galway and again got to talk with several professors from different departments and learn about how Penn State and NUI differ from one another. At NUI we had professors from the Community Development Programme and the Political Science and Sociology Department come and talk to us. From there we visited the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization where we got to sit down and have a formal meeting with the founder of the organization and see what they are doing all over the world with teaching kids and adults basic skills and how they are trying to better the lives of so many people across the globe. That is one meeting that I will never forget on this trip. Another place that we got to visit was the Teagasc Agriculture Social Science Center where I learned a lot about Irish agriculture. We had someone come in and talk to use about the dairy industry, organic agriculture, crops grown in Ireland, sheep agriculture and how the recently poor Irish economy is affecting each section of agriculture. Some tourist stuff that we did in Galway was that we went to the Cliffs of Mohre, the Burren and we visited an area of Ireland called the Connemara. SchlegelIreland3.pngThose trips were all interesting in themselves because we got to see the landscape of Ireland see how the environment differs from Pennsylvania. We also got to visit the Aran Islands which are islands off the west coast of Ireland and have some of the most spectacular views and scenery that I have ever seen.

Overall, I loved this trip. Ireland is like no other country in the world. The climate is completely different from anywhere, the scenery is just breath taking and the people are so nice. The one interesting thing that I noticed in Ireland was that the people there love our President Barack Obama because when he visited they came to see him in the thousands and basically shut down the city of Dublin. The people of Ireland are so nice and they will sit down and tell you anything you want to know about their country while you relax in a pub and have a pint. I learned a lot about the agriculture of Ireland and the European Union on this trip and about how they have a lot of very small farms and how sheep play a huge role in their economy and agriculture system. Ireland is definitely one place that I plan to return to in the future.