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Ireland - Courtney Cowden

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Posted: November 3, 2011

I had a wonderful time, and gained knowledge and experiences I never could have learned from a textbook. Clearly, the best way to learn is by doing.

The opportunity to travel to Ireland was a fantastic experience. Although we only spent two weeks abroad, it was an experience that will always be memorable to me.
Since Ireland was my first international experience, I was apprehensive at first.  After planning for the trip throughout the entire spring semester, getting to know the others going along and working hard to research Irish history, I was extremely excited to see the rolling green hills first hand.

The first week of our trip was spent in Dublin, the busy, popular city on the eastern coast of Ireland. The sights and sounds of the city were simply breathtaking. The historical buildings, brick laid streets and small town feel made Dublin quickly feel like home. We spent this week staying in the Kilronan House, just a few blocks away from the busy shopping center of Grafton Street and Temple Bar.  We were within walking distance of numerous historical sites, parks, tourist attractions and even the football stadium.

CowdenIreland1.pngWe spent some time exploring the city of Dublin, except for the day that President Obama came to speak. We could get nowhere near the inner city, and spent most of the evening dodging traffic, attempting to get a glimpse of his speech. From Dublin, we also traveled to numerous experiential learning places. We were able to attend the Irish National Stud and Museum, The Japanese Gardens, All-Tech, UC Dublin and even see a show in The Abbey Theatre.  Although each and every part of the trip was a learning experience, the unplanned events soon become a memorable part.

While visiting All-Tech, we were informed of a Farmers Protest taking place in the city center. Irish farmers from County Dublin and around began to drive tractors, hay wagons and even bring animals into the city center to form a protest. When we arrived, farmers were walking through the very busy streets of Dublin, escorted by police on all sides. Although we did not necessarily see the outcome, the peaceful protest in support of the local farmers was very interesting.

Another favorite part of our time in Dublin was visiting University College Dublin. We had meetings with their dean of students as well as faculty members and staff within the College of Agriculture. I was surprised by the amount of similarities between UCD and Penn State.

After packing up our home for a week, we traveled to Galway by train. This was my first experience on a “real” train, and I loved it. It proved to be a great way to see the countryside. When we arrived in Galway, we were greeted by beautiful apartments overlooking the canal leading into NUI Galway.

CowdenIreland2.pngGalway provided an entirely different atmosphere than Dublin. It’s a much smaller city, with narrow, winding streets and is centered around the bay. I found it to be breathtaking.

From Galway, we traveled via bus to our tours which included the Teagasc Ag Social Science center, similar to our extension service. We spent the day touring their research facility. Since animals in Ireland consume a mostly grass based diet for the entire year, their research focuses mostly on agronomy rather than live animal. However, we did view their animal handling facility and barns. 

On our last day in Galway, we traveled via ferry to the Aran Islands. The island has a population of about 1200 people full time. A group of us spent the day biking along the beach of the island, enjoying the sights, the agriculture production and the lifestyle of the island.

I have obviously skipped over tons of details of a fantastic trip to Ireland. And we really did cram as much as we possibly could into a two week time frame.