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An Irish Odyssey - Katie Laughlin, Ag. Sciences major, Ag Communications, Ag Business Management, International Ag minors

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Posted: December 18, 2012

It’s one thing to go to class with great people at a great University, but experiencing a country like Ireland with them is so much better.
Students at the Hill of Tara

Students at the Hill of Tara

I spent a little over a week in Ireland and it is a week that I will never forget. Travelling with Penn State and the great students in the College of Ag was one of the best decisions I have made in my college career.  It’s one thing to go to class with great people at a great University, but experiencing a country like Ireland with them is so much better. 

In the spring of 2012, I enrolled in Hort 299—the Landscapes and Gardens of Ireland.  It was always a dream of mine to travel, and Ireland was always one of my top picks.  Travelling with the College of Ag, I was able to mix my love of travel with my love of agriculture.  LaughlinIreland2.pngOur class was focused on the landscapes and history of Ireland, but we were also assigned to research a topic of Ireland and present our findings in a weekly blog post.  Because I grew up on a dairy farm, I wanted to see how Ireland’s dairy industry was similar or different than what we have in the United States.  It was a lot of fun to explore an area that I am so closely related to here and then actually see it in person.

We started our journey in early May when we flew into Dublin.  Dublin is a city much like any American city, but it is starkly different in the people that inhabit it.  We were welcomed with open arms wherever we went, even if we weren’t quite sure how to use our Euros yet.  The first night we visited the Brazen Head Pub, the oldest pub in Dublin.  We were treated to a traditional Irish dinner, folklore, and traditional music.  It was here that I learned to always respect the fairies or bad things would come my way.  Myths like this have been passed through centuries of history and are still told to children today.  I liked the idea that they found their ancestor’s stories and traditions to be silly, but they still respected them.  Listening to their stories and their music, I felt very close to Ireland’s culture.

We visited a lot of locations all throughout Ireland that had a lot of historic and national significance.  One of our first stops was the Hill of Tara which was the seat of the High Kings.  It is said that in ancient times people would come to touch the stone at the top of the Hill of Tara.  If the stone screamed, you were the new king.  Sadly, we all touched the stone and none of us is Irish Royalty.

LaughlinIreland3.pngOne of my favorite parts of our trip was interacting with all of the locals.  Irish people are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet.  One night in Dublin, we were a little shy about walking into random pubs and talking to strangers.  As we were trying to look through the pub door’s stain glass window, an old man said “you can see better if you open the door and walk in.”  He invited us in with him and asked all about us and told us good places to visit for the rest of our trip.

This trip gave me a lot of good opportunities to talk to people who have a completely different background than my own.  I learned a lot about other people’s perspectives and that it is important to remember that people have different influences on their decisions.  I think this can really be effective in my future leadership roles.  Looking at a different culture helped me to appreciate that everyone has something they can contribute in accomplishing a goal.