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Ireland – Truly Greener Pastures by Cullen Dixon, Plant Sciences Major, Plant Pathology Minor

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Posted: June 21, 2018

“What made this trip so perfect for myself was the fact that, as a new world traveler, taking a trip to a land which shares such a great deal of similarities with our own, made the transition far easier.”
While visiting the Cliffs of Moher the group was able to explore the cliffs’ many walking paths, both the safe and more perilous, and many great photo opportunities abounded with the superb weather.

While visiting the Cliffs of Moher the group was able to explore the cliffs’ many walking paths, both the safe and more perilous, and many great photo opportunities abounded with the superb weather.

This past Maymester I, Cullen Dixon (class of 2019), was fortunate enough to travel to the Republic of Ireland with who have become some of my close friends over the course of our ten days abroad! The embedded course was constructed with the premise in mind that the journey would not only allow for the students embarking on the trip to learn about the history of the Potato Famine through first-hand encounters in-country, but also enjoy the many tourist, cultural, and natural beauty offerings the land had to offer. Over the course of our time in Ireland we visited so many memorable locations there would be no way to cover them all in their due length in this narrative! From the Cliffs of Moher to Waterford Crystal, to the International Famine Museum, no two sites featured the same information making for the experience to not only be highly enjoyable but also remarkably unique in that each locale offered something different from the next. I truly believe the trinkets in the gift shops were the only parts of the trip that were repeated throughout! In our time in Ireland, we visited jails used to house IRA members, traversed rocky shorelines with beautifully clear water flanked by pristine green fields, toured Blarney Castle, ate at the restaurants of Dublin, perused around many little fishing villages, and enjoyed Galway. We even toured agricultural research stations in agronomic crops, sheep, and potato production amongst many other amazing locales!

The aspect of the trip I personally enjoyed the most was the ability to travel to another country and experience their way of life. This being my first trip abroad I was unsure of what to expect for certain, but I was quite sure that Ireland would not differ all that greatly from the lives we all lead here in the US. I can say that I was indeed correct in this assumption as almost all facets of their life vary quite little from our American lives we live out today. Even such happenings as American news stories were covered in full in their daily news and contemporary music was heard throughout the streets. While Irish traditional music is very popular in Ireland, and European and their own politics do indeed pervade their culture widely, American ‘cultural exports’ shape their lives greatly. I found this aspect to be particularly surprising as the degree to which it pervaded their lives was in my opinion almost shocking.

What made this trip so perfect for myself was the fact that, as a new world traveler, taking a trip to a land which shares such a great deal of similarities with our own, made the transition far easier. Being an English speaking country, it allowed us to overcome the most challenging hurdle of any international experience – the language barrier. Furthermore, the food, though unique, was still ‘Western’ in its general composition. Ingredients of potatoes abounded and meat products such as lamb and fish are dietary items we enjoy in the US regularly and are seen widely in Ireland. These sometimes overlooked particulars of visiting a foreign country without a doubt made this first international experience for me much more hospitable. While their culture indeed differed from the ‘standard’ US culture it did not vary to such a degree that I felt alienated or uneasy at any point in the excursion.

England, Scotland, and Ireland, as aforementioned, are very similar to the US in many ways – a point which the trip allowed me to confirm for myself. It taught me that there are many places in the world that share very Americanized experiences from restaurant food to culture to simply flying the American flag over a bar because the owner ‘simply has forever’. While I did expect Ireland to share a great many of cultural facets with us in America, the trip taught me that some places are practically the United States slightly changed, and thus, are practically us. Another way of viewing this is that the United States is a slightly changed version of ‘England/Scotland/Ireland/etc.’. This statement alone proves that the trip has allowed me to view cultures across the globe in a new light. I now recognize that so many places in the world mirror each other very closely to a degree to which I had not previously appreciated.

This parlays very well into my final point, how an employer may view an experience such as mine. After having seen the differences (or lack thereof) between the potato producers of Pennsylvania and Ireland and touring many agricultural facilities in Ireland, it is clear that the world must work together to progress agriculture as each country specializes in certain products due to their climatic regions. We in America are very fortunate to have the ability to grow such a variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains. While for certain market segments we may not meet our demand domestically, it is still remarkable that we possess such a diverse climate across our country that allows us the ability at all to produce such products as tomatoes, oranges, cranberries, and corn in the same country. Ireland is a prime example of many lands however whose climate is singular in nature and as such only certain commodities may be grown there. Potatoes, sheep, forage, and milk products are by in large the staples of the agricultural industry of Ireland and other products must be imported. Global trade agreements and the miracles of modern transportation allow for peoples across the globe to eat products which are not able to be grown in their own country, no matter how singular their agricultural sector may be. The trip allowed me to appreciate far more fully the awe-strikingly interconnected nature of the global commodity trade and how vitally important it is to countries such as Ireland’s of the world as their climate dictates such a narrow array of arable crops in such a wet, cool climate.

Overall the experience has become one of my most memorable college experiences.  From our great instructors and tour guide to the sights to the people in my group, it was an extraordinary experience that I am very pleased I was able to attend!