A Field Trip in Ireland to Remember

Only offered in the summer, the USAC Galway program provides students with a unique opportunity to study abroad in Ireland for five weeks. Offering academic coursework in literature, history, theatre, music, and the Gaelic language, many of these courses include enticing field trips offering hands-on experience with the subject matter. Carolyn Worden studied abroad in Galway for Summer 2017 and in the following article, she recaps her experience on the USAC field trip to Inishbofin, Yeat’s Tower, and Coole Park Estate as part of her Literature and Theatre Course.

A Field Trip in Ireland to Remember

Inishbofin is an island that sits seven miles from the mainland out in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s quite an isolated place. Families who live there have been there for centuries and its ecosystem, different from that of the mainland, has made the island a site of interest for many ecologists. While living in such isolation for extended periods of time may not be ideal for a person’s psychological health, experiencing it, in brief, was great for clearing my mind.

As we neared the island on the ferry, I could sense the isolation right away. Houses were humbly nestled into the side of long, grassy slopes and an array of stone walls was spread to demarcate the near-empty pastures where the sheep and cattle grazed. And as the ferry started to pull into the harbor, we could see the ruins of a fort which only the grazing sheep continued to inhabit. It all looked pretty bleak under the gray, cloud-filled sky. Once we landed, we had lunch with hot coffee and tea to warm our bodies that were left shivering from the cold, Atlantic wind.

After having eaten lunch, we started our walk around the island. With the harbor located on the south side, we headed west to walk along the southern edge of the island. We passed by the town, walking the paved road that was barely big enough for two cars to pass by each other. The silence in the town was heavy. Closed doors and closed curtains and hardly a human in sight; only the lone bicycle rider who greeted our tour guide as we passed by. Someone next to me commented on how hard it must be to live there, how lonely it must get. We continued walking until we got to the green road, which was in the pasture area where the sheep and the cattle grazed. Some of us were joking and laughing about the cute, bleating sheep but it was hard to ignore the fact that we were the only source of sound on this part of the island. While it made others talk all the more, it drew me quiet so that I was only a pair of eyes drawing in everything around me.

We walked until we reached the western side of the island, where the tour guide casually stopped us among the deserted pastures to talk about what was left of a fort that used to stand on the point. But, even now, I can’t remember what he said. I was too distracted by the way the ground this fort had once stood on sloped upward to create this massive dune right on the edge of the cliffs. I couldn’t even see the top of it from where I stood down below. But I knew there was something waiting on the other side, something important to see. I had to climb up there to know. Once he was done and let us go, I raced up to the top to see what was to be found.

And what I found was gorgeous; the wind, the water, everything. Life was different up there with the stronger breezes and the waves crashing down on the rocks below. Up there, it felt like the rest of my life, with all of its usual worries and desires, was stripped away so that all I was left with was the wind and the grass and the waves. It was a major relief, getting away from my normal life for that brief moment. I knew I could never live there because normal life would just settle back in again as everything became routine. But it was the brevity, the distance I had from what others would’ve considered normalcy that gave the place and its inherent isolation that magical quality.

We were on top of the dune for only a few minutes before we had to move on. There was more of the island to see and we had to catch the ferry at five. The rest of it was a dream. I find myself looking back on that memory and reliving it over and over again in my mind. I think it’s become my place of zen; the place I go to whenever I need to get away without going anywhere. I would like to go back there someday to freshen up that image. But as of right now, this one memory is plenty enough.

Learn more about studying abroad in Galway