An American Experience of Study Abroad
When I took the opportunity to study abroad in Dublin, I did not know what I was getting myself into. I was always accustomed to driving to class and wide open roads with trees on either sides winding through the hills of the northeast. Visiting New York and Boston was always fascinating to me because of the hustle and bustle of the city. Where do you find time to relax? This is my first time living in a city and walking and taking the bus took some time to get accustomed to. I was nervous to be in an unfamiliar place with a different culture. When I was dropped at the apartments I was right in the heart of the city. I did not see the farmlands and wide open pastures I expected. The first week in Dublin was amazing, I was able to have my first pint of Guinness, as well get a sense of direction within the town. Study abroad classes started and I was in the full swing of things. As a study abroad group, we have visited the Cliffs of Moher, as well as Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway. We took a hike up bray head on a beautiful sunny afternoon, and I’ve even gone to Lisbon Portugal with friends. As interesting as this all was, the best part of my study abroad time has been working with Experience Gaelic Games.
Having a sports background, as well playing rugby in high school, I landed a study abroad internship at Experience Gaelic games. After working in a local toy store, this proved to be an amazing opportunity. I have a chance to work with a global company that deals with groups from all over the world. When I first arrived at Na Fianna, I did not fully understand what the club was there for. I wondered as well what was the Gaelic Athletic Association overall. The morning group filled the introduction area as my attention was drawn to Cormac. The explanation from Cormac of the games was a turning point to my interest with the games.
Since 1884 the games have been played across Ireland promoting the idea of community within your club. The pride and honor that comes with playing for your club, and even furthermore your county side was an appealing aspect of the game. I was not surprised to hear that these athletes train just as hard as any other professional athletes, but they all have their day jobs. There is no compensation for dedicating your life to the game. It quickly became apparent through the athletes at EGG that these sports are not just sports, but a way of life.
When the athletes at Experience Gaelic Games were talking about the all-Ireland finals, I was curious to what this entailed. They suggested I go to Quinn’s Pub on Drumcondra road to watch the match. My second week in Dublin, I was still new to the town and had never been near Croke park, but have heard amazing things. The pub was packed with fans who couldn’t get tickets to the game, and the atmosphere was eccentric. The fans were dressed in their team’s colors with face painting and crazy wigs. I was amazed to see the turnout to just one of the pubs and how many people cared about these matches. Not only was this a native sport to Ireland, it was the sport most communities cared for. After watching my first hurling match I was hooked. I continued to watch all of the finals games between the weeks in September. Walking out of my apartment on the 17th, the whole town was covered in blue. I saw caravans of horse and carriages with fans screaming the “boys in blue” song.
After September and the first day in October, I completely stopped watching American football and Soccer overall. I was immersed in the culture behind the games and did not want to stop there. When the all-Ireland finals were over I did not know where I would see another match. I quickly picked up on the club championships and went to see my first live hurling match at Parnell Park. I was able to learn the game even better, understanding the skills and penalties that all groups learn at Experience Gaelic Games, and applying them to a real time game.
I watched colleagues at work battle it out on the pitch, playing in the games that they demonstrate daily to groups at Experience Gaelic Games. An amazing rush of happiness came over me when watching the Na Fianna Senior hurlers duke it out against O’Tooles. This sense of pride within the club was a feeling I got to experience firsthand cheering for my team. Throughout my time with Experience Gaelic Games, I have felt like I am a part of the team myself. Being around for all the jokes and great craic the guys have about their weekends, as well walking through the doors to one of the most well established clubs in all of Ireland. The sense of community that these games brought about is something that I suggest everybody to try.
Throughout my study abroad internship I have always been involved with some amazing activities. I had the opportunity the pass the sliotar while kayaking down the liffey, taking in a different point of view. I have also been to the hills on the outskirts of Dublin where I flew from tree to tree on zip lines with a hurl in my hand. I have also witnessed the athletes of Experience Gaelic games hitting Sliotars off the top of the jeep while it was flooring around the field. My first week we traveled to the Carton house to immerse the Boston College football team. I saw some classmates from high school that were on the team, and they loved the experience. After understanding the culture behind the games the team got to participate and learn some skills between the sports. All of these activities have always reminded me the best aspect about Experience Gaelic Games, it is to always have fun with what you do.
When groups come in to Experience Gaelic Games, they truly get an insider look at the pride and sense of community that club members share. The Gaelic Athletic Association is a way of life, and you get to experience it first hand at Experience Gaelic Games. When my school came learning the skills of each game, it provided to be one of the best experience for my friends and I. At EGG you get a full immersion into the culture behind the games in a fun environment that suits the needs of all different groups. I would highly suggest this activity to anyone who is willing to immerse themselves in the culture. Experience Gaelic Games has changed the way I will carry out my life. I hope you have the opportunity as well.
All the best,