I remember hearing stories about Ireland from my grandparents and picturing it as a magical, wonderful place. It was always, in a way, a huge part of my life, especially when it came to music. Irish bands, songs, and instruments quickly became a familiarity growing up and I learned to greatly respect and enjoy the genre. So at our common family dinners, traditional Irish music playing in the background, I listened to tales of Ireland, noting the Brennan family pride, and decided I wanted to see this wonderful place myself.
So, of course, when I told them I wanted to study in Galway, Ireland, I got nothing but massive support.
Upon arriving here, it is everything I dreamed about. Huge, green pastures, kind people, local pubs, little tea shops, and old buildings full of history. It’s especially appealing because Galway is one of the places in Ireland that has Brennan roots. In fact, I walk past a shoe store called Brennans all the time! It is humbling and eye-opening to be in the country that my ancestors came from, to see the culture and the land that molded the people that created my family today.
After living here for a while, I feel an even stronger connection and appreciation for Ireland. It is no longer this foreign and enticing place that I hear about. For about four months, it is home. I’ve longed for this way of life: walking everywhere, constantly stopping at cute tea shops, a small but busy city, cheap traveling to other countries. It makes Ireland easy to fall in love with. And I now understand why my family holds it to such high regard.
I always had a connection with Ireland, a bond created by my family’s heritage, pride, and traditions. But after coming here, the appreciation I have for the country is even stronger. I can now say I’ve walked the streets and explored the land and heard the history from the people here. I have favorite shops and pubs and friends that I will never forget.
I will always be thankful for my family’s Irish pride and how it inspired me to study abroad in Galway.
Rachel Balon is the Fall 2014 CEA MOJO in Galway, Ireland. She is currently a senior at Keystone College.
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