I’m Fiona Tomlin, an ILE 2011 Alumnae from San Diego. Let me first of all congratulate you on your acceptance to the ILE! Right now June may seem far off, but trust me, the time of your life is right around the corner! I am so excited for all of you! Now that Ryan has covered some helpful logistical tips (Which I recommend you read and follow.), I would like to tell you about some things that I took away from the ILE that continue to impact my life on a daily basis.
I like to think of the ILE as an unforgettable personal journey where each individual is tasked with discovering his or her passion for Ireland in a unique way. When you return and hear mention of Ireland in others’ conversations, you’ll want to join in and exclaim your love of the country, describing every detail of the incredible journey you took on the ILE. Now, speaking from experience, not everyone is as zealous about their heritage as others are, but immerse yourself in every opportunity and you will understand why daydreaming about Ireland is my favorite past time.
Now, most of you probably elected to apply for this program. Just in case anyone feels they’ve been forced into applying (Just go with it.), or if you’re just still feeling nervous or hesitant about the experience (Totally normal.), let me put you at ease and dispel some myths you might believe about Ireland, study abroad trips, and new experiences in general.
Myth: “I’m too shy to be myself around strangers,” or “Everyone will think I am weird if I open up and act myself.”
Fact: Everyone is in the same boat during the first few days, and alienating yourself from others is one of the most detrimental things you can do to your time on the ILE. Keep an open mind, be friendly, open and engaged towards everyone, and most of all, be prepared to get to know others deeply. Have a positive attitude from the very beginning of the program, and you will form fast (But lasting and incredible.) friendships.
Myth: “I will have nothing in common with anyone.”
Fact: There was a diverse range of people who were in my program, with kids from literally every corner of the United States, but we all shared a common Irish heritage and/or love of the country! All it takes is one common thread to ignite the possibility to develop an amazing bond. Again, just be open.
Myth: “I’m not even going to attempt Irish dancing…, I have two left feet.”
Fact: While you very well could have two left feet, no one really cares. It might be good for some laughs during Irish Dance workshops! Just give it your best shot. Everyone likes different things, but there is something for everyone to connect with on the ILE. No, your dancing skills may not belong in Riverdance, you might think literature is boring and dry, or your athletic prowess may be lacking…, I get it. But make a promise to yourself to give every single activity your best effort and keep an open mind. You may end up catching onto a jig, smirking at James Joyce’s humor, or helping your team towards a late night soccer game victory. (Oh-make sure you participate in the late night soccer games, even if you’ve never kicked a ball in your life. SO fun and I’m no Sporty Spice, trust me.) It’s a tired phrase, but it’s crazy true and I’ll end with it anyways: You’ll never know until you try.
Fiona Tomlin-San Diego, CA-ILE 2011
***More to come from Fiona tomorrow!***