There is something so intricately beautiful about airports. Despite the fact that they tend to be concrete metropolises, never slowing their relentless pace of come-and-go, they hold host to one of the most beautiful things of all—the epitome of human emotion. Friends leave family with teary eyes, People head off for some sort of grand adventure, all huge smiles and bright eyes. There’s running hugs and tears of joy, tears of grief and of sadness—even of anger. Every person from every different corner of our world—of every different nationality and culture and language—is meeting in this beautiful web of intricacy. And today, on June 29th, 2023, twenty-eight people from different corners of the US converged together—with little to no knowledge of these strange people they stand around—everyone simply there to embrace the beautiful unknown. So, with baited breath and curious hearts (and several overweight suitcases), this wonderful band of people took their first steps into the adventure of a lifetime—Ireland.

The Dublin Airport seemed as if it couldn’t have come sooner. Everywhere you looked, bleary faces and tired eyes stared back. But beneath the ache of travel exhaustion lay a much more prominent emotion—a curious sort of excitement. Because…The Irish Life Experience has arrived in Ireland!!! We are greeted first by a misty gray drizzle, a crisp breeze, and our lovely Barton’s bus in the parking lot. The first stop is Glendalough—meaning “Valley of the two lakes” in the Irish language. Founded by Saint Kevin, it’s one of Ireland’s oldest monastic sites–located in the Wicklow mountains. Before we headed off for our first adventure, we all settled gladly down for our yummy packed King’s Hospital lunch—a choice of a sandwich with cheese and (very) salty ham, or with cucumber and chicken, along with a side of Walker’s Chips (Irish Lays), an apple, and Oreos. After eating, we first entered a path snaking its way through an old-growth oak forest. Like the name states, Glendalough is settled in a valley, making it give the perfect comforting sense of nature enveloping you. Huge, mossy oak limbs stretch up to the light, sheltering us with their rippling leaves from the light drizzle. As we walked down the bracken, shamrock, and buttercup lined path, we emerged onto a little bridge that sweeps over a rush-lined brook. This is merely the front yard for the monastery, which suddenly looms into view—along with a graveyard and 98-foot tall roundtower. Some of the students even banded together to put their first Irish legend to work—if you all hold hands and can wrap yourselves around the base of the tower, you’ll have good luck for 50 years. Isaac wondered if you would each have 50 years of luck, or if it was divided evenly between the dozen or so participants. The final ultimatum seemed to be that perhaps Irish legends are rather vague on their terms and conditions. After taking a quick picture by the enchantingly blustery lake, we headed back to our bus.

Despite the wild, heather-covered hills and tiny towns blurring through the windows, everyone couldn’t help but get some shut-eye on our 2-hour bus ride back home to Waterford. Newtown Boarding School greeted us at the end of the sloping driveway, and everyone had a sleepy hour to unpack and get ready for dinner—breaded chicken, salad, banoffi pie, and, of course—potatoes. Ice breakers shortly followed after dinner, where we learned (among many other things) that Taegen wants to be a marine biologist, Aspen wishes that rain was cheese instead of water, and that Orion has a black belt in taekwondo.

Finally, everyone stumbled into their beds for some desperately needed sleep, ready for the day ahead, hearts full of the joy that is Ireland.

Logan Airport-Group 2023

The Montana students!

Clouds from Airplane-2023

Sunrise over the ocean...almost to Dublin!

Glendalough-Holding Hands 2023

The students hope for 50 years of good luck by hugging the roundtower!

Oh to be back home in Ireland now that April winds are blowing
And the weather getting milder and the green grass is a growing
And the breath of Spring is in the air and daylight hours grow long
And the skylark o’er the heather sings his merry April song.

“Oh To Be Back Home in Ireland”

~Francis Duggan