Monday, June 30th, marked the departure of the Irish Life Experience. Twenty-one students from all corners of the country met at Boston Logan Airport to begin their month long journey to the Emerald Isle.
The day began at noon with Irish Life Experience Staff (Alex, Brigid, Casey, Kate, Miles, and Kate) preparing to greet students from connecting flights. Dylan, from North Carolina, was the first to land. Luckily, he brought his Rubik’s Cube and impressed us all with his ability to solve the puzzle in less than 20 seconds. Erika, from Tenon Tours, was shocked by his talent, as it took her double the amount of time to mess it up.
Ana from Minnesota, Carrick from Ohio, and Linnea from Montana were the next to arrive-followed by Aubrie and Christina from Florida. Spending nine hours at an airport can get very boring, so luckily Carrick had plenty of games to entertain us. Taryn was impressed with the Big Bootie Challenge (Not what you think.;) and even attempted to play it. However, she failed miserably, as she has no rhythm.
More students started slowly trickling in, so introductions were made. Students spent the time chatting with each other, getting their java fill from Dunkin Donuts, grabbing sandwiches for lunch, and magazines to keep them occupied for the plane ride.
Counselors continued to collect students from other terminals and local families eventually started to arrive around 5 PM. The royal blue (Also the National color of Ireland.) t-shirts were definitely more visible the more the group grew in size. The group was truly stylin’ at Logan.
Eventually, students were able to check in with Aer Lingus and get their boarding passes. Leaving a country for 3 ½ weeks can be very scary, so excitement and nerves started to definitely kick in.
After the Counselors finally discovered Keely and Sarah, from Washington, hiding by the Baggage Claim and met Brendan from Maryland from his flight, they proceeded through Security. Few tears were shed, and everyone bought last minute snacks, before they boarded the St. Munchin 747.
Once on the plane, they were treated to great movie entertainment and a dinner of chicken or Shepherd’s Pie. The students were able to get some shuteye for about six hours, before capturing snippets of the rolling green fields of Eire from the windows of the plane.
The Irish Life Experience Group landed on the ol’ sod at 8 AM. After going through Customs and collecting their luggage, the students met the famous Angie, the Program Director. They meandered their way through Dublin Airport to the bus, while Counselor Alex (AKA Ninny) and Taryn, waited for out last student, Alex, from Spain to arrive.
It’s about a 3-hour journey from Dublin to Waterford, so to break up the distance, the students stopped at Glendalough (Valley of the Two Lakes) in Wicklow. This is one of the most beautiful corners of the whole country and the epitome of rugged and romantic Ireland. Also, where PS, I Love You was filmed-Counselor Kate’s favorite Irish chick flique.
A little history of Glendalough…
In AD 498 a young monk named Kevin arrived in the valley looking for somewhere to kick back, meditate and be at one with nature. He pitched up in what had been a Bronze Age tomb on the southern side of the Upper Lake for the next seven years and slept on stones, wore animal skins, maintained a near-starvation diet and-according to legend-become bosom buddies with the birds and animals.
The substantial remains of this important monastic settlement are certainly impressive, but the real draw is the gorgeous setting: Two dark and mysterious lakes tucked into a deep valley covered in forest. It is, despite its immense popularity, a deeply tranquil and spiritual place and the students quickly realized why solitude-seeking monks came here in the first place.
After eating a packed lunch, Angie gave the students a tour of the grounds. She pointed out the Main Gateway-the only surviving entrance to the ecclesiastical settlement that is a double-arch and then a 100 foot round tower, which is the most famous landmark. They then saw the Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul, before St. Kevin’s Kitchen-which is also a church. St. Kevin’s Kitchen is unusual, as it has a small round tower sticking out from the roof-hence the church’s nickname.
The students snapped some beautiful pictures of Celtic crosses and then continued to stretch their legs walking to the Upper Lake. “Due to the delightful weather we had, it made the walk around the Upper Lake very enjoyable and the scenery was stunning,” said Brigid.
Once at the Upper Lake, the students soaked in the view, skipped rocks, waded in the water, and posed for some fabulous pictures. After everyone had gotten their fill, it was time to get back on the bus and drive further south to Waterford-the Irish Life Experience’s home for the next week.
While the students were leaving Glendalough, Ninny and Taryn picked up Alex, from Spain, at Dublin Aiport and had the adventure of driving down on their own to Waterford. Ninny was extremely impressed with Taryn’s driving abilities, even though she almost hit 1,000 bunnies!
Around 4 PM, the Irish Life Experience arrived at Newtown Boarding School. They met Shona (AKA Scones), their Gaelic and Irish History Teacher. They unloaded their bags, moved into their dorms, and were given a brief orientation of the campus to familiarize themselves with the area.
Tea followed with a meal of fish and potatoes. The students then were able to freshen up and grab a quick shower, before we did some exciting ice-breakers. We learned interesting fun facts about each of the students and were especially wowed by Carrick’s ability to name all of the Olympic Summer/Winter host cities. We even attempted a Human Knot, which was very successful!
By 8 PM, you could tell the students were fighting the jet lag with heavy eyelids, so we let them retire for the night. Many of them went straight to bed and crashed for the night, before their first class day. They couldn’t wait to wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed.