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Top 10 Study Abroad Tips for Parents

Choosing a summer program isn’t an easy task, especially for parents. Entrusting your children in someone else’s care for the summer is daunting and can cause serious stress and anxiety.

However, the Irish Life Experience is committed to easing your concerns and worries and giving your children the summer of a lifetime.

Teresa Hemmer, from Naples, Florida and mother of Aubrie from 2014, gives you the Top 10 Study Abroad Tips for Parents.

Ireland 1. Safety and Destination
Students’ safety is our number one priority at the Irish Life Experience. By utilizing Ireland’s top educational facilities and experienced Staff, we provide the safest environment possible for our Program.

  • Irish Life Experience Staff on duty at all times.
  • All are trained in CPR and First Aid.
  • Maintain a Student:Staff ratio of 7:1.
  • There are hospitals near each campus.
  • Emergency numbers are available to parents.
  • Students have strict curfews and guidelines.

    “This was one of my study abroad tips for parents, and I think the Irish Life Experience went above and beyond exceeding my expectations. They gave me the peace of mind I needed to let my daughter spread and soar her wings,” said Teresa.

    2. Educational Component
    “One of the study abroad tips for parents choosing a summer program, would be areas of study. The classes and being able to use that for credit on transcripts was an integral part of our decision,” said Teresa.

    By the end of the Irish Life Experience, each participant will have:

  • Experienced campus living with their peers from all over North America.
  • Developed an understanding of the evolution of Irish social and political history from early AD to the present day, as well as how developments in Ireland have affected and influenced the rest of the world.
  • Read and reflected on the works of several authors from both contemporary and past Irish and Anglo-Irish literature.
  • Learned and been able to participate in the joys of Irish folk dancing.
  • Been introduced to the basics of the Irish language.
  • Working knowledge of Irish drama, music, and song.
  • Engaged in and have a general understanding of Irish sports; such as Gaelic football, hurling, and rugby.

    3. Tours
    Throughout the Irish Life Experience, students will see and visit some of Ireland’s most historic places and impressive sights. They will experience Ireland’s beauty through guided tours and scheduled stops. Each of our featured tours offers students the chance to step back in time to places that have retained their original beauty and historical significance. The tours provided are important study abroad tips for parents to to help choose a program for their child.

    Ireland4. Information Provided
    Teresa said there was a lot of information during the application process, when her daughter was preparing for the trip, and even during the program. “This was great, especially for a Type A protective mother. I loved the extensive packet sent out with all the details. It helped me know what to expect with my daughter traveling to Ireland. I also loved following along with the Irish Life Experience Blog. This should be one of the study abroad tips for parents to choose a summer program,” said Teresa.

    5. Cost
    The Irish Life Experience includes round-trip airfare, twenty-four night accommodations with meals, transportation in Ireland, teachers and counselors, and tours and admissions.

    You may be thinking right off the bat that you can’t afford to send your child abroad. Sure, study abroad can be expensive, but it shouldn’t be a deterrent. Read our Top 10 Fundraising Ideas to help give you some ideas on affording a study abroad experience for your child.

    “Compared to many other summer study abroad programs, we felt we were getting the most bang for our buck with the Irish Life Experience. This is definitely one of our top 10 study abroad tips for parents,” said Teresa.

    6. Accommodations
    The Irish Life Experience utilizes facilities and accommodations of different campuses in Ireland. From the coastal feel, to the lively city living and the cobblestone streets, students will be immersed in the historic culture and rich academics of Ireland.

    While all of the campuses and boarding facilities encourage peer-to-peer interaction through communal living, each differs from the other, offering unique characteristics and highlights throughout their environment and surroundings. Dormitory living in Ireland will be fun and exciting, but different from what students may experience in the US. Dorms are efficient and functional.

    Teresa said, “You definitely want to pay attention to accommodations being provided to your child. These are important study abroad tips for parents.” .

    Travel7. Communication
    Teresa said, “Direct contact with the Administrators of the Irish Life Experience helped ease my concerns throughout the process and helped me stay in touch with my child in case of an emergency.”

    I would recommend each parent look into communications policies of a program they are researching. This is one of the important study abroad tips for parents I would recommend.

    8. Length of Program
    Finding a program that isn’t too long, but long enough where the student gets as much out of the experience was one of the study abroad tips for parents that Teresa found helpful. She thought that the Irish Life Experience provided the perfect balance between classes, tours, and free time. She felt that a program that was shorter would be too rushed and a longer program might be too drawn out, therefore the Irish Life Experience was a perfect fit.

    9. Cultural Immersion
    Not only does the Irish Life Experience provide students with the opportunity of living and learning in a different cultural environment, they also give each student a broad understanding of the cultural, economic, political, and social life in contemporary Ireland.

    When comparing programs, some study abroad tips for parents are making sure the program provides a international travel experience which inspires students to explore other areas of the world. Teresa says the Irish Life Experience does just that!

    10. Fun!!!
    Emphasizing culture, education, travel, safety, and FUN, our programs insure a unique and unforgettable journey for every student.

    Just ask Teresa’s daughter, Aubrie. “This trip changed my life!!! Go, enjoy, HAVE FUN, and experience Ireland with the Irish Life Experience. Best money my mom could ever spend! Thanks Mom!” -Aubrie Hemmer

    APPLY NOW and let the Irish Life Experience change your life!

  • Galway Bound

    Up and packed for Galway, our bus was able to leave a little before schedule. For some reason the students all find it easier to wake up on their holiday days than they did on their class days!
    The schedule for the day was: Drive to Bunratty, tour the folk village, and settle in to Galway for the final leg of Irish Life Experience 2014.

    A quick pit stop was taken in Adare en route to Bunratty. Adare is one of the most picturesque villages in Ireland. Emily Conway was delighted with the photo opportunities she got, but most students spent the few short minutes they had in the gift stores.

    Everybody packed on to the bus again to continue to Bunratty Folk Village and were not disappointed when they arrived, because Scones was waiting for them there, nothing to do with the folk village. Well ok…, maybe something to do with the folk village. The group started with a tour of the castle and learned about the customs of the families that once lived there. Stephen was especially enthralled with the spy hole. Fernung family beware-he may be tempted to drill a few holes in your house on his return.

    Everybody then went their separate ways to explore the village a little at their own pace. If you ever want to get an idea of exactly what Ireland was like 100 years ago, then Bunratty is definitely the best place to do it. Everything is as it would have been. Students could wander into the little thatched cottages to be greeted by women dressed in appropriate fashion baking in the kitchen. The aroma from the house of freshly baked apple tarts was incredible. Grace, who we’ve discovered has a love affair with food was thrown into a total conundrum-it smelled so good but was making her so hungry she didn’t know whether to stay or go. Of course David and Linnea just fell in love with the Irish Wolf Hounds immediately and spent most of their time trying to coax them over to the fence. Jess took plenty of pictures of the village streets and scenery saying it was too pretty not to document.

    It wasn’t long until we had to herd the students on to the bus once more for the final drive to Galway.

    First things first, having been given their room keys in Galway all of the students started to unpack neatly and quietly straight away. (Hopefully none of you are delusional enough to believe that, the WiFi password request ALWAYS comes first!) All of the apartments were in the same row, so students were free to roam in and out of each other’s living rooms. Until they realized that once more dinner was their own responsibility and they needed to shop for some supplies, a mad dash was made to Dunnes Stores shopping center across the road in an effort to outdo each others culinary abilities. On seeing the amount of frozen pizza boxes that had been purchased, we lost hope in being able to judge these culinary skills, but once we saw the amount of burnt/raw pizza some students were eating compared to the colorful stirfries some others were cooking, we were able to make a decent guess!

    The students were wrecked tired after their day of traveling, so there weren’t too many shenanigans going on for the evening. Everybody wanted to be…, in David’s words…, bright eyed and bushy tailed for their Burren hike and their trip to the Cliffs of Moher. It was an early night all round.

    Up the Kingdom!

    Stone CircleMoll's GapMoll's GapAubrie and ChristinaIMG_1918Muckross HouseCaitlin and AnaYesterday we had great weather, with time spent doing half of the Ring of Kerry. We began the day by stopping in the village of Kenmare, a quintessential Irish town with colorful shops and a bustling atmosphere. Before exploring, we ventured over to a Bronze Age Stone Circle, where the ILE Staff gave the students earth names. As examples, David was named Starburst, Megan was named Moon Sparkle, and Rocky was named Honeysuckle. Brian led the students in an ancient chant to conclude. “OWATANA SIAM, OWATANA SIAM, OWATANA SIAM!!!”

    We then headed out onto the Ring of Kerry, listening to Brian’s favorite song, “Cows with Guns.” It quickly became a new ILE favorite, so you might all have to take a listen back home and get a good chuckle. We passed through Moll’s Gap, where we got a glimpse of Killarney National Park’s stunning lakes and hills scattered with sheep. We were soon able to park the bus and take photos at another observations spot called, Ladies View, named when Queen Victoria’s Ladies in Waiting visited the area in 1861. Some of the students who have planned football (American soccer.) throughout the trip took many squad pictures here. Emily mentioned that the view was very beautiful and Katie just enjoyed soaking in the atmosphere. After enjoying the breathtaking scenery, we rolled along to the opposite side of the National Park in order to explore the flowing Torc Waterfall. This was another great photo opportunity and Stephen and Aran exhibited their adventurous sides by jumping rocks closer to the base of the waterfall. Angie and Taryn got a little nervous, as they definitely were like monkeys climbing all over the place.

    The day trip ended with visits to the historical residences of Muckross House and Ross Castle. Muckross House, a 19th Century mansion, is surrounded by extraordinary gardens, which students explored. Taryn made sure to point out to the students that Muckross House was in the opening scenes of the movie Far and Away with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. She also told the students that if they ever saw the movie, that they wouldn’t be impressed by the actor’s Irish accents. Rocky noticed that the clouds were quite ominous, so as soon as we finished taking photos, we headed back to the bus to go to our last stop-Ross Castle. This castle dates back to the 15th Century, as the residence of the O’Donoghues. It was the last place in Munster to succumb to Cromwell’s forces (BOO!). Once Eme got over her fear of the ducks swimming in the lake beside the castle, she scaled the middle deck of the castle, lowered her lovely hear, and reenacted a scene from Rapunzel.

    As it was their last night in Killarney, some students celebrated by going to a local carnival, while some ate dinner at a Burger joint called Eddie Rockets. The ILE Staff even went into town and while they were watching a busker playing some great Irish tunes, Taryn felt something tap her shoulder. She thought it was Brian playing a joke on her, until she touched her back and realized a bird had sh$% all over her. The Irish say this is a lucky sign, so hopefully she will win some money at the bookies this week. Too bad they already did laundry for the week. Other interesting tid bits of the nighdt-Aaron, Rocky, and Stephen dressed up as characters from the movie, Clockwork Orange. There are some pictures floating around out there, but I think the boys are holding them close.

    All in all, it was another busy, but enjoyable day for everyone!


    Dingle PeninsulaBoylesInch BeachInch BeachGhost TourOn Thursday, the students were allowed to lie in until 10 AM. However, some students decided to wake up early and go for a swim in the hotel pool, while others made a breakfast of scrambled eggs, rashers, and sausages. YUMZERS! After the students had their breakfast and were ready for the long day ahead, they boarded the bus and set off on a thrilling tour of the Dingle Peninsula. From the get go, the views were breathtaking. Rolling green hills and steep cliffs jutting drastically into the sea. Sheep wandered aimlessly throughout the route and there were many “Ooohs and Ahhhs” from the ILE Group. Brendan and Stephen excitedly snapped pictures on the bus to add to their growing collection of Emerald Isle photos.

    Taryn introduced the students to songs by the Cranberries, Christy Moore, and Van Morrison, which was appropriate for the trip. She even played a few songs from U2 and felt a little old when she heard a student or two had never heard of them before. Gasp!

    The first stop was a bathroom/coffee break in Dingle. Many students fell in love with the quaintness of the adorable fishing village and Brian told them about Fungi. Fungi is a dolphin that has lived in the bay for over 30 years and will often greet the boats coming in and out of the harbor. He has become a local celebrity and there is a statue dedicated to him at the entrance of town. Many students took this time to take delfies with Fungi-also known as dolphin selfies. A few also enjoyed the savory treats of deep fried Mars bars. Dee-lish! Molly said it was a foodie dream come true. After all of the students relieved their bladders, we set out further along the Peninsula. A few students had to move to the other side of the bus, as we weaved along the narrow roads. The dramatic drop offs of the cliffs definitely frightened a few-including Ninny.

    Next on the agenda was a stop at the Ionad and Bhlascaoid Mhóir-the Blasket Island’s Visitor Center. The Center is on the mainland in Dún Chaoin on the tip of the Dingle Peninsula and is a fascinating heritage museum honoring the unique community who lived on the remote Blasket Islands until their evacuation in 1953. The students watched a moved that tells the story of island life, subsistence fishing and farming, traditional life including modes of work and transport, home life, housing, and entertainment. They then had the opportunity to walk around the museum and learn about more details about the community’s struggle for existence, their language and culture, and the extraordinary literary legacy they left behind-classics such as The Islandman, Twenty Years A-Growing, and Peig. Linnea said she really found the museum interesting, as she was fascinated by the history of the island. Counselor Casey said she was bewildered by how a community just quickly evacuated and essentially disappeared, while Angie recognized that the island definitely didn’t have a dentist.

    Once finished at the museum, the students got back on the bus and returned to the town of Dingle. Here they had a chance to do some shopping and explore the town even further. Miley, Ninny, and Taryn wandered up to Boyle’s and in true ILE fashion, bet on a few horses for the day. It’s an ILE Staff tradition. Taryn put 5 Euros on a horse named Shield in honor of Mariah and low and behold…, the horse galloped his way to 1st place winning Taryn a grand prize of 20 Euros. Mariah said she better get a prize, so Taryn is going shopping tomorrow for some chocolate goodies. Angie even had a good day at the bookies, when she backed My Fitz Lady each way and won 40 Euros. We shall not disclose what Miley and Ninny lost, but hopefully luck will be on their side the next time.

    Since it was such a nice day, we decided to stop at Inch Beach-a gorgeous strand along the Peninsula. Students had a chance to brave the frigid waters for a refreshing dip in the Atlantic. Others frolicked in the waves and played frisbee on the beach. It was so much fun.

    We returned back to the Gleneagles around 6 PM and the students made dinner, while some got the bus into the adorable town of Killarney. At 9 PM, the WB Yeats Group met Angie, Brian, Kate, Miley, and Taryn for the Ghost Tour. Kate and Megan were especially apprehensive about the tour, as they do not like ghosts. However, they braved the night with a lot of screams and had a blast.

    It was definitely a night time adventure filled with fun and frights as the ILE students were transported to another world on board a haunted bus. They stepped back to the time of the storytellers as the guides regaled you with the rich legend, folklore, and history of Killarney-all delivered in a fun filled and theatrical manner. The students heard tales of strange apparitions, murder most foul, and of course Killarney’s Dracula connection. They visited the Lake Hotel and the Muckross Abbey, where they even found a few orbs in pictures. Angie and Taryn might have been more afraid of the bats looming over their heads than the ghostly presence though. Aaron said it was so cool and he is so happy his group won!

    The group walked home around 11 and with Angie and Taryn’s winnings, they bought Twisters for all of the students. A fab day had by all!

    Gift of the Gab!

    Blarney CastleBlarney StoneBlarney CastleAnd so the holiday began. Tuesday marked the final day of classes and today the beginning of our journey to the beautiful west coast of Ireland. the day started with blue skies, packing all the luggage (There was A LOT-just ask Miley and Ninny.) onto the bus, and waving goodbye to King’s Hospital to set off on our new adventure. We had a new addition today, in the form of the hilariously funny, tour guide extraordinaire, Brian Farrell-owner of Burren Coaches and a great friend of the ILE.

    Taryn had her playlists ready at the helm and we danced and sang to Carly Rae, Hozier, and One Direction. The ILE favorite is definitely One Direction’s, “What Makes You Beautiful.” However, we like to change the words to “What Makes the ILE Beautiful!” Brigid (AKA Cash Money) Lundy even had a chance to demonstrate her hip hop dance moves to some of her favorite tunes. The students were all impressed by her agility.

    All of the students were so EXCITED to be heading off to Killarney, especially when they remembered we were calling in to see the Blarney Castle en route.

    The ILE Staff has a special surprise, as Eddie and James from Waterford, would be joining the group for the remainder of the trip. The bus pulled into the car park and Eddie and James hopped on board. The students were in shock, but were so thrilled to see their first Irish friends. UP THE DUBS!!!

    Now for those of you who don’t know, Blarney is a little jewel in the crown of Ireland and one of the most visited places. It is home to the 15th Century Blarney Castle and of course the famous Blarney Stone. Rumor has it that when you kiss the Blarney Stone, you are given the Gift of the Gab. When Angie explained this to the students, they all agreed as voiced by Molly, that no way did Angie need to do that! When asked by Stephen how many times she had kissed it, Angie replied, “never” and all the students gasped in amazement that her storytelling was a natural gift and not attributed to the kissing of the stone. Ninny was the only one that climbed the many steps to the top of the castle to not kiss the stone, as his fear of heights got the better of him!

    After exploring the castle grounds, souvenir shopping, and having lunch and 99’ers (Ice Cream Cones.), we all got back on the bus again for the rest of trip to Killarney-situated in County Kerry. Killarney is in the middle of stunning scenery and its namesake is the National Park. We arrived, as the Killarney Horse Racing Festival was in full swing and the town was buzzing-decked out in flags of the 32 counties with traditional Irish music and dance in the streets. As we say, the craic was mighty.

    We checked in to our lovely apartments at the Gleneagles Hotel and it was a joy to see the delight on the students’ faces. Each group of students had received a stipend for grocery shopping to plan meals and shop and cook. The ILE Staff visited each apartment to sample the joys of teenage cooking-mainly consisting of one of the following: Brownies, Chicken Nuggets, Hamburgers, Pasta, PJ and J, and Pizza. Alex, Brendan, David, and Dylan had planned their meals so well that it took them 50 minutes in the supermarket to buy all the above. If they would have taken any longer, we would have been ready for ILE 2015!

    Tonight was a chill out night. The students visited each other and hung out in their apartments-watching movies and having a chat. This is definitely a testament to the fact the legend of the Blarney Stone is true as the ILE Staff had to shoo them to their apartments at midnight.

    To all the parents who are reading this-you should be very proud-we are looking after an amazing group of students!

    WB Yeats Steals the Show!

    Drama PresentationsDrama PresentationsDrama PresentationsDrama PresentationsRiverdanceDSC00472On Tuesday, there were many tears shed, as the ILE had their last class day. Not really, but it started to hit the students that they only had a little over a week left on the Emerald Isle. Sadness all around! “I don’t want to go home,” Eme said. She is amazed by how quickly the program has flown by.

    The day started out bright and early with breakfast at half eight. Cereal, toast, and OJ filled the ILE’s stomachs, as they gained brain nutrition for the long day ahead.

    Classes started out with Angie reading the last few pages of Ulysses by James Joyce to give the students a good feel for his writing. David even had a chance to read aloud to the students and nearly had a panic attack by the lack of punctuation. Angie then read Easter 1916 by WB Yeats. Since Scones had talked a lot about the 1916 Rebellion in her Irish history class, Yeats’ writings tied in nicely. She also read excerpts of Digging by Seamus Heaney. Angie finished up her literature class with a story by Patrick Kavanagh-In Memory of My Father. Keely said she really enjoyed Angie’s Irish literature class and is looking forward to going back to Spokane and learning more about Irish authors. Brigid then led into her Irish American history class, where the remaining students gave 2-3 minute presentations on an Irish American that has influenced their life. Brigid was thoroughly impressed by Grace’s presentation about her grandfather. What an amazing man he truly is! Taryn rounded out the day with a class on how Ireland has evolved over the past 25+ years, since she first started coming to Ireland. She emphasized how things have changed (For the good and the bad.) and how the students can try and keep Irish culture alive in the states. The students gave some very insightful thoughts and are definitely going to try and promote Irish culture and share everything they learned in Ireland when they go home.

    The bulk of the afternoon was spent preparing for their Drama Presentations. All of the students were busy rehearsing their lines and coordinating their costumes for the half three performance. Samuel Beckett was first on stage and Brendan did a spectacular improvised version of his life. Molly was also extremely comical. Thumbs up! Next up was Oscar Wilde and Rocky’s costume stole the whole show. Sae Bae also got an honorable mention for her stellar acting skills. It was a fantastic account of the writer’s life. The James Joyce group decided they would like to go next and they definitely wowed the audience with their neon costumes-especially Alex and Dylan. I’m not sure who coaxed Alex and Dylan into wearing neon ABBA outfits, but they rocked the look. The group brought it back old school, with a Fresh Prince of Bel Air rap edited to depict James Joyce’s life. They then did a dramatic recreation of his adulthood. We were blown away by their creativity. Last up for the afternoon was the WB Yeats’ Group and Aaron and Stephen did an excellent job relaying Yeats’ spectacular works to the group.

    The judges truly were in a tough predicament, as all of the presentations were brilliant. The groups were judged on historical content, teamwork, and creativity. Even though Ninny tried to bribe the judges vote with some Crunchies-Angie, Brigid, and Taryn came to a unanimous decision that the grand prize would go to the WB Yeats’ Group. Aaron, Ana, Caitlin, Megan, and Stephen would enjoy a night out in Killarney, as they found out they won Ghost Tour tickets in Killarney. Stephen said he couldn’t wait for the spooky adventures ahead in the next few days.

    After the Drama Presentations, the students packed for Killarney and then had a chance to enjoy a delicious BBQ-courtesy of our friend, Patrick, at King’s Hospital. The students gobbled down hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken on skewers. Linnea said it was delicious and a nice taste of “home.”

    The adventures didn’t stop there, as it was Take 2 for Riverdance. Twenty students ended up attending Riverdance and were so excited to get all dolled up-yet again for the brilliant Irish dancing phenomenon.

    2014 marked the 20th anniversary of Riverdance, since it appeared on the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest at the Point Theatre in Dublin. The show has been seen LIVE by 25 million people, with over 11,000 performances in 46 countries across six continents. It was a special evening and their was lots of toe tapping to the beat from the students. Irish dancing teacher and Counselor Casey said the students were definitely on their way to the Riverdance level after their hard work the past few weeks during the ILE. Jess, Mariah, Molly, and Rocky definitely were moved by the two main dancers and said that it was special to see it at the Gaiety in Dublin, IRELAND-nonetheless.

    After the show, Angie and Taryn let the students stroll down Grafton and enjoy some ice-cream and gelato. Carmel and Mint Chocolate Chip were the favorite choices of the evening. Once the students filled their tummies with some sugar, they were met by the ILE’s special friend and most amazing bus driver-Brian Farrell, from Burren Coaches. He welcomed the students onto his bus with disco lights and music pumping. The students would be riding in the lap of luxury for the next week with one of Ireland’s best tour guides. Thanks Brian!

    The 15 minute bus ride home with filled with many chats and lolz, as the students bus surfed, danced, and drove around the round about 10x. The craic was definitely magical.

    It was an early night, as the students crashed pretty quickly. They were excited to get to their new home and looked forward to a new day’s adventure.

    Giant of a Tale

    TitanicGiant's CausewayGiant's CausewayGiant's Causeway#ILE14Giant's BootGiant's CausewayTaryn and Rocky at the Giant's CausewayWe had an early start this morning-6:15 AM, but the King’s Hospital Kitchen Staff pulled out all the stops with Cheerio’s, Rice Crispies, and toast for breakfast. We all enjoyed the meal in silence before hopping on the bus for the long journey north.

    First stop when we got over the border was the new Titanic Exhibition in the Belfast docks. This center was only opened two years ago to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the ship’s maiden voyage. The exhibition exceeded all expectations. The highlight of the trip was probably a cool cable car style ride down into a recreation of the construction of the hull of the ship. There were loads more great features inside and fortunately there was plenty of Kleenex on standby for those students who were devastated by the unexpected sad ending. Surprisingly a lot of our students didn’t know that Leonardo di Caprio died.

    As Belfast’s finest ambassador Anglea Mervyn explained, “She was fine when she left here.” At the end of the tour, the rain was lashing down and the kids had a photo taken outside at the Titanic sign wearing the rain ponchos bought on the day we went to Croke Park-we thanked the heavens above that the ponchos were big enough to cover at least three people!

    Angie was kind enough to point out her summer house to us as we travelled north to the Causeway Coast. The bus passed through Bushmills, County Antrim, home of the oldest (Legal.) distillery in the world, but time constraints meant we couldn’t stop to sample the fare. Unfortunately, we had similar time constraints when we passed the Jameson Distillery in Middleton last week. I guess everyone will just have to come back to Ireland in a few years time!

    After a delicious and nutritious lunch at the Giant’s Causeway Interpretive Center, the group were ready for what is always one of the highlights of the entire trip-the Giant’s Causeway. All the students (At least those who paid attention to Angie’s story.) knew that the Giant’s Causeway was built by a Scottish Giant called Benandonner so that he could attack the Irish Giant Fionn McCool.

    As Angie explained to the kids, there was great rivalry between the two giants, with Fionn McCool knowing that Benandonner had the advantage in terms of height and strength. As Fionn was pottering at his house he heard a very loud BOOM BOOM BOOM, the earth began to shake and waves began to roll and crash against the coast. When he looked towards the Causeway he saw the imposing figure of Benandonner approaching, brandishing a weapon and roaring like there was no tomorrow. Fionn McCool, terrified for the first time in his life, ran in to his house shouting for his wife to get the baby blanket and soother ready. A few minutes later there was a loud BANG BANG BANG on the door. Fionn McCool’s wife answered the door and greeted Benandonner with a finger on her lip, telling him, “Shhh or you’ll wake the baby!” Benandonner ran in to the house and peered in to the baby’s cot only to see the biggest baby he had ever set eyes on lying in the crib with a bonnet on and soother in his mouth.
    Benandonner said to himself, “Holy sh**, if that’s the size of the baby, what in the hell size is the father?” And with that he ran back to Scotland, tearing up the Causeway as he went. The students were smart enough to discount the childish rumors about the Causeway being made up by hexagonal basalt rocks which were formed when molten lava cooled rapidly towards the end of the last Ice Age.

    Everyone had great fun clambering all over the Causeway, the Giant’s Boot, and the Giant’s Organ. Aaron said it was amazing and took a lot of photos. Stephen said he found it so peaceful and beautiful.

    Then it was time to move on to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. This is a tiny little bridge made from rope and planks of wood which were thrown out to a tiny offshore island by salmon fishermen. Now it features in most of the ads and brochures for Tourism Ireland, and with good reason. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived it was lashing cats and dogs and within 10 seconds of leaving the bus all the kids were soaked to the skin and so we voted to go straight to Ballycastle, a lovely little seaside town which is really nice to visit even when it feels like the middle of winter on a summer’s day!

    The kids had dinner in Ballycastle-healthy nutritious food such as pizza, ice cream, and garlic chips! Not satisfied with that, Katie had to buy a bumper packet of Penguin biscuits and Angie has promised her a family size packet to take home as she is worried the withdrawal symptoms may be too much.

    A long bus ride home beckoned, with a stop en route to buy even more sweets, but we had Taryn’s wonderful playlist to keep us company, so the time just flew. The lyrics and beat of ABBA, One Direction, and Spice Girls kept Angie happy-she is the biggest One Direction fan ever with the exception of Caitlin. We were so tired by the time we got home that some of the girls were fast asleep before bed check.

    And so ended another COOL, WOW, AWESOME day, with the kids going to sleep with good thoughts, yellow auras and the promise of another great day tomorrow as the cock crows at the break of dawn.


    Croke ParkCroke ParkCroke ParkCroke ParkCroke ParkCroke ParkHowthHowthHowthHowthHowthHowthRiverdanceRiverdanceAfter a long and eventful Saturday in and around Dublin, all of the ILE’ers had the chance to lie in Sunday morning. With an optional breakfast, a few popped in for cereal, toast, and OJ, but most decided to sleep right up to the 11:30 AM bus departure. With tired eyes, we were off to Croke Park to get a behind the scenes view of how the historic stadium is operated.

    We arrived at Croke Park and prepared for our tour at noon by taking some group pictures and poking around the café inside of the museum. As our tour started, we watched a wonderful movie about a typical game day in the stadium. We were then guided through the lower portion of the grounds. We first took a peak from field level-where again we took a few group photographs and learned a lot about the media presence. Here, the students were given another rundown of how each GAA (Hurling and Gaelic football) sport is played. We were able to see where the players go after games to enjoy a pint and talk about the game. It was an elegant room with a beautiful chandelier-32 Waterford Crystal Gaelic footballs and 70 sliotars. The 32 symbolize the counties in Ireland and the 70 symbolize the minutes in a hurling game. The team that wins the game will be dazzled when the chandelier changes to their county team’s colors. The room is here to thank the players-who remain unpaid with full time jobs for their hard work and passion for their county’s traditional sports. Afterwards, we were able to see the dressing and practice rooms. There were six dressing rooms and they were all exactly the same. Croke Park is a neutral stadium for all of the counties of Ireland and up to three games will be played on any given day. All county jerseys were on display in the dressing room we were in and the tour guide announced the recent All-Ireland Champions for 2013. Up the Dubs and the Banner! From there we ended up in the nosebleed section of the stadium to get the birds-eye view. Shockingly, another round of group pictures and selfies were taken, and it was here where the guide described the deep history running thick through Croker. Each set of stands is named after an important member of Croke Park’s history. Bloody Sunday was also a topic of discussion at this time as 14 people were killed where Hill 16 stands-100 years ago by the British. Sarah was impressed to learn all about Maurice Davin, especially since we sat in the Davin stand the week prior for the Leinster Hurling Final.

    The final piece of the tour was everyone’s favorite-an interactive play zone where you could practice your GAA skills. These stations included passing a Gaelic football, speed test, high jump, and two stations for football and hurling practice. Grace broke the record for the high catch with the help of a few friends. (She was almost as good as her brother, Evan-ILE Alum ’13.) What many of us failed to realize was the cameras in the hurling station. This lead to a handful of hilarious pictures of the Yanks trying to learn a new sport. Just ask Keely about some of the gems she saw of herself;).

    Next on our agenda was Howth. Howth is a suburb of Dublin where a beautiful ocean-side walk is located. The lighthouse and islands visible from the walk were the main targets for student photographs. Eme, Grace, and Rocky went off the beaten path and were able to find Bono’s house. Well…, at least that’s what Taryn made them believe;). The weather was perfect enough for everyone to hang out and take a few extra pictures without worrying about the wind and rain.

    We then returned to King’s Hospital to prepare for Riverdance. After a few students showered and got ready-looking dapper-they headed into Dublin City Center to enjoy the show. Unfortunately, Ticketmaster told the ILE the show was at 7:30 PM and ruined the well-dressed group’s night by reporting that the show had been earlier. #RiverdanceFail! Many students were upset until they were able to get gelato and ice cream. Not to fear though-Angie and Taryn sorted it all out and the group found out they would be attending the performance on Tuesday. It’s always an adventure on the ILE.

    The students made it an early night, as they prepared for the longest day of the trip northbound.

    Adventures in Dublin

    Guinness BreweryGuinness BreweryGuinness BreweryGuinness BreweryGuinness BrewryIrish Music SessiunIrish Music SessiunIrish Music SessiunHellfireHellfireHellfireHellfireSaturday was one of the busiest days to date for ILE ’14 with an array of different tours, venues, and adventures spanning a 14-hour period. With the bus arriving at 9 AM, the students and staff had a quick breakfast to help them wake up and get ready for the long day. The first destination of the day was the Guinness brewery located in the center of Dublin. The Guinness Storehouse was a fermentation plant from 1904 to 1988 and is now a seven story visitor experience dedicated to the history and making of the world famous beer. The building itself is craftily designed in the shape of a giant pint. If it was filled with Guinness is would hold 14.3 million pints of Guinness. The seven levels of the building are (In order from ground to top.) Orientation Floor, Brewing, Taste Experience, Guinness Advertising, Pour the Perfect Pint, and the Gravity Bar. Many students returned to the orientation floor to mosey around the retail store with plenty of classic Guinness gifts such as hats, shirts, and pint glasses. Stephen purchased a hat for himself and a few other gifts for family members back home. Stephen had a great time at Guinness, but was disappointed he wasn’t a part of the Pouring a Pint Class.

    That class consisted of the five 18-year olds that are a part of the Irish Life Experience: Alex, Brendan, David, Jess, and Kate. These five had a separate experience then those who explored the different levels of the Guinness Brewery and learned about the history and art of a Guinness pint. Alex, Brendan, David, Jess, and Kate went directly to the Pouring Academy to learn how to pour a perfect pint. After the instructor gave a demonstration, the student’s went one by one to pour their own pint. All five completed the task and had a perfect pint with a dozen pictures and a certificate from the brewery declaring their skill. From there, they were guided up to the famous Gravity Bar where they were able to take a little sample of their pints together and enjoy the unbelievable view from the bar. The Gravity Bar is built with full glass windows giving you an almost 360 view of the beautiful city of Dublin. From this height you can see everything from Croke Park to the Wellington monument to Trinity College. They were then joined by the remaining 17 students who climbed to the Gravity Bar to enjoy a soft drink and the spectacular view. The visit to the brewery lasted only about two hours but many students thought this was the best part of the day.

    After Guinness, most of the students had free time and were dropped off by the bus on Kildare Street in Dublin. Surveying the bus when we were leaving showed plenty of clothes shopping (Mostly from Penney’s.) and souvenirs as well. While most shopped on the famous Grafton Street and the surrounding blocks, some students stopped by Trinity College where the Book of Kells is kept. Created in 800 AD and is four gospels of the New Testament. The Latin writings are very complex and have decadent illustrations. Stephen was one of the students who visited the Book of Kells and was surprised by the detail and colorfulness of the book. He felt it was ahead of its time and was impressed and honored to be able to see the Book of Kells.

    While most of the students and staff were parading around Dublin enjoying its endless line of shops and restaurants, six members of ILE went over across town via taxi to visit the Jameson Whiskey Distillery. Counselors Kate and Ninny were joined by four of the five 18 year olds to check out the Whiskey Distillery. Alex, Brendan, David, and Jess first popped into the gift shop where three purchased gifts for family members back home including t-shirts and chocolates. The tour started with a brief captivating video and was followed by a 45-minute walking tour around the now dormant distillery. Some of the highlights of the tour included the process of triple distilling Jameson Whiskey giving it a uniquely smooth taste. Brendan conversed with the tour guide leading to learn that the only whiskeys distilled more than three times were very expensive and it was not a common practice. Seeing the process step-by-step in a dungeony facility was very cool for the four ILE’ers and the two counselors. Among all the great information about the distilling and aging process, the students were most captivated by the first part of the tour. In the first room they visited, it described the process of buying and storing barley seeds. The barley seeds were a target of local rats which became a big problem for the whiskey makers, so they would have “hired” cats that would chase and kill the rats to stop them from eating the barley. There was one cat that was noted to have killed roughly 30-35 rats a day. This cat impressed the whiskey makers so much that he was stuffed and left in the facility when he passed on. The cat, which died in the 1800’s, remains there today and is in excellent condition. The four students (And two counselors.) snapped a handful of pictures of the cat that was situated above the tour looking down at everyone.

    After both tours were done, the four students were asked if they preferred the Guinness tour or the Jameson tour. Jess enjoyed Guinness a little bit better due to the full experience of pouring and testing the Guinness herself and the view from the Gravity Bar. Brendan also seemed to favor the Guinness Brewery and was surprised by the taste of Guinness. He was most interested by the long history of both establishments and has become known to take the most pictures of historical points of each tour. Alex, from Spain, where the drinking age is 18, had never tried a Guinness and also enjoyed the process of pouring the Guinness and becoming certified. He seemed to enjoy the Jameson tour more and definitely was impressed with the cat. And David avoided controversy by stating he preferred milkshakes.

    The students then returned to King’s Hospital and immediately ate dinner. They went on to return to their rooms to freshen up and get ready for the “surprise” the staff had prepared for them. All they were told is to wear shoes and warm clothes, which led to most students assuming it would be an outdoor affair. Before the surprise was an excellent sessiun with a great cast of local Irish musicians (Angie’s Brother, “Our Tom” was one of the musicians.) who not only played music for the students, but included details about the instruments they were playing and the history of each. The classic Irish sound had everyone tapping their feet and occasionally clapping to the beat. After a few songs played by the band, they invited members of the ILE to join them. Counselor Casey joined in and led the band in a few Irish tunes that she knew on her fiddle. A few ILE guitarists (Aaron and Brendan) took turns keeping up with the high strung Irish songs and impressed the crowd with their strumming capabilities. For the last two songs, Counselor Casey was joined first by her advanced Irish dancers who woo’ed the crowd with their high flying knees and lightning fast steps. For the second song, Casey was joined by every student as they did the “circle dance” which they had learned in dance class earlier in the week.

    The last event of the night was the Hellfire walk high up in the Dublin Mountains. The aforementioned surprise was exciting to most students as we left the dorms around 9:30 PM to get the perfect amount of darkness to combine the beauty of the hills and also leave a little room for some scary stories and sneaking up on each other. Most students and counselors huffed and puffed their way up to the top where they were gifted with a beautiful view of Dublin at night. After dozens of group pictures with the stunning backdrop, some students entered the empty and creepy building at the top of the mountain where you heard screams left and right from scaring each other. The exhausting hike up made the climb down much more appreciated, as they started the descent back to the bus and back to King’s Hospital, but of course, they first needed to take advantage of the darkness to try to scare each other on the way down. The first attempt was made by Miley, Ninny, and Taryn who snuck away from the pack while they were taking pictures and hid behind trees further down the mountain away from the group. After falling/sliding their way behind a couple of trees, they were disappointed when their efforts only lead to a few yelps from the students and counselors. Many kept running ahead trying to hide and scare others, but overall the group is very tough and would be able to survive a real haunted ghost tour.

    The students returned to King’s Hospital around 11:30 PM pretty tired and went straight to bed as they prepared for their lie in and Croke Park Tour/Howth Walk the next day.

    Famine Letters

    In Brigid’s Irish American history class, the students had 10 minutes to imagine themselves immigrating to the the US during the Famine and write a letter back home to their families. Brigid was truly impressed with some of the student’s creativity and they expressiveness. Brendan, Caitlin, and Rocky’s were her favorites. She wanted to share their letters with you. Enjoy!

    Dear Family,

    Today, I heard the Paperboys yelling that the Irish famine continued to ravage the country. I found it amazing somehow, that even here in America people were struck by the plight of our brothers and sisters. How long, I wondered, until Skibbereen became a household name here as it had in Ireland. Yet, how more would it take for the English Parliament to care?

    Many of my fellow Irish who came to New York when the blight struck have written misleading facts about just how great things are in America. I however, shall be brief on the subject. I am glad to have simply survived the journey, as many did not. People speak of the great opportunity in America, and they are right. However, the landlords here are not much more forgiving than their Anglo-Irish counter parts. -Brendan’s Letter

    Dearest Marie,

    I write to you now as I sit among our family, gathered in a one-roomed tenement in New York City. We miss you all greatly. I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to write sooner, but honestly, this whole journey has been one exhausting blur. I’m sure you understand. I know us Coynes don’t like to complain, but being the oldest, I must stay positive for all of the young ones. However, I need to let out my grievances somewhere. Hopefully, you don’t mind.

    The boat ride was horrible. No privacy, hardly any sleep; I spent most of the time working on my knitting, which they confiscated at Ellis Island. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to come to America, though I must say the conditions here aren’t much better. I’ve been working very hard on my English, but these people refuse to hear me.

    I finally got a job as a seamstress, but the pay is not great. I am trying to be glad, but I find it nearly impossible. My heart aches everyday for my dear family and country that I left behind. I must go now, as one of the children is ill. I will write as soon as I can. Sending you love.

    Your Sister,

    Catherine-Caitlin’s Letter

    Dear My Beloved Family,

    I write to you today expressing my thoughts on this new life we have made for ourselves here in America. The wife and I are thankfully able to care for the baby. Yet, the work is still in the dregs of the docks and stockyards, but is still better than the Crown’s workcamps. We hear there is more freedom out in the West with opportunities of friendly fortune and no discrimination, unlike the discrimination we face here in the city.

    New York is just as dirty as the streets of Dublin and is a forest of towering buildings I have been overwhelmed by ever since stepping off our shanty of a ship that seemed to be beaten by the waves like a rock on the shore.

    May God protect you, and we’ll keep you I our prayers, as I know you do for us in this land of Protestants similar to that of the King. -Rocky’s Letter