Adventures in Ireland
April 18, 2014
One of the unique experiences of our program is the Leadership Externship that all second-year students complete in their final semester as part of the Leadership Capstone course. The externship is a two-week experience that students have the responsibility for finding and coordinating. The diversity in places people go is astounding — from Ghana to Vietnam and from adult day health centers to medical mission trips.
I did my externship in Cork, Ireland at the University College Cork’s occupational therapy program. One of my interests is education and I wanted to see how occupational therapy was taught in other countries. I was challenged more than I expected — visiting an unfamiliar country alone without knowing anyone living there was tough. It helped me realize how much of a home I have built here in Los Angeles in the two years since I moved here from Chicago.
Despite the challenges I faced, I found even more amazing opportunities. While looking at a brochure, I came across a community art group that was building floats for the St. Patrick’s Day parade and they invited me to not only help with construction, but to be in the parade too. How many chances do you have to be in a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Ireland? I couldn’t say no.
The community art group also attracted other young adults from the surrounding countries like Italy, France, and England who came to volunteer their time, sometimes for up to eight months. My last day, a few of my Italian friends cooked me a mouth-wateringly authentic Italian dinner.
Because the externship happens right before Spring Break, there is an opportunity to spend additional time traveling. Those days were the best. I stayed at a bed and breakfast owned by an older gentleman and on my first night he invited me to hang out and have tea while watching a recap of the day’s sports results. He had some amazing stories of growing up in Ireland and living in Australia — I could have listened to his stories all night.
I also went on several day trips, where I took the picture below. I visited Ballycotton, a small, seaside fishing village, and took a long walk along the cliffs. It had been raining lightly, but I wanted to get a picture that captured the green of the land and the blue of the sea and the island with a lighthouse in the distance. In one small moment of sunshine, I set my camera up with a 10-second timer and started running down the hill. You can see how far I made it. It was the perfect moment: birds taking flight as sunshine streamed through the clouds and me running wild down the road. The rain started again as I walked back up the hill, out of breath but content.