Why I Chose To Go Back
by Christine Loughlin
Setting the Scene
As a kid, I used to wake up on a Sunday morning to the smell of bacon frying and the gentle sounds of Irish traditional music. “Low lie the Fields of Athenry…!” Listening to the stories told to me about my great- great grandmother’s journey from Ireland to America filled me with admiration for this strong woman. My Claddagh ring that I wear every day grounds me to my Irish roots through its tale of love and loyalty. Memories and stories like these as well as small, yet meaningful, pieces of Irish culture have been artfully woven into my life ever since I can remember. It helps, too, that Boston is a place where shamrocks and all things Irish are far from scant!
In high school, I became more and more fascinated by my Irish heritage. I read books on Irish history for fun (nerd alert!), looked into my own family’s ancestry, and wondered what it would be like to see with my own eyes the gorgeous land I am so fond of. The Irish trad songs I grew up listening to when I was younger now hold a much greater meaning to me as I begin to understand and admire the courageous strength of the Irish they sing about. Together, these things led me on a determined path to study abroad in Ireland once I got to college.
Living my dream
Two years ago, after a lot of hard work, I was finally able to make my dream happen. I studied abroad in Cork where I met life-long friends, traveled all over Ireland as well as Western Europe, and thoroughly enjoyed my lectures (who even says that?! But it’s true).
Living in Cork not only made me feel closer to my roots, but it taught me so much more. It taught me how to be solely dependent upon myself as well as taking every opportunity I can in order to have a truly wonderful experience. I cannot begin to explain the intoxicating feeling of exploring Ireland with the great group of friends I made there. Visiting places like the Aran Islands and rural Kerry helped me to imagine how tough life must have been during the famine. But I was also fortunate enough to learn more about Modern Day Ireland by getting to know Cork inside out.
I may have been able to check off all the things on my to-do list for my time in Cork, but I was also in the process of making a new laundry list for my next trip back to Ireland. And I knew I would be back. I knew the moment I landed on my first trip and again the moment I didn’t want to board my flight back home from Cork.
Intern in the country that never ceases to take your breath away
After I graduated college, the idea of going back and living in Ireland never strayed too far from my mind. This time I wanted to continue exploring Ireland as well as gain some work experience.
As a graduate in environmental chemistry, I need experience more than anything. I liked the idea of interning to figure out what it is I want to focus on in my career field. I’ve always been interested in water pollution and the idea of keeping our water clean from natural and unnatural toxins. The internship Stint Ireland set me up with could not have been more perfect. I’ll be working with Coastwatch Europe helping them maintain a clean coastland.
During my stint abroad, I look forward to learning more about environmentalism as well as seeing more of Ireland. I still have 18 more counties left to visit in Ireland and Northern Ireland! As I said, I was making a list of things to do when I come back including things like spending a weekend in Galway, going back ‘home’ to Cork, walking the Howth cliff walk in Dublin, hiking the beautiful Wicklow mountains, and losing myself in the many castles still waiting for me. I’m so excited to be able to live in Dublin and unlock her secrets while also being a part of her community.
Ireland holds a very special piece of my heart. From my ancestry to my unforgettable memories, it only makes sense that I would return abroad to this country that continues to fascinate me.
Christine Loughlin graduated from the University of Vermont with a bachelor of science degree in Environmental Chemistry. She studied abroad in Cork, Ireland her junior year and is on her fourth trip back to the Emerald Isle. She’s a Boston girl who’s most at home on the back of a horse or letting the day slip away with her nose in a book. She loves exploring new places, trying new recipes, and listening to stories of fellow travelers.
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Christine is a program participant on our “Intern in Dublin” program.