History and Archeology of Medieval Ireland

My name is Zoe Legato and I studied abroad in Ireland for four weeks in May 2017. The program, History and Archeology of Medieval Ireland: Trim and the Blackfriary, focused on teaching us about the history of monasteries and religious life in medieval Ireland and giving us the opportunity to work on a real archeological excavation of a medieval friary called the Blackfriary. We spent the first week traveling the countryside and discovering what a monastery is and how it would have functioned back in medieval times. During the remaining three weeks, we worked on the Blackfriary site, made discoveries, and got a taste of what archeology is like outside of Indiana Jones movies (let me tell you now, Hollywood got it all wrong).

I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect to work as hard as we did. We hiked at least four mountains in as many days. We walked two miles to and from work everyday, worked rain or shine all day, and fell into an exhausted sleep every night. It really pushed me to my limits, physically, mentally, and emotionally. But I realized very quickly that after panting the whole way to the top of a mountain, I would be rewarded with one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. I learned that pushing through the pain or the exhaustion or the “I don’t want to do this right now” would probably be worth it. In the end, I became a more resilient person. I did so many things during that month in Ireland that I never thought I would do. Now I know that I can push myself farther than I ever thought and make it through.

Hiking on the west coast

The group that I worked with while digging in Cutting 7 on the Blackfriary site

The most mentally challenging aspect of the trip was our final project. We were tasked with researching any question we wanted, interviewing locals in an effort to answer the question, and create a video presentation to present to the community during our last week. Our question was about how supernatural folklore (i.e. ghosts) about the Blackfriary shaped people’s perceptions of the site. I volunteered to run the technical team because I had prior experience editing video. The class ended up being very disjointed because everyone was assigned to different groups and no one was overseeing the entire process or knew what was happening before or after their group did their part. So with three days until the community presentation, the technical team (me and three others) was given a mess of video, audio, and photos to make into something that we could all be proud of. After realizing just how low the morale on site was during those final days, I knew that I needed to step up. I had to push and work really hard so that we could end up with something good. I spent one day being completely defeated by the whole thing and not knowing how we were going to get anything done. The following morning, I came to site with to-do lists and an infectiously positive attitude. I dragged the tech team around as I got the footage and photos we needed, delegating tasks and giving praise as needed to get it done and keep people positive. Since editing video is really a solo job, I gathered everything I needed and pulled two very late nights creating our project. When our presentation day came, I was exhausted but knew that I had done everything I could and I was proud of the final product. The project as a whole was definitely a group effort, from researching to scriptwriting to marketing our presentation, everyone put in work. Everyone just needed a push at the end and someone to make sense of the pieces and put it all together. Even though that was a difficult role to fill, I became more resilient because of it. Our final video can be found here.

In addition to the mental and physical labor pushing me past my limits, I also had to become more resilient emotionally. It’s immensely hard to be in a foreign country for the first time with a group of strangers. It’s even harder to be cast out of the group on day one. I had to develop a thicker skin and not allow my feelings to be hurt because I wasn’t chosen to be in the clique. It was a great exercise in loving and accepting myself and being more independent. Because of this, I developed closer relationships with people who could see beyond the surface, such as the site staff, our OSU staff, and great people who also didn’t play into the drama with the rest of the group. Although the whole thing felt like high school drama, I made the most of the experience and didn’t allow others to determine my worth.

O-H-I-O at Mellifont Abbey

This transformation into a more resilient, stronger individual will impact my future in every sense. As I look towards my final year at OSU and law school the following year, I know that I can push myself even in the hardest of circumstances. I have seen how far I can go, learned how to handle people who are very different from me, and matured. In law school I will be challenged yet again, but I’m glad that I had this opportunity to grow in Ireland. I will be able to look back on this experience when I’m pushed to my limits in the future and remind myself of how strong I have become and the positive attitude that it took to get there.

The most beautiful morning hike along the beach on the west coast

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *