Type of Project: Education Abroad
On the Human and Animal Interactions study abroad trip to Ireland, activities included visiting a wide variety of livestock farms and tourist locations such as the Cliffs of Moher and Blarney Castle. The experience also gave me the opportunity to dive into Irish culture through traditional food, music, and dance.
Visiting Ireland allowed me to learn about the country in a hands-on way and also understand just how diverse the world is. I went into this trip with an open mind and knew it was going to be very impactful. While in country, we learned a lot about why agriculture is such an important piece of their culture and way of life. I was also able to learn about current agriculture legislation and research that Ireland is working on. Learning Irish culture during the trip allowed me to dive deep into the lives of those who live there. Through the ten days of various learning opportunities in Ireland, I now have a broader understanding of the world and a greater appreciation for global agriculture. Going into the trip, I was a little hesitant because of the large number of students that were traveling, but it turned out to be a great advantage. I was able to form great friendships during the trip that allowed me to come out of my comfort zone and grow as an individual. This trip has transformed me into a more globally conscious citizen and agriculturalist.
There were many things that lead to my growth as an individual and global citizen, but a few visits that come to mind first are the sheep and beef farms, Blarney Castle, and the traditional Irish group dinners. Visiting a sheep and beef farm allowed me to see global agriculture first-hand and be able to compare Irish production practices to those in the United States. It was interesting to learn how Ireland’s climate plays a role in their production management and the programs they have in place to help improve farm efficiency. The interactions with each of the farmers were great as they were able to share their experiences and what they do on a daily basis. They were very open to answering any and all questions about their operations and why they do things the way they do. On these farms, it was interesting to hear their welfare practices and the legislation in place surrounding welfare issues. These farm visits allowed me to understand the diversity of agriculture and learn the challenges associated with production.
At Blarney Castle, I was able to learn about Irish culture and history through a tour of the castle and gardens as well as kiss the Blarney Stone. Kissing the Blarney Stone is said to give the gift of eloquence, or gab, although I haven’t seen that effect on me yet. The castle’s stonework and unique design were remarkable to see. Touring the castle and reading what each room was used for was a really fun way to learn about historic castles and their uses. In the gift shop, I was able to find an information card that included my family’s Irish history and heritage which was a really cool addition to the experience. Blarney Castle gave me a great appreciation for historic Irish architecture and culture.
The dinners that we attended as a group were some of my favorite experiences. Most included some kind of Irish folklore, singing, dancing, and all included traditional Irish food. The study abroad program had an agriculture focus, but it was nice to have a well-rounded experience of the country during our short time there. I was able to try foods that I normally wouldn’t order off of the menu, such as lamb stew, and was able to learn and sing traditional songs with local Irishmen. The group was told stories about fairy trees and the significance they play for landowners in Ireland. During our last night in country, we were able to watch Irish dancers perform which was a great experience. These group dinners and performances allowed me to experience Irish culture in a fun way and will be something I’ll never forget.
This international experience is very valuable to my academic, personal, and professional goals. Although it allowed me to receive academic credit, the experiences were so much more important than a receiving credit for a three-credit hour course. Personally, I have become more globally aware of current issues and also have a deeper understanding of global agriculture. I have been able to grow individually through experiencing Irish culture and traveling with 45 other students. I was able to come out of my comfort zone to take full advantage of the experience. This international experience has given me a broader perspective that will serve useful in my professional career and future plans. No matter where my future plans take me, I will constantly reflect on my experiences through this study abroad and use for my betterment as well as the betterment of others.