Memories from Ireland

by Angela (Pair) Miller '01 

The first group of JBU students traveled to Ireland for the first Ireland Summer Studies program in 1998. Angela Miller shares her story of leaving the United States for the first time to embark on a program in its infancy in 1999.

Just thinking about Ireland and the time that I spent there makes me smile!

I had never even been on an airplane before I traveled to Ireland. I remember being so nervous that during the flight to London, I did not get out of my seat one time. When we got onto the plane in London for our flight into Ireland, the pilots somehow found out that it was my first time flying and asked me to ride with them in the cockpit. At one point I thought we were going to miss landing on Ireland, but they assured me that we were fine.

The first part of our trip we were in Belfast (Northern Ireland) and stayed in a dormitory called Derryvolgie Hall. We had a common kitchen and spent many nights making meals together and getting to know one another. Dr. Gary Guinn and his wife were our chaperone's during our studies in Ireland.

We spent each day touring places in Ireland and had lessons all over the place depending on where we were at the time. Our class times was impromptu, and sometime we did work at night. It was definitely an outdoor classroom experience, with us receiving credit for three courses: Irish Literature, Christian Life and a European Government/Econ class.

While in Belfast we visited Queen's University and studied Irish Literature. One of the highlights was seeing William Butler Yates tower/castle house. We also spent time studying about C.S. Lewis and his movie the Shadowlands. Our tour guide named Lizzie did a great job of showing us around and keeping us entertained. Her husband was an Ulster Party Member, and we attended session in government. I was fascinated that they still wore the old white powdered whigs.

We met several Irish students while in Belfast that stayed in the same dormatory. I kept in touch with some of them for several years, but have since lost contact. I do remember Hugh though, who would say some elements of the periodic table differently. We would pronounce alu-min-um, but he would say al-u-mini-um. It became a joke to ask the American girl to say certain words because we say things differently. Seems silly now, but it was fun at the time. Another thing that really stood out in Belfast was the chalk pictures that were drawn on the sidewalks. I have some pictures of them, and they still amaze me today. It was like the picture was coming up out of the ground at you!

The second part our trip was in Dublin, Ireland, and I must say it was my favorite. The people in the Republic of Ireland were much more friendly! We visited Trinity College in Dublin and saw the Koran on exhibit. We also stopped in many counties as we traveled throughout the area. We watched the Barber of Seville in an old carriage house converted to a theater. We went into multiple castles and thinking that the people were all small and short as I hit may head several times. The Giant's Causeway was incredible. We walked across the Carrick-a-reed bridge that was wooden squares built into a rope bridge. While it was really pretty on the other side of the bridge, it was the scariest moment of my life. We walked through many sculpted gardens and played chess on boards that had life-sized pieces. We even went into a mansion that was half gothic and half southern belle (the front half of the house was the masculine side with black gargoyles, sculptures, etc., and the back half of the house was light with all white adornments and dainty decor).

I ended my trip by taking a quick weekend trip with two other students to Scotland. One of the students on the trip had a distant relative that lived in Glasgow, and she met us at the ferry as we entered Scotland. We stayed with her for a few days and then made our way into Edinburgh. While Ireland and Scotland are similar in some ways, they are very different as well. Scottish people seemed to be more down to earth as a whole. We even got to watch a parade in which the crown jewels of Scotland were being taken to a new place in the Edinburgh. It was a big deal at the time!

Thinking back on all of this, I pulled out my scrapbook and had happy tears from the memories and the people that I shared the experience with. Although I do not see any of them now, we will always share our Irish Studies trip!

My experience with the Irish Studies Program is one of the best of my life! I will never forget the experience, the people I met from the U.S. and also the people from Ireland (especially Lizzie and her family. She has since passed, but I will always remember her fondly.), and many of the sites that I saw while traveling there. I tell my kids about the experience all of the time and am adamant that when they get old enough that they study abroad for a few months as well. I had to take out a personal loan to be able to go to Ireland, and it was worth every penny. I would do it again any day. The experience was invaluable and gave the travel bug to the small town Arkansas girl that had never even been on a plane at the age of 19!