Irish history through an American lens

Photo courtesy of Harper Leigh

By Katy Mae Turner | Photographer

Growing up, history was never my favorite subject. Fifteen-year-old me sitting in the back of the classroom in European History was likely doodling or planning what she was doing after school rather than listening to a lesson on the Seven Years’ War. Names and dates have always been a struggle, but from a young age, I’ve enjoyed learning about where things and people have come from.

When I signed up for a study abroad, I wasn’t sure what I would learn. I love traveling, but five weeks in a new country provides the opportunity to truly immerse yourself in the culture and get to know locals. Ireland is notorious for shamrocks and leprechauns, but it is truly so much more than that.

Our time in Ireland has provided many opportunities for learning: walking around the National Gallery of Ireland and seeing artwork that showed the people and places of Ireland in a new light; visiting The Brazen Head, an 824-year-old Irish pub that is older than the United States; worshiping in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which opened its doors in 1191.

As someone who has only ever been to the United States, coming to a country like Ireland was very eye-opening. The rich history here is celebrated for both the good and the bad. The Irish welcome visitors, and with every person I’ve spoken to in all of the different cities, I can see the joy that their country and heritage brings them.

In my perfectionist brain, I had always thought that when learning history, you had to have every flashcard fact memorized. When I return home, I may not be able to tell you which year the Great Famine started, but the people of Ireland have taught me more about their culture and country than I ever retained from my high school history classes.