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Purple and White Go Green: Young Harris College 2016 Study Abroad
As told by Dr. Ruth Looper and Louisa Franklin

“After hearing stories of my family who live on the Emerald Isle, I have always dreamed of visiting the landscape and seeing the beautiful places they talked about. Also, after taking Dr. Looper’s Irish Literature course, I was ecstatic to see the places written about in famous Irish literature, such as Innisfree!”—Irenee Payne, ’16

“My favorite part of this trip so far was definitely going to Lady Gregory’s Coole Park and Yeats’s tower! I loved being able to sit in the same places as the brilliant writers we read about in our ILR class and see the same things that inspired them. Especially at the Tower, I could almost still feel the presence of the writers.”—Mikala Jones, ’17

“My favorite thing: The entire day we went to the Blasket Islands. The weather was perfect, all of the marine life, and the islands themselves were absolutely beautiful. The story telling while we were there allowed us (or at least me) to engage more with the literature and landscape.”—Morgan Bradshaw, ’16

“What makes this tour great is understanding the context behind the places we visit, whether that be from talks on history or reading poetry. Yes, the sights and the landscapes are beautiful, but it’s the knowledge of the background that has made me enjoy this tour so much.”—Sarah Boudreau, ’17

“I have never traveled outside of the U.S before and when I heard of this opportunity I knew I had to go. It was the perfect chance to travel in a safe environment with two of my favorite professors and a great group of students. The classes that I took in college to prepare me for the trip have increased my excitement to go on the trip. I can’t wait to meet people, see new sights, and experience another culture.” — Caroline Cox, ’18

These comments from some of YHC’s Irish Rovers sum up what motivated Louisa Franklin and me to create and implement Young Harris College Ireland Spring 2016. We hoped to offer students a transformative experience; comments like these and others testify to the fulfillment of our hopes. We began recruiting students in the spring of 2015, and by the start of spring term, 2016, we had twenty enthusiastic participants. All of the Irish Rovers enrolled in a Humanities class, Introduction to Irish History and Culture, so that we would share a knowledge base and a vocabulary. Students could choose to enroll in Louisa’s special section of English 1102 or my upper-level English, The Irish Literary Revival, both classes open to all students but with seats set aside for the Rovers. In the Humanities class, we learned about the Easter 1916 Rising and the Centenary Remembrances that we would experience for ourselves as all of Ireland honored the pivotal events of that year; we learned about the Irish language, gamely trying to get the pronunciation of the Irish versions of our names (“Shannon” was easy); we watched The Field, a powerful film (or “filum” as the Irish say) to get a sense of the landscape of Western Ireland and the farmers’ deep connection to the soil; and we read Yeats’s poetry. I won’t forget the beautiful reading of Yeats’s “Easter 1916” as each of us took one line, picking up and continuing the poem’s perfect rhythm as if one person. By the time we flew out of Atlanta on Friday the 13th, we had earned good luck with our energetic preparations. We landed safely in Dublin and the adventure began.

The leprechauns sent us glorious weather as we headed by boat to the Great Blasket Island off the Dingle coast into the Atlantic. Seas were calm, and skies were blue as we chugged our way toward the deserted island. In 1953, the residents of the Great Blasket (all Irish speaking) were moved from the remote island to the Irish mainland for their own protection, and the government left their farms and homes as a testament to their unique lifestyle. Students hiked the island and picnicked in the ruins, which, on this beautiful day, looked like a vision of the Caribbean. The Rovers were enchanted by a Dingle story teller, who spun tales of island history and its residents’ important contributions to Irish literature.

Since the seas and weather were cooperating, our boat captain took the YHC group out into the Atlantic as far as we could go in a day. We spotted puffins, dolphins, and seals as we navigated our way through the islands farthest from the Irish coast. We even saw the famous Skellig Island where the Star Wars crew was filming the next adventure in the series. After several days in Dingle, we headed north to Yeats country. The county most associated with poet, William Butler Yeats is Galway, where we had a very intimate private tour of Yeats’ Norman castle home, Thoor Ballylee. Then it was on to Lady Augusta Gregory’s home, Coole Park, where we strolled through manicured gardens and rough woodland trails.

Moving onto County Sligo, students had the chance to surf in the Atlantic or to ride horses on the Sligo Bay beach. Yeats, of course, figured into the Sligo visit where students visited the Lake Island of Innisfree, the Glencar Falls, Lissadel House, and Yeats’ famous tomb under the mountain, Ben Bulben. Finally, the YHC students took over Dublin in high style, where we saw the Abbey Theater’s production of Shakespeare’s Othello, while seated on the stage with the actors. Museums, shopping, touring, and celebrating the 100 years of Irish independence made Dublin a group favorite. It was hard for us all to depart this magical island and to leave each other, but we all came away from this trip feeling like we had shared “the luck of the Irish” with amazing friends and a memorable learning (and laughing) adventure.

people posing in front of water

group posing front of lake

group of people posing for selfie

Ireland castle

Ireland castle grounds

Students in Ireland