Part of the 30-Day Challenge, Day 8.

Ireland means a lot to me.

I grew up attending a St. Patrick School, where, needless to say, St. Patrick and Ireland were kind of a big deal.  My family heritage is also Irish on my dad’s side, and Irish music and Ireland have always been a heavy presence in my life.

So when I planned my study abroad experience in college, I knew that I’d go to Ireland.  In fact, one of the reasons I chose my college was because it offered a semester abroad program in Ireland.

Cork, to be exact.

A view of Cork and St. Finbar's Cathedral.
A view of Cork and St. Finbar’s Cathedral.

Cork’s not a place a lot of Americans think of when they think of Ireland.  Located in the south, it’s probably best known to those who don’t know Ireland well as being near Blarney Castle (home of the Blarney Stone).  But I loved Cork.

Cork, to me, is a very Irish city.  Whereas Dublin, when I visited, felt more European, Cork had a distinctly Irish feel to it.  Over six months, I got very comfortable navigating around the city, our neighborhood, and University College Cork, where our studies happened.

Cork also got to witness the early stages of the relationship that would become my marriage, as my wife and I studied there together and had just begun dating.  Studying there also gave us the opportunity to visit the rest of Europe during our spring vacation and spend three weeks traveling with backpacks around the continent in a very cliché, American way.  Many, many good memories.

I would love to go back to Ireland someday, and it will always have a special place in my heart.  Though parenthood makes international travel pretty close to impossible for the foreseeable future, I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to live and study abroad, in a place as wonderful as Cork.