This summer the University gave me a great opportunity that resulted in a three-week trip to Ireland. My friend Isla and I applied for the American Dream Grant through UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program) and were lucky enough to receive it. I went to Dublin for an independent research project, and I will use that research for my senior thesis next year. We were investigating American involvement in the Easter Uprising of 1916, which was a catalyst for Irish Independence. Not much has been written about this relationship and it is very timely because it will be 100 years since the Uprising in 2016 and the Keough Naughton Institute of Notre Dame is producing a three part documentary about the Uprising that will air on PBS and BBC.
I mainly researched the project in the National Library of Ireland, which is right in the City Center of Dublin and conveniently close to some of my favorite restaurants. It was a new and exciting experience being able to order and read primary documents. I loved reading personal letters from people like John Devoy and deciphering their handwriting. I also visited museums such as the Little Museum of Dublin, which had a great exhibit of Irish in America in honor of the anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s visit to Ireland, and Collins Barracks, a military barracks that was converted into a museum. My favorite museum was Kilmainham Gaol, the prison that all of the Uprising leaders had been taken and executed for treason.
In addition to the academic knowledge I gained, I think I learned the most from the experience of being dropped into a new country and city for the first time. My friend and I stayed in a hostel for the three weeks and navigated the public transportation system in our additional travel to the cities of Cork, Dingle, and Galway. We got to experience the kindness and hospitality of the Irish I had heard so much about. They were always willing to point the lost looking American girls in the right direction or give pub and restaurant suggestions. I was also a huge fan of the Irish sense of humor, I thought I was already pretty sarcastic but I realized I have a lot to learn! It was an amazing experience in which I learned a lot about Ireland, America, and especially myself and I look forward to returning when I study abroad at the University College Dublin in the spring…although I will miss everyone at the Center that semester!