This month, students from Montclair Kimberley Academy in Montclair, NJ, will be visiting Ireland as part of their Irish Studies program. Mark Bylancik is one of those students, and he has agreed to share some of his experience with us. Here’s what Mark would like to get out of the program in his own words.
My name is Mark Bylancik, and this year I have the opportunity to participate in the Irish Studies program at the Montclair Kimberley Academy. I’m interested in music and literature, and will be an English major at Northeastern University in the fall.
I joined the Irish Studies program to deepen my understanding of Ireland, both its people and its history. Personally, I am 1/4 Irish, and though this number is small, it is the majority amongst my nationalities. Ultimately, I identify myself as an American, but my connection to Ireland is both sentimental and spiritual.
Traveling to County Galway in 2008, I spent two weeks visiting monasteries and other spiritual sites around the area as part of a pilgrimage program through my church. I’ve heard the expression used that “Ireland restores one’s spiritual batteries,” and from personal experience I can attest to this.
Part of my interest in the program is to discover the source of this revitalizing spirit, the origin of what draws people to Ireland and causes them to hold so dearly to any connection they may have to it. Drawing the connection between the spiritual energy of Ireland and its rich history and culture has been my main goal in the Irish Studies program.
Given the lessons on the people and the land, it will be up to me to make those connections in person when we arrive on the island. Armed with memories and historical context, I hope to discover that essence of Ireland, that which makes such an ancient land a timeless one.