Swept Away by the Essence of Ireland
This is the third post submitted by high school student Mark Bylancik from Montclair Kimberley Academy in Montclair, NJ. His Irish Studies Group have just returned from touring Ireland and learning about Irish culture and history. Here he reflects on visiting Ireland. View Group Photo
Preparing for the seven-odd hour flight home, it comes time to reflect on the past two weeks and see where this journey has taken me. As I stated in my post before leaving for Ireland, I wanted to find the connection between the country’s innate spiritual nature and its globally-beloved culture and people. Upon reaching Omagh in the North, I talked about how the Irish people make Ireland the way it is because of their reverence for the land and their culture. In the twilight hours of my final night, I see the faces of those traveling with me, illuminated not only by the lovely old-fashioned lamps of our B&B, but also by the smiles and stories that can only be found by traveling together.
As a group we’ve grown together, learning about ourselves and those we’re with and developing a bond. Even in such a small setting, our group of sixteen students and three chaperones has proved what I will call the “Ireland Effect” to be completely true.
Ireland has brought sixteen high school students together in a manner comparable to The Breakfast Club. All of us come from different social settings or groups, and when given a full dose of Irish culture, we are united by what can only be described as the essence of Ireland.
I theorized previously that it is the people of Ireland who make it such a spiritual and revered land, but it is truly the people in Ireland that make it so. Only a smattering of the students on the trip claim Irish heritage and of those only one is a “full-blooded” American Irishman, so it is certainly not Irish blood that connects one to the land.
Each member of this trip is now forever connected to the land through one another and connected to one another through Ireland. The essence of Ireland is that which connects people, that which draws them together to share in the greater parts of their humanity: their creative spirit and desire to better their state, their perseverance and love of beauty in the world.
You don’t need to be Irish to be swept away by the essence of Ireland, only to come with an open mind and an open heart, and without a doubt in my mind you too will be swept away.
Speaking for those who have participated in MKA’s Irish Studies ’10, I can say that it has been a fantastic trip, we have experienced so much of Ireland and met many people along the way who have made all the difference. A special thanks to William Stites, Gillian Branigan and Laura DeMaria for chaperoning our motley crew, the O’Connor brothers Rory and Matthew for making the trip so smooth and taking us everywhere we needed to be, and to all the parents for supporting us through the class and finally to the trip itself. We couldn’t have done it without you.
For those of you reading who have yet to experience Ireland, close this window and open up one for AerLingus airlines, your flight leaves tomorrow. At very least, put it on your bucket list because one cannot truly claim to know what it is to celebrate his or her humanity until they’ve opened their hearts to the essence of Ireland. Become a part of one of the greatest stories ever told. Become a part of a tradition of joy and reverence and love for those things greater than ourselves. Become Ireland and discover yourself, just as we have.