Students Recount Study-Abroad Trip to Ireland
June 28, 2019
By Ashleigh Hannah and Marcus Simon
During the second week of March, three instructors and 25 students headed to Ireland as part of a study-abroad opportunity. Their experiences were extensive and enlightening, and two of the students - Ashleigh Hannah and Marcus Simon - documented the adventure. Hannah is a junior majoring in biology with a minor in biomedical engineering. Simon is a senior pursuing a degree in environmental health with a minor in occupational safety. Here is an edited version of their story.
After a seven-hour transatlantic flight, we met our Learn International trip coordinators - Dave and Nick - who provided orientation and lunch. After another five hours, we arrived at Ionad Naomh Pádraig (which means St. Patrick's Center), the community center in Donegal, where our interprofessional student-led healthcare teams incorporated our numerous health-promotion activities within the greater community. There we also met Mary, a visionary of this community center in this rural area of Ireland. She guided us with kindness, history, cultural norms and lots of moments of fun. As part of the trip, each day we taught and provided health and wellness information to various age groups of women and men, high schoolers, and children at the community center. In addition, we also went to an elderly care center to teach and interact with the area residents. When we were not teaching, we were learning about the land and culture of Ireland.
In conducting the health promotion projects, we provided: oral screenings, fall risk assessments, health and nutrition phone applications, stretching/yoga/meditation, impaired-driving assessment, foot/vascular screening and blood pressure/glucose screening. In addition, we gained insight into our peers' roles within their healthcare disciplines.
We learned how to make a true Irish coffee with the "good stuff" as well as some of the Gaelic language and Irish dancing, and an herbalist shared alternative forms of medicine with us. In addition, we had the chance to sit in on classes offered at the community center, such as tai chi, photography, art, meditation/yoga and many more. We had the wonderful opportunity to fight the gale-force winds in visiting Carrickfinn Beach, Glenveagh National Park and Castle, Wild Atlantic Way and a historic tour of Derry, in Northern Ireland. Among the many locations, the architecture and interior design of the Glenveagh Castle were the most impressive, which allowed us to see the castle's changes throughout history.
On the final day of our trip, we spent the day in Dublin during St. Patrick's Day weekend festivities. Going around the city and seeing the buildings, stores and large crowds of people was different in comparison to Donegal. However, we did not leave Donegal without leaving our mark for them to remember us by with a mural of a mermaid representative of Norfolk and Old Dominion University students.
Hopefully, someday in the future, all of us will get the chance to experience the adventure and community of Donegal again. It will forever remain in our minds as an experience of personal growth, the formation of new relationships, knowledge of the value of interprofessional healthcare teams and the unforgettable faces of the residents of Donegal.