This was my first week in Ballyvaughan, Ireland and let me just say that this country is amazing! As we were flying in, I was able to see the landscape from above and I got so excited. When we touched down in Shannon, the flight attendant said something in Irish which I couldn’t understand, but I found out later was a traditional greeting that translates to “a hundred thousand welcomes.” The first day was almost overwhelming. As we drove to Ballyvaughan I was taking in the sensations of this new country while also trying to get to know the other students in the program. I’m traveling with sixteen students from my college with a few familiar faces and a few new ones. We were all fighting jet lag by the end of that first day but we made it through!
That first day we got our studios assigned to us, and we each got our own space which is really wonderful. The next morning we went on a bus tour of the area, including to the Cliffs to Moher and it’s actually a bit mind boggling how beautiful one country can be. I was looking out over the cliffs one moment, then I turned around and saw these lush green fields with hills in the distance. So much beauty, everywhere I turn, and so many cows too!
We also went grocery shopping earlier this week. In my program, lunch is provided but breakfast and dinner is not and although I’ve had times over the past summers when I stayed on my college campus and needed to cook for myself, I realize I’ve never gone grocery shopping for myself for weeks at a time. In the past summers, my mom and I would go to the store and she would help me stock up on food, and then I would supplement that with a student pantry that was on campus. This week, since the nearest supermarket is a bit far from the town my group is staying in, my program leaders arranged a shuttle to take us all to the market once a week. As we were in the store, I was trying to think about how much food I regularly eat so that I could buy enough to last me for breakfast and dinner for a week.
Something that has been challenging is that on the day we arrived, one of the members in our group tested positive for Covid, and subsequently two more. I definitely wish we were all feeling well and could spend this time together, but I’m also nervous. The program is carrying on, while some students are quarantined in their rooms. I’m experiencing this weird balance between joy for the weeks ahead and concern for my friends and my own health.