Sitting along a secluded little beach on the north end of Sherkin Island (off Baltimore, west Co. Cork—well worth a visit if you get the chance), I watched the tide lap its way gently in, slowly erasing the footprints I had left in the sand. It occurred to me that that’s often the case when you travel—what transitory mark you may leave on a place is worn away in time. I’ll refrain here from extrapolating to the existential level, but the point is that I’ll be leaving Sherkin Island in a few hours, and already my footprints there are fading. It won’t be much more than a week, now, before I’m leaving the bigger island behind as well, but I think I’ve managed to leave some footprints there that’ll stick around a while—maybe even long enough for me to come back and tread them again.
I’ve travelled and spent time abroad with friends and on my own, making varying degrees of connection in and with the places I’ve been, but this time ’round has been the best yet in that regard. In part, I’ve been determined to push my introverted self more so than before to get out there and make connections with people, but I’ve also just been fortunate as far as the people I’ve had at hand here. From cooking with my hallmates to the gang at the cemetery introducing me to everything from the odd tale of Francis de Groot to Father Ted, I’ve made friends and memories that’ll last long after I leave Ireland behind. As I was remarking to a friend of mine back home, I will miss ready access to black pudding and inexpensive brie cheese dearly, but it’s the people I’m going to miss most of all. The streets of Dublin won’t remember my footprints; the GPO won’t remember that I walked by countless times, nor Daniel O’Connell that I stood by his casket, recounting his life story, every Monday to Thursday for eight weeks, but the people I’ve come to know here will stick in my head and heart (and, with any luck, vice versa).
Ireland, in turn, has made its imprint upon me. I’ve managed to put a tick next to most of the items on my list of ambitions in coming here, at least to some degree. I have learned loads about Ireland’s political history and the importance of language and culture thereto (the very things I was hoping to be able to relate to my studies), I have expanded my Irish language vocabulary a bit (though I will continue to pursue the language in further depth than I have made the time to do here), and I have made music with my hallmates, my co-workers, and the folks at the Wednesday night back room sessions at the Cobblestone, which I really wish I had discovered sooner. All the more reason to come back, though, as one of my cemetery colleagues assured me confidently the other day that I will do. The idea of coming back is made all the more tempting, all the easier, by the connections I’ve made this time ’round, by the footprints I’ve left behind, whose path someday I shall have to resume.
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<p>My name is Sam Wherley. I grew up in central Pennsylvania, but I have had the good fortune to study and travel abroad several times, including two semesters and a Fulbright in Spain as well as trips with my college choir and family through Europe and elsewhere. I am now pursuing a Master's of International Affairs at Penn State University and I am thrilled to be in Dublin this summer with IES. I cannot overemphasize the value of my experiences abroad and the enthusiasm with which I encourage others to study abroad.</p>