I stopped for a bit in the bus station before starting my search for a place to stay. A man clad in nothing but denim, with a shaved head, and spiderweb tattoo on his face stared angrily at me. I was 21, had never been away from New England on my own, knew nobody in Dublin, and was getting the evil eye from a stranger who knew I wasn’t from around these parts. I decided to move on.
I was far from worldly as a child, or even into early adulthood for that matter. I’d spent most of my early life within New England (a few day stints in Washington D.C., Florida, and New Jersey aside). It had been a goal from a very young age to visit Ireland, the birthplace of my paternal ancestors. I’d always felt a connection to it – not only because of my Irish last name, but it felt mysterious to me. I grew up surrounded by my mother’s Italian family, hearing stories from my grandmother about her parents and other relatives from “the old country.” I was not as fortunate with the Irish side – my father had passed when I was 12 and neither of his parents made it past the mid 1940s or ’50s.
I found an opportunity to explore Ireland in the form of a poster hanging on the wall of my college’s student center. Happy looking students explored the countryside underneath the words “Burren College of Art.” I applied, was accepted, and a few short months later, departed from Boston for a four-month study abroad program in County Clare on the West coast.