Lass in class: Inspiration for a semester abroad

January 29, 2014

As a 20-year-old student navigating the channels of life, nothing could possibly provide more comfort than the guidance of the UW-Madison faculty, the Nelson Institute, and the wonderful people in the English Department. It is difficult to leave a place you call home, no matter what age, and if I were to regard Madison as anything but my home I would be lying.

Cardinal red runs through my veins. So then, why am I currently sitting in Galway, Ireland, contemplating the story I want to tell? Simple. I firmly believe the strongest aspects of learning occur outside of the classroom, and immersing yourself in world culture enhances human characteristics I deem most important.

These are the characteristics of compassion, patience, adaptability and empathy. Such characteristics permeate, sometimes softly, everything I learn and practice in the environmental studies and English majors.

"My professors tell me
of their reputable work in
far away lands. In doing so,
they have given me the
understanding that to
cooperate is to solve problems,
and to find solutions allows for
a more sustainable future."

My professors tell me of their reputable work in far away lands, like the Cerrado of Brazil or the tropical forests of Indonesia. In doing so, they have given me the understanding that to cooperate is to solve problems, and to find solutions allows for a more sustainable future.

I chose Galway, Ireland, for three major reasons. The first was I could speak the language and communication was important to me because I wanted to connect with those around me in a verbal manner.

The second: My own personal history descends from Irish ancestors and not often is one given the opportunity to travel that far to gain a perspective on oneself.

The last reason is purely because of my passion for environmentalism and a personal curiosity for understanding variations in cultural practices and systems. Ireland, as an island, relies so heavily on the landscape that it flourishes and thrives so long as its natural resources do.

Galway thrives on fishing, Ireland waters are a safe haven for dolphins and whales, peat is still used as a heat source, and the potato famine is ever present in the memory of Ireland’s people. As a country, environmental sustainability is so important.

The National University of Ireland, Galway itself has one of the top marine science programs in the world for undergraduate students and the conversations I have with fellow dreamers and improvers such as myself will lead to, if I daresay, a most entertaining blog.

In addition, as an English major, to live in Ireland is to be surrounded by the memory of literary greats, and maybe – just maybe – it might rub off on me.

Peyton Sweeney is an English and environmental studies major from Bayside, Wis., who is studying abroad for the spring semester at the National University of Ireland, Galway. She will document her experience on a student blog, Lass in Class