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Surry Community College Sponsors Trip to Ireland

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Just this past summer, Surry and Yadkin county locals, as well as students and faculty of Surry Community College, were provided the incredible opportunity to take a seven-night trip to Donegal, Ireland. This trip, that provided an in-depth look into Irish history, literature, and culture, was made possible through the partnership of Surry Community College and the Institute of Study Abroad Ireland.

Upon their arrival, the travelers visited the EPIC Irish Immigration Museum, which highlights the Irish diaspora and eventual emigration to other parts of the world. Travelers stated that the museum contained much all-new information for them to learn and remarked on how the museum illustrated the connectedness of the Irish culture to the culture of those with Irish heritage living in America, especially in music such as bluegrass.

The group also visited the Famine Memorial that was created in remembrance of the Great Famine. The Great Famine saw the country’s population halved through immigration and death. Many of those who emigrated found themselves in North America, and this period marked the greatest amount of Irish to emigrate to the United States.

The next day the group traveled to Sliabh na Cailli (Loughcrew). The area is composed of hills and ancient tombs. Members of the group described the area as incredibly beautiful and picturesque.

The group also took a trip to Cavan Burren Park. This beautiful park was described as nothing short of magical. As they embarked on their journey through the forest, they were immersed in the captivating tales of ancient Ireland, steeped in mythology and folklore. Surry Community College instructor, Melinda Shew said that while walking through this forest, she felt as though she was treading upon a living history. The group was able to visit sacred sites, where they discovered hut remnants, portal tombs, and the mesmerizing Atlantic Rock Art. Cavan Burren Park allowed the group to step back in time and connect with Ireland’s rich heritage in a way that was described to be both inspiring and humbling.

image of traveling group standing in a circle with their hand linked
The group takes part in forest bathing at Cavan Burren Park, a place that contains sacred sites, hut remnants, portal tombs, and the mesmerizing Atlantic Rock Art.

The rest of the trip included memorable and unique adventures including experiencing forest bathing. Forest bathing is said to release your secrets and bad energy, and it was described by the travelers to be very spiritual. They also had the privilege to visit O’Donnell Castle. The group received so much great information and were left in awe by walking where past royalty had. Next, the travelers became immersed in Irish culture via music, which they said that they were surrounded by. The group even had the opportunity to meet Johnny Gallagher who is largely acknowledged to be one of the finest guitar players touring the European circuit.

Sammy Kieffer, one of the Yadkin County locals who joined the group, even celebrated her 77th birthday on the trip. She stated that her biggest concern for her second visit to the country was missing the flight. She was most excited about this trip for the opportunity it presented to see the ‘real’ Ireland as opposed to just visiting tourist attractions. She said that there was simply no way to describe the beauty of the country. She also greatly enjoyed seeing the parts of the Appalachian Mountain Range in Ireland that were once connected to the present-day Appalachian Mountains.

One of group’s later and more impactful experiences included visiting Irish graveyards. The group said visiting the graves gave much insight into Irish history. The numerous amounts of non-Irish buried there indicates a history of invasion and integration. However, even in the most morbid of places Ireland still retains its beauty, and James Quick, a Surry Community College instructor, stated that these were some of the nicest grave plots he had ever seen.

This trip provided the group of travelers a memorable and beautiful experience that they are sure to never forget. This kind of cultural exchange provides not only knowledge of another country and way of life but a personal connection to it. In our ever-growing world, it becomes even more important to foster a greater understanding of our far away neighbors.

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