Global Programs initiative leads to students' Ireland trip

From Dublin in the Republic of Ireland to Belfast in Northern Ireland, Penn State New Kensington students experience a week of Irish culture over spring break in early March.

Arranged by New Kensington faculty -- Abhinav Aima, instructor in communications; Gary Heberling, instructor in information sciences and technology; and Amy Rustic, reference librarian -- the international trip to five cities in Ireland was an opportunity for students to travel abroad and explore Irish customs that has been influenced by a variety of ancient peoples including the Normans and the British.

The traveling party included students, faculty, staff and alumni. The focus of the trip was the Irish cities of Dublin, Killarney, Cork and Kilkenney, and Belfast in Northern Ireland.

“Ireland is a beautiful, aged land that has endured many hardships in its time but has emerged as a flourishing nation through it all,” said Shanna Williams, a senior applied psychology major. “The trip gave me the opportunity to see both the serene, green countryside of Ireland filled with sheep and other livestock, as well as the hustle and bustle of their city life, as well as everything in between.”

The itinerary included guided tours and walking tours of historical buildings and landmarks, as well as free time for shopping and night life. Highlights included visits to Ring of Kerry, Blarney Castle, Bog Museum and the Book of Kells, a manuscript of the four Gospels written in Latin by Celtic monks in the seventh century.

In conjunction with the trips, students are required to take a related course that enriches their understanding of Ireland and its heritage. Williams is taking a communications course, “Newspaper Practicum,” taught by Aima.

“I wrote two articles pertaining to Ireland; one about before and after perceptions of Ireland and one about the visit to the Guinness Storehouse,” said Williams, who graduates in May. “I am also putting together a multimedia video project including my photos and video clips from the trip.”

For Williams, the Ireland trip was her second international adventure sponsored by with the campus. She initially wasn’t going on the journey because she traveled to Spain two years ago during spring break.

“I am so glad that I went to Ireland because I may never have this educational opportunity again to share with my friends,” said Williams, a product of the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School. “I loved Ireland as much as Spain if not more. My mother and I wear matching Claddagh rings every day now. I purchased them in Ireland as a symbol of friendship, love and loyalty.”

The sojourn across the pond is a part of the Penn State Global Programs initiative that provides students with a variety of opportunities to study in foreign lands for varying periods of time -- week, summer, semester or full year. The objective is to offer our students a broader education than can be obtained through classroom experiences.

For the past six years, the campus has embarked on the promotion of greater awareness and understanding of world issues, international trends and global policy debates. Each year, the campus adopts a country or region of the world to inspire teaching and scholarship. Ireland and the United Kingdom are this year’s “Countries of Focus.”

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Last Updated April 24, 2013