Tara Clerkin outside More Ross Castle in Killarney, Co. Kerry
Without fail, whenever I sit down for an interview and hand over my resume, I watch the interviewer raise their eyebrows as they scan my academic credentials.
Irish Studies? What exactly is that? Why are you interested in it?
The answer is easy.
For me, Irish Studies at Notre Dame was a natural choice because I've always been interested in my Irish ancestry. So much so that I was jealous of my older sister when she was doing Irish Studies at NYU.
So then, during my freshman year at Notre Dame, when I had a free elective, I thought why not try an Irish language class?
From the very first “Dia daoibh” ("how are ya'll?" in Gaelic), I was hooked.
My professor was a native Irish speaker and shared her love and affinity for her first language with all of us.
The class was a welcome respite from the usual college classes. We got to perform skits, watch TV shows and play seemingly endless rounds of 20 questions—all in Irish of course.
After this first semester, I knew I wanted to take the next level of Irish language, and I also had discovered I wanted to minor in Irish Studies. The classes were fun, I was interested in the subject, and I loved the professors in the department.
Two years later and just over halfway through the minor, I am still just as interested in Irish Studies as when I began, if not more.
To complete my Irish studies minor, I need to take three Irish language classes and four classes across three different disciplines, making it a well-rounded minor.
I have taken more Irish language classes, an Irish literature class, and am currently taking an Irish history and an Irish theology class.
The program keeps us all updated on lectures about Ireland and other cultural events on campus. I have gone to lectures on the Irish language, movie screenings, and an Irish play performed by an African theater company.
I also work as a student assistant in the Irish Studies department. Every day I work in the office I get to be a part of one of the only (if not the only) offices in America where Irish is the chosen language for small talk over the water cooler.
Though my Irish language skills are nowhere near perfect, it’s fun to get to talk with fluent speakers and use the rare language I have studied.
My Irish Studies career has reached its apex this past semester—I am now studying abroad in Ireland at University College Dublin.
Notre Dame sends about 30 students each semester to study at UCD and at the Notre Dame Center in Dublin.
So now, as I learn about famous Irish political leader Daniel O’Connell, I am sitting in his old parlor (The Notre Dame Dublin Center is Daniel O’Connell’s old house).
After the lecture about the executions of the 1916 rising, I got to take a tour of Kilmainham Gaol, a former prison for Irish rebels.
I have seen the murals in the Falls and Shankhill sections of Belfast, walked the streets of Galway and visited farms on the countryside.
I can go see plays at the Abbey Theater I studied and listen to the street performers like those in the movie, “Once,” on Grafton Street.
I get to talk to cranky old Irish men on the bus, drink at the pubs with my fellow Irish students and stroll through St. Stephen’s Green on sunny days.
My interest in Irish culture and history is only growing with my study abroad experience - I am not expecting it to wane anytime soon.