A native of Doolough, Co. Mayo, Ní Ghallchobhair is a Fulbright Scholar and teaches Irish to students in New York.
When did you move to New York?
“I moved to New York in late August and I will be here until mid-July. I love New York and Woodlawn where I live is a lovely area. I can even get Tayto here!”
You’re a Fulbright Scholar. Tell us about this.
“I applied to be a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) in Ireland last year. I was lucky enough to be sent to Lehman College to teach Irish to students. I also teach Irish in Manhattan College and the College of Mount Saint Vincent, as well as a children's class in the Aisling Center on Saturday mornings.
“I am also here as a cultural ambassador for Ireland, so I have set up a Cumann Gaelach/Irish Society in Lehman College.
“The Fulbright program encourages us to attend as many events as possible, meet as many people as possible and to travel and see more of the country. When we return to Ireland, we will be better equipped to teach at home, using methods we’ve learned and the experience we’ve gained.
“Since I arrived here, I have given my first open lecture and my first paper at the Irish Short Story Symposium in Lehman College, which have helped me to develop professionally too.”
What has it been like teaching Irish in New York?
“It's very different teaching in the U.S. My students are very enthusiastic and interested, they are from various backgrounds such as African American and Hispanic, as well as Irish American.
“They are picking up Irish really quickly. It is not a difficult language to learn -- despite some negativity towards the language. If you go through the course slowly and thoroughly and get plenty of practical speaking practice you will learn. I love teaching and I hope my students are picking up on my enthusiasm for the language.”
What has surprised you most about living in New York?
“I found New York completely different from the other places that I have visited in the U.S., such as Chicago, San Francisco and San Diego. There's nowhere in the world like New York!
“I love the bustle, the thousands of places you can go out to with friends, the 24 hour subway system, ice-skating in the parks, the variety of people here, the cheesecake… I could go on!
“I have had pleasant surprises, like the time I forgot my purse on the subway on my first day to work, and a kind Bronx traveler handed it in to lost and found, to a near-mugging in Manhattan. Then there was the night that I woke up with a cockroach on me. But I wouldn’t change this experience for anything.”
What would you say to people who are considering learning Irish?
“I would highly recommend people to learn Irish. It's extremely do-able, especially in New York City. There are so many resources here.
“It's important to take pride in our ancient national language and to pass on the cúpla focal to the next generation. It's important to be ambassadors for our country and our heritage and show the world that we have history, mythology, dance, music and language that is so rich and unique that it rivals any other country in the world.”
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