by Caitlin Buck, Feis America LLC writer

North American students in Ireland summer 2011
Photo courtesy Irish Life Experience

Advertisements for dance camps are starting to pop up left and right as summer gets tantalizingly closer. I once dreamed of attending Blas; International Summer School of Irish Music and Dance in Ireland, but in the spring of my junior year in college when I was planning to apply to go... my left foot got injured.

 I was dispirited over an injury that ruled out dance for the summer and ended my dream of flying off to dance camp in Ireland. My mom, being a mom, tried to lift my dark mood and suggested I look into studying abroad through my university. It turned out my own university didn’t offer a program that went to Ireland, but I found a list of affiliated organizations that did. One of which was Academic Programs International.

Ireland through the eyes of
Irish Life Experience student
Caitlin Wals
Academic Programs International has four different study abroad options in Ireland: Cork, Galway, Dublin, and Limerick. API attracts college students from across the U.S. so, rather than traveling with a group from your university, you travel with a variety of students from different states.

I chose API’s program that went to Galway for five weeks. Our group of 15 students, the majority sophomores and juniors in college, lived in student dorms that were only a red bridge and ten minute walk to class. We went to Irish music and dance classes, Irish language in the morning, had lunch at the student pub, and then went to Archeology class afterwards. (Taking Archeology meant going to ancient sites built before Christ and medieval castles.)

In the afternoon we walked for miles exploring the city. We ate fish and chips with legs dangling off the sea wall (never toss chips to the swans), talked to locals walking dogs on salt hill, shopped and went to pubs for traditional music and delicious cider. We felt like locals among the swarms of camera-bearing tourists and even started using Irish phases amongst ourselves.

Photo courtesy Irish Life Experience
by Caitlin Walsh
On weekends we would jump on buses that lurched around the tight corners of country roads at high speeds. We went to Dublin, Dingle, hiked in Connemara National Park, walked and sat in the high billowing grass along the Cliffs of Moher, and toured the Wicklow mountains (where Braveheart was filmed).

We got to see the fabulous Irish dance show Trad on the Prom. If I had had the money, I would have returned to watch it every day. The university gave us a Sean-nos dance class from a master, and that night we all tried out our steps in a pub during a traditional session.

So if you’re a college Irish dancer dreaming of how you might go to Ireland look into API’s Irish studies programs or what your own university offers. Getting to live in Ireland for over a month was absolutely magical and a life-altering experience. 

As Miriam Beard once said, “Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” 

Irish Life Experience
Summer 2011
courtesy Irish Life Experience
For up-to-the-moment commentary, visit Feis America on FaceBook! Top 10 results, photos and interviews will be added here on Go Feis! The Irish Dance Blog frequently all week as well.

Check back here for news, results, photos, interviews and more! Help us celebrate Irish dancing by sharing this story with your friends, like us on FaceBook, Tweet the link or start a conversation with a comment in the message box below. THANK YOU!