40 Years Abroad in Ireland
By Molly Zadell ’18
40 years ago, campus looked quite different. The original Angela Athletic Facility had just been dedicated, allowing for Saint Mary’s to form their first ever intercollegiate varsity sports teams. Madeleva Hall was the newest academic building on campus, and Opus and Spes Unica Halls were still decades away from construction. Needless to say, Saint Mary’s has come a long way since 1977, but one thing that has remained unchanged is students’ love for a small town in the Irish countryside.
2017 marked the 40th anniversary of Saint Mary’s study abroad program in Maynooth, Ireland. To celebrate this landmark anniversary, a group of alumnae joined President Cervelli for a weeklong trip across Ireland this past October. The trip culminated in a ceremony in Maynooth where alums joined current Belles for Mass and a formal dinner. President Cervelli then met with Maynooth University’s President Nolan to renew the contract between the schools for five more years.
Since 1977, hundreds of Belles have found a second home in the County Kildare college town, and Ireland consistently remains one of the most popular study abroad programs Saint Mary’s offers. Dr. Karen Chambers, director of the Ireland program for thirteen years, said that she believes it remains so popular because it gives students the unique opportunity to explore the world while simultaneously building strong ties to Saint Mary’s.
“Over and over again, I’ve heard students say ‘I fell in love with Saint Mary’s when I was in Ireland.’ There’s something special about developing a community of Belles when you’re there. So often, students will tell me when they get back ‘I met this other student who I never would have met if it weren’t for Ireland, and they’re my best friend now.’”
It’s not uncommon for the Ireland program to have 30 students go abroad per semester, which allows students to travel and immerse themselves in Irish culture while building close relationships with fellow Belles.
During the 40th anniversary celebration, it was also emphasized that the Ireland program isn’t just an opportunity to grow closer to the Saint Mary’s community, but is a time for self-discovery. Dr. Chambers said that year after year, she watches students “step into themselves” during their time in Maynooth, returning home with newfound confidence and independence. Members of the Maynooth community have made the same observation. Father Shorthall, registrar at St. Patrick’s College, celebrated the relationship between Saint Mary’s and Maynooth during his homily at the end-of-trip Mass.
“Maynooth is honored to be that environment for generations of students of St. Mary’s College: for sparks to fly in a classroom, to fan the flames of new friendships, and to leave people with burning embers that are warm memories of Ireland and Europe, and the joys of youth itself.”
A lot has changed since 1977, but four decades and hundreds of students later, Maynooth, Ireland is still cherished by generations of Belles. October’s anniversary trip allowed the Saint Mary’s community celebrate 40 years of a life-changing program and say sláinte to many, many more.