Student Reflections

Into the Unknown: Looking Toward a Month in Rural Ireland

Jamie D'Amato
July 7, 2021
Student next to a yellow trolley

With less than six months until graduation, I’m staring down a lot of upcoming changes: beyond just having my Student title revoked, I’ll have to find a job I’m willing to commit to for longer than a co-op. Northeastern’s given me a lot of practice at being an independent adult, but soon, the training wheels are coming off.

I’ve studied abroad two times before at Northeastern–once on a Dialogue of Civilizations to Tokyo, and one semester in Florence, Italy. While my time in Florence was cut short due to the pandemic, both of my experiences abroad enabled me to be independent and confident, to feel inspired by the world and the opportunities around me, and to meet interesting people while learning about art and culture. 

With recent events, in addition to my own mental health struggles, that kind of challenge, inspiration, and push to get outside of my comfort zone seemed like exactly what I needed to make the most of my last summer as a student, before looking on toward the rest of my life. 

Let me introduce myself, the Northeastern way: I’m Jamie, and I’m a first-semester fifth-year graduating this December with a combined degree in Interaction Design and Communications. I’m from Louisville, Kentucky, and I’ve been learning remotely since the pandemic started. Since I’ve been studying remotely, I found it even more important to push myself out of my house and into unfamiliar territory.

I was really fortunate to be able to make this third and final study abroad experience happen, both financially with aid from Northeastern and GEO, and academically in terms of my schedule and credits.  So for one month this summer, I will be living, exploring, and making art, in the rural village of Ballyvaughan, Ireland. 

While I’ve been abroad before, I’ve never been to Ireland. In fact, I’d never even heard of Ballyvaughan before learning about this program. Ballyvaughan is a small, rural village with a rich culture and endless fields of sheep, on the west coast of Ireland. The surrounding region, the Burren, is famed for its rocky, limestone landscape full of unique flora and fauna: the perfect natural environment to serve as inspiration for a group of young artists. 

So that’s what about a dozen Northeastern students and I will be doing: exploring the Burren, living in a rural town, and focusing on self-directed art projects alongside group activities and lectures. I’ll be away from the noise and light pollution I’m used to, able to connect with nature and my creative work. I’ll get to see cool places and make good art, while meeting new people and pushing myself to live new experiences. 

I don’t expect the transition to be totally smooth, though: I’ve gotten accustomed to a daily routine, staying inside, and hanging out with my pets–none of which will be the case in Ireland. So in the time before I leave, I’m trying to mentally prepare myself for a drastic change in surroundings that I haven’t had since before the pandemic.

I have two weeks until I embark on my long journey from Louisville to Ballyvaughan by way of three flights, two buses, and 24 hours of travel. I’ve gathered all my art supplies, I’m armed with a raincoat and hiking boots, and my mind is already buzzing with ideas for art projects. I can’t wait to see what Ireland has in store for me, and I can’t wait to share it with you here!