My GLI Global Theme and Challenge is Culture and Politics, which studies the beliefs, practices, and traditions of certain societies and how those beliefs, practices, and traditions continue to shape societies as a whole. My GLI Global Theme and Challenge of Culture and Politics relates to my study abroad experience in Ireland because the rich history of Ireland makes for a rich cultural and political atmosphere. Ireland’s history is steeped in culture and politics, from sports, food, and drink all the way to religion and rebellion. If there is one place to study Culture and Politics outside of the United States, Ireland is the place.
One reason I am grateful for my time spent in Ireland is because of what I learned along the way. While in Ireland, I learned Irish culture is closely related to American culture in several ways. First, the values of hospitality and generosity present within the Irish people remind me of the hospitality and generosity of the American people. Second, the gorgeous landscapes of the Irish countryside, such as the Cliffs of Moher and the Giant’s Causeway, remind me of the beautiful mountain ranges in Montana and surrounding states. Lastly, the Irish economy’s strong combination of agriculture and industry reminds me of America’s strong combination of agriculture and industry, with rural regions focusing on agriculture and urban regions focusing on industry.
Though I believe the American and Irish cultures to be more similar to one another as opposed to more different, I still learned about some differences during my stay in Ireland. For example, the sports scene in America contrasts to that of Ireland primarily because the countries tend to play different sports from one another. The most popular sports in America are football, basketball, baseball, and hockey, while the most popular sports in Ireland are Gaelic football, hurling, rugby, and soccer. One piece of America that I missed the most was the sporting events, such as the Super Bowl and March Madness, which I was not able to watch live due to the seven hour time difference.
Also, the American and Irish cultures are different because the terms “Catholic” and “Protestant” still tend to be strong identifiers for churches and individuals in Ireland–though not quite as strong in the past decade or two–while in America, the same terms are treated with somewhat less significance. There is not nearly as hostile an attitude amongst Irish men and women of different faiths as there once was, yet there remains a small and nearly unnoticeable division under the surface, which served as a new experience for me.
Overall, my experience influenced my understanding of American culture and Irish culture because my appreciation for both cultures was heavily reinforced. I am proud to be an American and I am grateful to live in America, and my experience outside of America reminded me of the values I hold dear and all that I have back home. In addition, I am proud to be an American of Irish heritage, and my experience in Ireland drew me closer to the lives of my ancestors and helped me understand all the sacrifices they made to ensure better lives for their descendants. I have always been a proud American of Irish heritage, and as a result of my experience in Ireland, I always will be.