In January of 2023, three cohorts of Chancellor’s Scholars accompanied by four faculty leaders (34 individuals in total) embarked on their signature trip to Ireland. The Chancellor’s Scholars incoming classes of 2020, 2021, and 2022 traveled together to Dublin, Limerick, and Belfast, Ireland, over winter break from January 7 to January 14, 2023. They were joined by Dr. Mary Valante, professor in the Department of History, Dr. Jason White, associate professor and assistant department chair of the Department of History, Dr. Ted Zerucha, assistant vice provost for general and experiential education, and Dr. Vicky Klima, interim dean of the Honors College.
Dr. Klima reflected on the trip, “Sharing my first study abroad experience as a faculty member with this group of generous, kind, intellectually curious Chancellor's Scholars was a tremendous gift. Watching them gain confidence, step outside their comfort zones, and energetically explore the world from a new perspective helped me realize how much more I can do in my Appalachian classrooms to make space for students to direct their own learning in meaningful ways. I am blessed to remain a part of the community born out of this trip.”
The impacts of the trip, while short, proved to stretch the scholars in various ways, even after they left Ireland. Students shared that they were able to learn about other cultures and grow in their knowledge beyond the confines of the classroom. Alex Hayes, a second-year music performance major with a minor in mathematics, shared,
“This trip has shown me firsthand what Honors at App State is all about. It is more than just academic rigor and high-achievement in the classroom; it is about having an enriching, broad, and fulfilling experience during your time at App. Yes, this trip allowed me to fulfill the international education requirement, but even more importantly, it has shown me that I should be taking advantage of every opportunity that Honors has to offer, because that’s what it’s here for. In the end, I think I’ll have a more enriching experience in Honors because of this trip.”
Some Chancellor’s Scholars mentioned that one of their favorite parts of the trip was interacting with other cohorts of Chancellor’s Scholars. Emerson Phillips, a second-year social studies education major with a minor in dance, remarked, “We had the rare opportunity to travel with three cohorts (instead of just one) because COVID-19 had restricted the earlier cohorts from traveling in previous years. This meant that we got to know so many other scholars that we maybe wouldn’t have met otherwise.” Leah Boone, a third-year Chancellor’s Scholar studying chemistry with a minor in psychology, added, “My favorite part was becoming close with so many Chancellor’s Scholars that I was not close with beforehand. It was a fantastic way to get to know them and it was such a privilege to be able to do so in Ireland.”
This trip was connected to and built upon the Chancellor’s Scholars first-year Honors seminar (HON 1515: Voyages) taught by Dr. Valante. For the last seven years, Dr. Valante has led the Honors Voyages seminar and the subsequent trip to Ireland with her extensive expertise in Irish history. She shared, “I love introducing students to Ireland’s rich history and culture.”
The students highlighted Dr. Valante’s pivotal role on this trip in reinforcing the knowledge they gained throughout their time in the Voyages seminar. In the seminar, each Chancellor’s Scholar selected a particular aspect of Irish history, drafted a research paper, created a research presentation, and presented their findings to the rest of the class. Given the rich history of Ireland, students explored and developed a variety of research topics. Dr. Valante stated, “Research topics were as varied as geology and prehistoric settlement, medieval clothing, folklore, the Traveller community, murals from The Troubles, and Muslim communities in modern Ireland.” Every site they visited tied into the course in some fashion, and Dr. Valante helped the students make those connections. The trip to Ireland provided the Chancellor’s Scholars with real-life experiences of their research topics.
Boone researched the comparison of famine memorials between the United States and Ireland. The group visited a famine memorial during their time in Ireland, and Boone reflected, “Being able to see the famine memorials in person was one of the most moving experiences of my life, and made the project mean so much more to me than it did without the personal experience.”
Phillips researched the history of dance with a focus on Riverdance, the world-renowned Irish dance performing company. As a part of their trip, the group visited the EPIC: Irish Emigration Museum, which Phillips says, “had an exhibit about Riverdance with lots of videos and interactive games. It was pretty cool to see the events and people that I had researched come to life a bit in a museum.”
Hayes completed her research on traditional music in Ireland. She also highlights the impact of the EPIC Museum by saying, “The EPIC Museum in Dublin had an entire section on music and dance where I got to see and hear some of the same information that I had researched and presented.”
In addition to exploring parts of Ireland that they researched during the Voyages seminar, the group did some sightseeing including: the Cliffs of Moher, the Christ Church Cathedral, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin Castle, and much more. Students also explored parts of Dublin and Limerick on their own, following their individual interests to learn even more about the history of Ireland.
Photo features the Cliffs of Moher. Photo by Emerson Philips.
Many Chancellor’s Scholars noted that this trip changed their perception of studying abroad. For some students, this was their first time outside of the United States, and they were concerned about going abroad. However, the trip left them excited and eager to study abroad again, and some are even considering working abroad after graduation.
The Honors College requires all of its students to complete an international education requirement. Honors College students can find scholarship support for international education on the Honors College website.
Top photo features all Chancellor’s Scholars and Dr. Mary Valante at The Burren in Ireland. Photo submitted.