My family traces our roots to Ireland but we were never sure what connections we still had to the homeland. When we discovered our many Irish relatives over the winter break, I knew I had to visit.
Last Wednesday, I landed in Belfast and met my family for the first time at the airport. Over the next few days, they showed me much of Ireland, and we made our way west to the farm my grandmother grew up on in County Mayo.
Along the way, I took in the emerald countryside. We stopped at Classiebawn Castle, an idyllic estate overlooking the Atlantic, and the grave of the Irish literary great and Nobel Prize laureate W. B. Yeats. I was becoming immersed in the beauty of Irish culture and history.
A long drive later, we arrived in Mayo. We visited my grandmother’s farm and the church where she made communion and was confirmed. It was moving to walk in her footsteps and reconnect with my family’s homeland.
While in Mayo, we visited the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Knock. There, on August 21, 1879, an apparition of Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, and Saint John the Evangelist, surrounded by angels, is said to have occurred. It was humbling to be in such an important place of pilgrimage, one visited by Pope John Paul II in 1979, Pope Francis in 2018, and many millions of people over the years.
On the morning before I flew back to Scotland, we made one last drive up the Glenshane Pass, a massive mountain that cuts through the Sperrins in Derry. Sheep were, as always, everywhere. We took in a view of much of Ireland from the top, with green fields and mountains stretching far into the distance.
Studying abroad has not only broadened my horizons but expanded my family tree. I am so glad I was able to explore Ireland and meet my relatives this year.