Monday, May 30, 2016

Good Bye, Ireland!

Cheers, Ireland!

We have reached the last day of our incredible experience here in Ireland. To even begin to wrap my head around all of the amazing things I have seen and learned throughout this week and a half seems nearly impossible at this point.

Ireland has been so good to us. The weather was perfect, and the multiple people who went out of their way to make our time here THAT much better, did just that. I can say with a very honest heart that I am going home a better educator than when I first arrived here in Dublin. I have learned multiple strategies to incorporate into my classrooms, but I have also learned to be grateful for the endless opportunities of education in America.

This was my first experience going out of the country. Adding to that, I didn't know one single soul and it's safe to say I was pretty terrified. As I leave this country and head back to the states, I can say that I have gained such strong relationships with so many individuals, and have not only witnessed them grow in their learning here, but I have watched myself mature in so many ways. This opportunity has been everything and more than I ever expected and I cannot thank the University of Louisville enough for allowing me to be a part of this. Saying goodbye is such a bittersweet moment, but I know that I will carry a little piece of Ireland into my classroom next year.

Thanks UofL and thank you Ireland, it's been real.


~ Lauren LoBue

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Knowing, Experiencing and Traveling. In Dublin

Today has been a day full of traveling and exploring!

We left limerick this morning to head to the big city of Dublin! After traveling around I have come to a conclusion that you must follow all traffic signals unless a local tells you are clear. I was also asked to give directions twice, so I'd say I'm blending in pretty well!

This trip has been an absolutely incredible learning experience, from learning about culture to learning about the education system in Ireland. I have been able to see how early childhood is just starting to develop into a main system in the education word here in Ireland. I was able to meet with Montessori schools and work alongside professors in the special education program.

One really interesting fact that I would love to share is that the teacher preparation program in Ireland is very hard to get into. They work on a points system and the process works just like the medical field in the US. The profession of teaching is very prestigious and respected in the country of Ireland and I have loved seeing the passion of these teachers.

I also want to share that this trip was very difficult for me to commit to. I have a fear of flying and anxiety of being in a new place. As I embraced my fears and came over to Ireland I have found a new and better Lynsey. I have seen that new places allow for new opportunities to not only better your knowledge but to better yourself as well. I couldn't have done this without the love and support of my family, friends and boyfriend back home. I also have found new friendships and colleagues in the education field! I am so blessed to be surrounded by wonderful students and professors who make this trip possible! See you in three days America

~ Lynsey Nichols

At Waterville, in the Ring of Kerry

Meeting a baby fox

With a new friend in the Cliffs of Moher

In Dublin with BFF Daphne Garner

Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Welcoming Country

"Céad Míle Fáilte" were some of the first words we were greeted with when we stepped off the plane. It's an Irish phrase, which means "one hundred thousand welcomes" and it's a fairly accurate depiction of what Ireland is. There truly are at least one hundred thousand things that will make you feel welcomed into this county! 

Today, we were once again herded onto a bus (starting to feel like one of the many sheep I keep seeing around here), and hauled out to Bunratty castle where we spent some time exploring the grounds and taking in the view from the castle towers.

After lunch, we drove out to see the Cliffs of Moher (insert epic Irish bagpipe music here). This may very well have been my favorite part of what we have seen so far. I think everyone got a little emotional standing on the edge and gazing out over what seemed like and endless Atlantic Ocean, framed by the giant sea stacks of rock. It's places like this where I find my spirituality. "Not all churches have pews", as the phrase goes. 

The people of Ireland have been no less inviting than their beautiful country. We have met some great folks! It's so humbling to listen to the locals talk about their home in thick Irish accents and watch them begin to describe their history and lineage to us with such pride. I can only hope that we have been a crew of respectful and gracious guests (I'd really like to be invited back)! 


~ Kay Stonecypher

Cliffs of Moher

"My impression of the Irish countryside"

Friday, May 27, 2016

Céad míle fáilte

A hundred thousand welcomes! 

There are so many things I could say about traveling to Ireland and the beautiful country itself. I should tell you that this trip was the first trip I have ever been on a plane and to another country! My peers informed me that both flights, from Louisville to Charlotte and from Charlotte to Dublin, were exceptionally smooth. I was amazed by the fact that the states are literally a couple of plane rides from the rest of the world. The flights were exciting and terrifying all at the same time. I loved the feelings and accepted every one of them that arrived during the flights.  

A few family members assured me that I would feel right at home, and they were right. I have not yet felt out of place or unwelcomed. The people of Ireland are easy to talk to and anyone is willing to help. They all seem to know a lot about their country, which is refreshing. 

 I sat next to a woman who was traveling home after visiting her son who lives in Charlotte. I asked for her name and she raised her eyebrows, held up her necklace, and allowed me to read it. It spelled, "Beesie". My sisters name is Bess, I immediately went nuts and felt happy. There have been a few more instances so far, where I was reminded of home.  When visiting the incredible view of the Ring of Kerry, I met a Canadian traveling here with his father, and he introduced himself as Nathan, which is my boyfriend's name.  When walking in the city centre of Cork, a man with a beautiful voice sang "wish you were here" by Pink Floyd. This is a song that touches my boyfriend and I heard it for the first time riding in the car with him. These are just a few examples of how the people I have met here have affected my visit to the Emerald Isle. 

Speaking of that, Ireland is filled with every shade of green you can imagine. It has taken my breath away multiple times. The scenery and the clear air bring a calmness over me. The calmness is similar to the one I feel when I am home. The air is similar's not similar to home at all because I can breathe more naturally here, unlike the lovely spring allergies of Kentucky (hahaha). We have been so thankful for the beautiful weather we have had. 

We arrived in Limerick last night and began with more site visits this morning. This morning our Art Therapy/Mental Health group visited The Blue Box Creative Learning Centre.  It has by far been my favorite and I think the others would agree. We have learned that Mental Health Services in Ireland are very few, and most of them are directed toward adults. The Blue Box is a program for children taking an integrative approach using art therapy, music therapy, and play therapy. According to the information folder that I received their vision "is to support the development of young people and their families within their community through creative activities." They do individual-based therapy through low income schools, Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) and with those referred through the Health Service Executive (HSE) and privately referred children.  Also, group therapy with the children and their parent(s) and sometimes siblings are involved. It was mentioned in the discussion that when the parent(s) see the child benefit from the therapeutic process, they themselves are more inclined to want to participate and help themselves live a more balanced life through therapy. It is an open environment with windows in the ceilings of every room in order to allow more natural light in. I immediately felt safe in their space and the staff were very welcoming. I was happy to visit and learn about the inspiring work that is happening at the Blue Box. 

It is interesting to learn about the similarities and differences in the way Ireland approaches mental health/art therapy as compared to the States. I am still exploring my approach to art therapy and still finding my niche population to work with and having the opportunity to hear more approaches has and will continue to be beneficial as I continue into my last year into the art therapy Masters’ program at the University of Louisville and in my long future in this "lifelong learning" career.

This afternoon we took a bus to Kilcommon to embark on a 3 hour hike through the National Pilgrimage Loop walk. When we were driving through the Ring of Kerry I wondered to myself what it would be like to be able to walk through the hills of Ireland. That came true today. It was a challenging hike for myself, but my soul is happy. 

I will forever hold Ireland in my heart and hope to visit again.

Go raibh maith agat 

Literally meaning "may good be with you"

Thank you! 

~ Edie Johnson

Street art, Limerick

The Blue Box


A rest stop in the long walk

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Old Realities. Moving on to Limerick

Hi all my name is Molly Tarter, and I am approaching my second year in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Masters' program. I am the lone soldier representing the CMHC program so I have had the great opportunity to learn about Art Therapy as well as establish new friendships. 

Today was our last day in Cork, Ireland before we headed off to Limerick. We began our morning talking about the Cork Lunatic Asylum. If you get the chance to google it and watch some YouTube videos be sure to, it is quite interesting! The facilities were equipped to care for a maximum of 500 patients but reviews in the 80's and 90's discovered that there were 1000 patients being cared for in unsuitable living conditions. Although multiple reviews found the asylum to be unfit it was not until 2002 when the facility was actually closed. It is mind blowing to think of the differences in mental health services from the United States to Ireland, and I am thankful for the access to services individuals in the United States have.

A beautiful morning in the city center munching on some macaroons, doing a bit of shopping, and grabbing some lunch wrapped up our final few hours in Cork. 

Our next stop on the itinerary was Limerick. We took a train from Cork to Limerick which allowed us to catch up on a bit of sleep as well as admire the countryside. A quick, slightly chaotic, switch of trains and we were at our new accommodations in Limerick (somehow I got stuck in a room with Elaine but that is a story for another day). What little we have seen of Limerick seems quite different than Cork. To me Cork seemed to be a bit more quaint and colorful whereas Limerick seems to be much more industrialized. Nonetheless, I am blown away by the beauty of this country everyday! Life in Ireland really does not need a filter. 

See you all in six days! 

~ Molly

Views of the asylum

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Trip Filled with Firsts

Even though the trip got off to a rough start with a combination of motion sickness and sleep deprivation, I was determined to persevere and this trip has been filled with firsts for me.  First time leaving the continental United States.  First time riding a train.  First time holding a baby fox. First time eating fish and chips.  And many more.  

The trip has been great from visiting beautiful historic sites to getting the inside scoop on the Irish Mental health system from professors and art therapists in Ireland.  

However, I would be lying if I didn't admit there are things I have come to appreciate more about America.  Toilets that flush after one flush. Fast service at restaurants.  Free refills on soda. The sun going down before 10 pm. Licensure for art therapists. The list goes on.  

I'm so happy and grateful that I was able to participate in this cultural and professional experience in order to grow as a person and an art therapist.  

~Lauren Oates

Lunch at Milano's

Art in Cork

A little presence from Kentucky

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Meeting the country, and Art Therapy in Ireland

"Heaven must be a Kentucky kind of place"
-Daniel Boone

Daniel Boone was certainly right, but Ireland is one of the most magical and awe inspiring places that I have ever seen and it gives Kentucky a run for its money!  However, I feel proud of my home state as I traverse Ireland because the two places share multiple geographical and cultural features in common.

As our group drove through the verdant, lush countryside outside of Cork on our way to the Ring of Kerry, I could not help but think of the similarities between Ireland and Kentucky. There were moments where I felt like I was on my way to the Red River Gorge, rather than to an otherworldly,  magical place thousands of miles away from our beautiful state. We have the same gentle, rolling hills that are adorned with long stone walls. There was a also a dewy sweetness in the air that reminded me of Kentucky in the Spring. While we don't have the same breathtaking vistas and diversity of landscape like Ireland does, I can still imagine that parts of Ireland are what Kentucky would look like on a grander and ancient, magical scale. The hospitality and sense of humor that the Irish have shown us also makes me feel right at home, as I can see them mirrored by my fellow Kentuckians, who are also famous for being witty and welcoming.

The connection between Kentucky and Ireland was further strengthened by our visit to the Crawford College of Art and Design, where we met with faculty and students from the Art Therapy program. We learned about the structure of the program and got to speak with the students about the similarities and difference between our practice, communities, and academic experiences. We also exchanged perspectives on the state of Art Therapy in our respective countries. The most powerful part of our exchange was creating a collaborative drawing with the theme of "Meeting". We gathered around a long table covered in paper and boxes of chalk pastels and created a vibrant, swirling piece accompanied by lively, steady conversation. It was incredibly gratifying and inspiring to see how art therapy and creativity can transcend culture and borders. It was also exciting to think about ways that this cultural exchange informs our practice, as well as identifying strengths of the American and Irish Art Therapy models.

Our experiences thus far have greatly inspired my own practice and have affirmed my deeply held belief that art is an essential tool for connection and healing, as well as a bridge between individuals and cultures.

 ~ Kate Dennis

Beautiful countryside in the Ring of Kerry

Group work as part of the Art Therapy visit at the Crawford College of Art and Design, Cork Institute of Technology (Photo: Mallory Niemer) 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Education in Ireland--and kissing the Blarney

What a great day it has been! We had a full day of listening to lectures at the University of College Cork, and visiting Blarney Castle. I have been absolutely amazed by how much I have learned about Irish education in one day!

The three professors (Dr. Kevin Cahill, Dr. Tracey Connolly, and Dr. Dan O'Sullivan) were so knowledgeable and very interesting to listen to. Dr. Cahill taught us about Irish education and what it is like from pre-school all the way up until the university level.  One very interesting fact about their schools is that, especially at the primary level, the schools are religion based: 91% of primary schools in Ireland are Roman Catholic. This is clearly different than in the United States, where religion is mostly only associated with private schooling. 

Dr. Connolly discussed the history of Irish education since before even the 1830s. We saw the major growth in education that took place over the years. In 1841, the population of children over the age of 5 years old that were unable to read was 53%. In 1901, the population of illiterate children was only 14%. You can see that even in those 60 years, the importance of education increased immensely.

Lastly, Dr. O'Sullivan discussed the Provision for pupils with Special Educational Needs in the Republic of Ireland. We saw how special education differs with Ireland and the United States.  It was interesting that Ireland is very inclusive with their students with disabilities in the mainstream classrooms, while we do much less of this in the United States. The parental advocacy here is also outstanding. They fight for their children's rights and really try to help the teachers out!

After the lectures, we visited the Blarney Castle. I absolutely loved getting to explore Blarney Castle and the gardens around it. (Not to mention the shopping we got to do in Blarney after).  All of our students got to kiss the Blarney Stone at the very top of the castle, which will supposedly help us to be prosperous.  Each student got millions of pictures of flowers, trees, and cows!

We ate dinner at The Flying Enterprise in Cork City Center. The food was delicious (I personally had the prime rib roast, which I would recommend to anyone visiting.) 

I know we are all looking forward to tomorrow where we get more lectures and even professional visits into the schools of Cork! I know I can't wait!

~Daphne Garner

Sunday, May 22, 2016

In the Ring of Kerry

Hiya! I'm Brittany Cook, and approaching 2nd year Art Therapy student at UofL.

This is my third study abroad and, although it's only Day 2, I'm already blown away! Ireland is incredibly gorgeous. 

It's hard to really explain how special today has been, but we can say our group is experiencing the luck of the Irish! It was set to storm throughout the day while we were exploring the Dingle Peninsula of the Ring of Kerry. However, after a beautiful view of the Black Stacks to Killarney, it hailed for just about 5 minutes. That was all for out storm!

We made several stops around the Ring of Kerry, with each one hosting an impeccable view of land and water. The greenery on this island country holds more shades than any crayon box could do justice. One thing that definitely made it even better was our tour guide, Jim, who held a vast knowledge for the history and culture of Ireland. 

Here are just a few of so many photos from our day:

Near Killarney


Torc Waterfall
I know, you must be at least SLIGHTLY envious. But, as the Irish say, such is life. 

~Brittany Cook

Saturday, May 21, 2016

In Cork and Cobh, our First Stops

Hello friends and family,

We have arrived in the land of luck today! This was my first international flight and I learned a lot from it. The food was decent but my legs became tired quickly. There were screens on the backs of the seats in front of us. We could choose from multiple types of entertainment. I chose to watch the movie "Sisters".

We were very excited to begin our trip even with a few complications in the beginning. After landing, many of us felt queezy from the long flight. After catching our breaths and gathered our bags we then proceeded to board our bus. Paddywagon Tours took us to our first home of the trip; University College Cork. The bus was stubborn and caused a delay. But we persevered and got on the road. Many of us caught up on some sleep on the trip to Cork. The ride reminded me of all of the movies and TV shows I have seen. There were green rolling hills with sheep and cows. Did you know that there are over 8 million sheep in Ireland?? That's TWICE as many as people.

The rooms we are staying in include our own separate bathrooms. There are four of us to a unit which includes a shared living space.

Today's adventure finished with a train ride to Cobh. This small town was B E A U T I F U L. Each building was a different color and it sat right on the bay. I enjoyed walking to small shops and seeing the locals enjoy living there as well. The town holds in to an important part of history: The last stop in Europe before the Titanic headed for New York. It was quite the honor to stand where others stood over a hundred years ago.

As I reflect on the past couple of days, it all seems unreal. It has been my dream to study abroad and its finally here. I am so glad I have the opportunity to explore a new country, learn about their special education program and make some new friends. Thank you for all the support from friends and family. Miss and love you!

~ Julie Rinehart

May 20th, The Day has Arrived!

After days of discussions, packing, and settling down those nervous butterflies in my stomach, the day has finally come to take our educational journey with University of Louisville one step further- to Ireland! My name is Lucy Torpey and I am going into my third year at UofL. With family from Ireland and an opportunity to learn about the home of the Leprechaun, I could not pass up this amazing opportunity. 
Being an elementary education major, one of my greatest passions is the spread of knowledge. During this trip I hope to learn about how the Ireland education system works and how different cultures can influence the type of curriculum, strategies, and development that is taught and focused upon.
The preparation for this trip has had quite an advanced spectrum of events. Like other trips I have gone on over the years, there is the packing of the clothing, shoes, etc. Simple right? No. This time I am going into the packing process knowing that 80% of the time when we will be outside, we will rain upon by the unforgiving Irish clouds. Try finding waterproof EVERYTHING. Then there is the preparation for this actual class such as weekly meetings and readings. Last but not least, there is the mental preparation. Yes, we will be traveling as a group, but traveling to another country without any family members or die-hard best friends by your side is very scary to say the least, and this might be one issue for me personally that I will have to face, cope, and conquer during this trip. 
Today, May 20th, will be the day we buckle into our assigned seats and are shot up into the sky in an established metal tube to eventually land in the Irish homeland. Not quite like the assigned seats all of us had on our first day of kindergarten, but with the similarity that this is the first step to an educational journey that will impact and influence our entire lives to come.
Enjoy the rest of the blogs over the next couple of weeks!

~ Lucy Torpey

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Day Before

We leave for Ireland tomorrow! I am so thrilled to get to visit this country that has been at the top of my bucket list for some time now. My name is Mallory Niemer and I am starting my second year in the Art Therapy program. As someone who comes from a long line of red heads and celebrated Irish roots this was an opportunity I could not pass up! 

      I have only left the United States one time (the Canada side of Niagara Falls) as well as only flown one other time. I'm not sure I've ever been on a trip for more than one week either. This trip has me in a ball of excitement and nerves as I try to absorb all the travel tips I can from friends and family and try not to forget anything! 

      Although the forecast looks rainy and cloudy, I haven't let that dampen my excitement. I am looking forward to so many things on this trip: seeing a great University, learning about international mental health, visiting local restaurants, going on hikes across the green hills, and so much more. We have a great group of people going, who I know will make this experience even better. I'll definitely miss my friends and family while I'm away, but 12 days isn't so long! I hope you all find this blog fun and informative as you follow along with our journey. :) 

~Mallory Niemer