February 03, 2019

Overseas and Off-Campus Programs Blog

The Wild Irish Sea

  • Looking off the back of the ferry on our way to Innishmore

Author Name

Natalie Casson

Author Program

Ireland: Social Sciences

Program Semester and Year

Spring 2019

Student Major


Being abroad has been so unforgettable so far, but for some reason something had really been lacking until this past weekend.  I hadn’t really had the whole fact of being on the other side of the globe sink in. Perhaps this is due to Dublin being a very American friendly city: everyone speaks English and is so kind and forgiving to a confused tourist.  I had for the most part been coasting through my comfort zone: no matter how many accents I heard, irish songs I danced to, fields of sheep I saw, or Guiness and chips I enjoyed, I felt at ease. I had yet to experience any absurd culture shock or wild moments that really allowed the feeling of “being abroad” to sink in.  I finally had my moment last week while traveling to the west coast of Ireland.

Last weekend we took a weekend trip to visit Galway—one of the most populated Western cities in Ireland.  Galway is known for being close to a lot of great natural treasure, so of course we had to take the time to visit the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands.  During our travels to the Aran Islands we had to take a ferry boat to reach Innishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands.

To create some context for this experience, I want to mention that I come from a large family of sailors.  Since I could walk—despite my crippling anxiety surrounding bodies of water as a child—I was put on boats on the water and taught the in’s and out’s of sailing and understanding nautical weather.  Most of my life has consisted of sailing on Lake Champlain, a relatively calm body of water back in my home state of Vermont; however, in past travels, I have experienced gut wrenching weather on a boat that makes you truly fear for your wellbeing and your ability to get to shore.  Heading to the Aran Islands, for the first time in years on the ferry, I experienced that same feeling.

The instant we left the leeway of the main shore we departed from, our small yet sturdy ferry boat began to tackle waves that were towering up and over it like a massive wall.  All you could see was water then sky bouncing back and forth when looking out the windows. Despite knowing it was entirely safe for the boat, something about seeing waves going up and over your head then crashing down in their troughs makes your stomach lurch in an exhilarating way.  The realization hit me like a brick: there was no way I was on Lake Champlain anymore. This was the the wild Atlantic coastline of Ireland that is known for it windy gusts and waves that crash against the scenic and rugged coastline. Having that moment I was driven out of my comfort zone in a way that I had been waiting for.  We all rushed to the back of the boat to see the waves crash of the stern deck, and a rainbow was forming over the icy ocean spray. This was certainly not any body of water I was used to—the rough waves jarred me around the boat as I went to move to the back and watch the ocean go. I finally knew entirely in my subconscious that I was abroad, and the experience of that beautiful ocean won’t leave my mind.