by Jill Robinson
Although Jessica Barney spent only a week in Ireland, she was able to pack in a lot of activity, while transforming herself in the process.
Within the first few days, Jessica had already explored the Irish countryside, met all of her host mother’s side of the family and dyed her hair red.
“My host family said ‘You’re showing your Irish colors now!'”Jessica said.
Participating in Greenheart Travel’s independent homestay program, Jessica was able to experience the culture of Waterford, a town located in the South of Ireland, in March. This was her first overseas trip and she was drawn to the Irish culture thanks to the influence of her grandmother, who has family roots in Ireland.
“I’ve always loved everything about the Celtic heritage,” Jessica said. “One day I decided that ‘I’m going to do it, I’m going to go.’ So I did!”
Even thought this was her first time abroad, it wasn’t her first solo traveling experience. As a dancer, she has been all over the States, traveling without her family, but the thought of being in an airplane for a 6-hour flight brought on the most anxiety.
“I’m an uneasy flier, but I got over it,” Jessica said. “I’ve never took a Dramamine before. It works. I also recommend finding a book you know you are interested in and reading it. I’ve read Twilight a million times, but I read it on the flight because I knew I would enjoy it.”
Preparing for her week-long homestay was made easier by connecting with her host sister, Emma, on Facebook. Unfortunately, her host sister wasn’t able to welcome her into the country when Jessica arrived, and the introductions to her host parents, Katrina and Ollie, had to be made without a familiar contact. There was little problem easing into their home as she was immediately made part of the family.
“When I arrived, I was welcomed right away,” Jessica said. “The first words out of their mouths were ‘Would you want a cup of tea?’ I had never had tea before and had my first cup that day, and six cups on the last.”
A trip to Dublin with Emma was another highlight, but if you were to ask the extremely difficult question of a favorite part of her trip, she said it would have to be the day trip to Mahon Falls with a drive along the south east coast of Ireland. Over 200 pictures later, Jessica soaked in the stunning scenery that pictures would never do justice.
“I felt like I was on the Lord of the Ring’s movie set. It was just breathtaking.”
Her week Ireland experience was more than just learning about a new culture; it was an education in learning about herself. Just days after arriving back home, Jessica switched her major from English to Anthropology. Always having an interest in other cultures, Jessica said she had never considered her love of travel as being a career possibility.
“If there is one thing I’ve learned about myself, it is that travel is something I want to do for the rest of my life.”