Post-Program Reflection


Over the summer, I learned many new things about learning a language. Language learning takes constant practice and dedication to speaking only that language. Most people in the Donegal Gaeltacht had both English and Irish so it was tempting to switch over to English sometimes. However, I realized that I only really improved when I spoke in Irish all day and all the time. For example, it was extremely helpful that our host spoke in Irish to us because it forced us to only speak that language.

The major cultural difference that I noticed between the Gaeltacht and the rest of Ireland was the population. Everything in Gleann Cholm Cille and especially Gleann Fhinne was extremely spread out. In Dublin and other cities, many amenities are squished together. In the Gaeltacht, a grocery store might be a twenty-minute drive or an hour walk. I loved both aspects of Ireland, but the two are definitely different!

At the end of the summer, I felt that I met all the goals that I posted on the blog before I left. Eventually, I was able to communicate in full conversations and I learned plenty of new vocabulary words and phrases. Also, as noted above, I was able to notice differences between Gaeltacht Ireland and the rest of the island. Next, I was very happy that I understood key differences between the Ulster dialect and the other dialects. It was tricky at first, but at the end, I felt I really picked out the major differences.


After this experience, I realized that people live drastically different lives than I do. The locals who I interacted with mostly work on the farm daily. Their entire lives are revolved around the farm and they do not really do much else. I am lucky to have traveled many places and have done many things. It definitely is a different lifestyle than mine and I am grateful to see how other people spend their time.

Also, this SLA experience has really taught me to be independent. With the generosity of this program, I was able to travel and live in Ireland for multiple weeks on my own. I wasn’t with any other Notre Dame people, so I was a bit nervous at first. However, I put aside my nerves and did everything on my own. For example, I had to get to these remote places in Ireland, buy groceries and make food, and push myself through the classes I took daily. Overall, I now think I can travel and do a lot more activities independently.

I would tell someone who was applying for a SLA grant to be prepared to be independent for multiple weeks. There is no guarantee that another person from ND will be with you so he/she should be comfortable with making friends with people of ALL ages. It is definitely worth it though!


During my first semester back at Notre Dame, I am taking Intermediate Irish II with Mary. This class will help me continue learning the Irish language and improving even more. Irish is hard to keep up with because not many people speak the language; with these classes at Notre Dame, I will be able to improve every week.

Also, I have made many friends from my time in County Donegal and we all agreed to keep in touch so that our Irish doesn’t fade. I have many group chats with friends, and we all speak Irish in them. With this constant communication, I will be able to continue to learn Irish. Also, I now follow many social media accounts that emphasize the Irish language and only post in Irish. Reading these posts daily will help me stay on top of the language.

This SLA experience will help me for the rest of my life because I might want to move to Ireland. The Irish language is embedded in the Irish culture and the two cannot be without each other. Knowing the Irish language will help me to have a better understanding of the culture and people. I hope that I get the chance to move there one day and maybe promote the language further.


Final Days…

It’s my last day here in Gleann Fhinne. I’ve been in Ireland for more than two months now and it is definitely bittersweet leaving. My time in the Gaeltacht has really helped me get a good grasp on the Irish language.

During the last few nights of my trip, I tried to soak up the Irish language and atmosphere of Gleann Fhinne. I walked to the Angels’ Well, a holy well in Gleann Fhinne. It was a bit hidden and hard to find, but it was beautiful, nonetheless. Also, my friend and I watched sheep for a while because they are so interesting. One night, we were walking home from the pub and there were three sheep that escaped from their fields standing in the middle of the street. It was rather funny. Also, I had a new teacher during the last couple days of my trip and he was fantastic. He clarified a few things that I was struggling with. For example, the word “súil” can be used in different contexts. The word on its own means eye; however, if I said “Tá súil agam,” that would mean “I hope.” I often was confused about that structure and I am happy that he clarified it.

The Angels’ Holy Well

Overall, I had a wonderful experience in the Gaeltacht for the past three weeks. Gleann Cholm Cille and Gleann Fhinne were definitely the most beautiful places that I have ever been. Also, I learned a great deal of Irish and I cannot wait to practice my new skills during the next semester. I hope I can go back next year because it was a fantastic experience!

Beautiful view of my front yard

Adventures in County Donegal

I’ve had a couple of adventures during my last few days in County Donegal. First, our class went to Finntown and went to a music session in an extremely old pub. This pub was called “Teach Ceoil” meaning “Music House.” I’ve been to many traditional sessions during my time in Ireland, but this one was especially authentic. This pub did not have any taps or fridges. They just had beer and liquor on the wall and one bartender serving. The bartender also turned out to be an excellent musician. During the night, many people displayed their talents. In our class, some people sang Irish songs and others played their instruments like the fiddle, tin whistle, and bodhrán. I was even able to Irish dance for a little bit. The room was very small, and some people had to stand. The entire night was enjoyable, and I am so glad we got the chance to go.

Teach Ceoil

On Saturday, a couple of classmates and I went to Donegal town for the day. Donegal town is a cute town with a lot of interesting things to do. We walked along the river and checked out old ruins of an Abbey. Also, I bought a GAA Donegal County flag that I am going to hang up in my dorm room. We also passed Donegal Castle which was very special.

Donegal Town

While I have been learning a lot in class, I find that speaking the language to other people outside the class benefits me as well. My teacher actually comes to the Bean an Tí’s house for dinner and he speaks to us in Irish. Using the language outside of a class setting allows for me to feel more comfortable and relaxed while speaking. I find that I am improving my listening skills and understanding what someone is actually saying to me. I find that I can respond decently if I first understand what is being said to me. Overall, I feel that being in such a remote place is great for learning Irish.

Gleann Fhinne

Móra daiobh! I am currently writing all of you from the front porch of the house of my Bean an Tí (Woman of the House). The weather is interesting because it is sunny with a few clouds, but there is also a rainbow! The temperature is perfect with a comforting breeze. When I first arrived in Gleann Fhinne, I was a bit skeptical as to how I would like it because there was nothing there; in this “town,” there is literally just the pub and school. The next closest shop to get any food or necessities is an hour walk away from my Bean an Tí. It is nice to have a Bean an Tí because she makes delicious meals. Her name is Caoití Campbell and is extremely nice; her accent is very strong though so it often hard to understand. Her house is rather big with six bedrooms and a vast amount of land. I particularly love this house because there are sheep in the front yard!

A view of my front yard

Class in Gleann Fhinne is set up a bit differently than in Gleann Cholm Cille. Instead of seven levels, there are only three. I chose level three because I wanted to challenge myself; also, the level three teacher has an Ulster accent which I have never been exposed to before. The first couple of days were definitely more challenging because I had to really listen to what he was saying as there are major dialectical differences. For example, they pronounce verbs differently. The dependent form for “were/was” is raibh. I have been accustomed to pronouncing that as “rev,” however in Ulster, they pronounce it as “ro.” My teacher would ask me questions with that verb and I literally would have no idea what he was talking about. However, I notice now that I am finally picking up on the differences. After this trip, I will have been exposed to the Ulster, Munster, and Connacht accents.

My friend and I with sheep

Like in Gleann Cholm Cille, Oideas Gael hosts a cultural activity every night. On Sunday, we had a céilí again. This céilí was special because I got to help teach the dances as I myself am an Irish dancer. Teaching dances in the Irish language was a lot more difficult than I imagined, but now I know how to do it! The past three nights we did singing, poetry, and hill-walking. The hill-walking was especially interesting. We hiked in the Blue Stack Mountains where many native Irish speakers used to live. I learned that these people had one of the purest forms of the language because they were rarely exposed to any other culture as they were hidden in the mountains. Also, they are renowned for their musical skills. Sadly, nobody lives in these mountains anymore due to small families and hardships during the winter. It is a very remote place, so it is hard to make a living in the modern age in this area.

The Blue Stack Mountains

I have a week left here in Gleann Fhinne and look forward to telling you about my last days. Slán go fóill!

Gleann Cholm Cille

Dia diaobh! This first blog is a bit late as I have been so busy every day and have limited access to WiFi. Currently, I am writing this post in the beautiful Gleann Fhinne, but I spent my first week in the amazing Gleann Cholm Cille. I arrived in Gleann Cholm Cille, County Donegal on July 13 after leaving my internship in Dublin. I was amazed by the scenery on my way to my accommodation; there were mountains and sheep everywhere around me. I was lucky enough to stay in the Ionad Siúl which was conveniently located between the school and the “city” center. Also, it was only a ten-minute walk away from the beach in which I swam a few times! The beach was wonderful despite it being a bit chilly and the current was very strong. Over the course of one week, I learned and did many exciting things. Every day, we had class for five hours with necessary tea/coffee breaks in between. At the end of the week, I felt that I gained an immense amount of vocabulary and felt more comfortable with Irish word structures. For example, I learned a few different ways to greet someone in the morning. I can say “Maidin mhaith,” “Dia duit ar maidin,” “Dé I do bheatha,” or “Móra duit.” In order they translate as: “Good morning,” “God to you this morning,” “Light in your life,” and “Móra (Pagan goddess) to you.” I thought this was very useful as I saw many different people on the way to school, so I knew many different ways to greet them. I also learned very important rules to tell the difference between masculine and feminine nouns; in Irish, it is crucial to know the difference. Before Gleann Cholm Cille, I had a rough idea as to when a noun was masculine or feminine. However, I learned four useful rules that I can now use to tell if a word is feminine: if the word ends in a slender consonant, words ending in “lann,” words ending in “óg/eog,” and words ending in “cht” and are more than one syllable.” This rule will surely help me with the rest of my Irish learning.

Me swimming in the ocean at Gleann Cholm Cille

Every night, Oideas Gael hosted a cultural event and everyone would go to one of the two pubs afterward to practice our Irish. I met life-lasting friends during these times. We learned sean-nós songs, céilí dances, and poetry. As an Irish dancer, it was fun to participate in the céilí dances and I even got to perform for everyone a couple times at the pub! The pub’s atmosphere was fantastic. Each night, there would be students of all ages playing flutes, whistles, fiddles, and accordions. Also, people would sing, and I would occasionally dance. On top of all this, I would practice my Irish with other students of all ages. I met people from Ireland, Wales, Luxembourg, Germany, France, and England. It truly was a fantastic experience.

Beautiful mountains in the Gleann

Now, I am staying in Gleann Fhinne; it is another Gaeltacht region about two hours away from Gleann Cholm Cille. It is much quieter here and more remote. I will keep you updated on how much I learn and experience…


The main sign