Patano, Mary



Name: Mary Patano
Location of Study: Galway, Ireland
Program of Study: Aras Ui Chadhain
Sponsors: Keough


A brief personal bio:

I was born in Pasadena, California, on April 1, 1995. I have a twin sister, Frances. I attended high school at Mayfield Senior School, an all-girls Catholic high school. While there, I was a member of the swim team, Activities Director for Student Council, a part of theatre conservatory, and my high school’s mascot. Outside of school, I was a member of the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus for eight years and took piano lessons for ten years. At Notre Dame, I’ve been a part of the Breen-Phillips flag football team and student theatre productions on campus.

Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:

My SLA Grant is important to me because of new experiences and opportunities it will allow me to take part in. Traveling to another country and speaking the language with native speakers will give me the chance to form new relationships with other students passionate about the Irish language and with the speakers in Ireland as well.

Taking Irish has been one of the best decisions I have made since beginning college, and I know that this summer program will enhance my experience overall. After only taking Latin in high school, this program will take me out of my comfort zone as I practice speaking a language with people who truly know and love it.

It is nearly impossible to learn and comprehend a language or culture without experience, and this program would give me the opportunity to immerse myself within the Irish language and culture. I am a dedicated student and am especially driven when it comes to my passions. This program opportunity is exactly the building block I need to further my intellectual and cultural growth.

What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:

I hope that learning to speak the Irish language will add to my love of the culture, and I am so grateful to potentially be given the opportunity to study it while immersed in its native country. The program will also give me the opportunity to pursue my passions outside of academics, specifically in traditional Irish music and dance. With this program, I will be able to immerse myself whole-heartedly in learning to write and speak the Irish language.

Back on campus, I hope to continue my practice of speaking the language by continuing to be a part of the Irish club, and attending the Irish conversation tables. My love for the Irish language and culture has grown tremendously, and I know this language program will allow it to grow stronger everyday.

My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:

  1. At the end of the summer, I will be able to speak, read, write and listen at a level of proficiency equal to two semesters beyond my current Irish coursework placement at Notre Dame.
  2. At the end of the summer, I will be able to hold basic-intermediate conversations with native Irish speakers.
  3. At the end of the summer, I will have countless wonderful memories and will have formed invaluable friendships with other students and my host family.
  4. At the end of the summer, I will have a better understanding of Irish history and culture, and a new appreciation for my own Irish heritage
  5. At the end of the summer, I will be confident in my Irish speaking abilities and will participate significantly in class and during Irish conversation table.

My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:

I plan to immerse myself in activities that I usually do at home, while also seeking and discovering new ones in the Irish community. Attending sporting events, such as Gaelic football, will give me an opportunity to see how the players interact during the game, as this is an unfamiliar sport to me. I will also have the chance to see how the community interacts with each other, as many people usually attend the games, giving me the chance to meet and practice speaking Irish to the native speakers. I am also planning to attend mass in Galway as a way to practice and develop my ever-expanding knowledge of the Irish language.

I am also incredibly interested in looking at the theatre community in Galway. I am particularly interested in Taibhdhearc na Gailimhe, which is located close to the program. I absolutely love the theatre, and the fact that the national Irish language theatre is available to me in Galway makes my hopes for attending the program even greater. Since I plan to be an FTT major, this program will cultivate my knowledge of theatre beyond the US, and give me a deeper look into Irish culture.


Reflective Journal Entry 1:

Well, I made it! I got to Galway from Shannon and walked from the bus station to the university with luggage in tow. NUIG is such a beautiful campus, I hope one day I could go back to visit it, or maybe even study there. After finding a couple more Notre Dame kids and others attending the program, we finally headed out on the last traveling bit to Carraroe, or ‘An Cheathrú Rua’.
After arriving to ‘Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge-An Cheathrú Rua’ and a small orientation, we were split into our homestays and departed. I’m living with a woman and her family named Lucia Uí Fhatharta. Lucia is an-deas (very nice) and has no qualms about over feeding us. And you were right mom, Irish butter is unlike any other butter ever, and has become a significant staple of my diet. After eating, we decided to walk around Carraroe, population 680 with 3 pubs, 2 restaurants and 1 church. It’s absolutely beautiful here. Ireland looks just like how I imagined it would. It’s so green and hilly and every time you go outside it feels as if it might rain, which it often does.
On Sunday, I went with a couple of the other students to mass, which was entirely in Irish. It’s safe to say that I had almost no idea what was being said, but I have to hand it to the Irish. That mass was tops twenty minutes long.
After mass and some house bonding time, we went to Pádraig Pearse’s house. What I was told is that Pearse is to Ireland what George Washington is to the United States. For more information, . His house is incredibly old, and is located in what may be the most beautiful place I have ever seen. If you’ve ever wondered if Ireland is a beautiful country, wonder no more. I’ve taken an absurd number of photos, but do not care. This place is like nothing I’ve ever seen before and can’t wait to see more of the country.
Tuesday night we had Amhránaíocht ar an Sean-Nós, which is a style of Irish singing. Our instructor was Máire Uí Dhroigheáin, and I could have listened to her sing the entire time. Sean-Nós style singing is the kind that you hear and gives you chills. It’s acapella, and can be both upbeat or slow. She sang one song called An Cailín Álainn (The beautiful girl) and I almost cried.
I took Latin in high school (not a spoken language) and was very excited about the opportunities Irish would give me with regards to learning a spoken language. A language, in a sense, it what connects people with other people. It’s fascinating how people interact with others who know their own language, or are trying to learn their own language. People seem flattered that I’m trying to learn their language, while I’m flattered that they are so willing to share with me an integral aspect of their identity. Whether or not I continue to study Irish in the future, I know that it will give me insight to how languages work and influence their surroundings that will be invaluable in years to come.
The power of a language is immense, especially in Ireland. It’s the identity of a culture/community (the Gaelteacht in particular). Irish has been around for nearly seven millenniums, and has had a great impact on the rest of the world, even if the rest of the world isn’t aware of it. It’s so sad that a language like Irish can be nearly eradicated from the country simply because of the complexity of learning it. This is why I’m so glad programs like mine exist in areas like the Gaelteacht. The Gaelteacht is one of the few places where Irish is spoken as the primary language, and is filled with young students growing up learning Irish, and students like myself trying to learn it as well. Hopefully as time goes on, more and more people will become interested in this beautiful language, and people won’t have to fear about it dying out. I’m hoping to read more books on the history of Ireland to learn more.


Reflective Journal Entry 2:

Saturday we went to Galway, which was a lot of fun. Galway, as my host family was describing, is not big enough to be considered a city, but not small enough to be a town. From what I saw, I think they have plenty of people to be considered a city. We went Saturday afternoon in the middle of the Galway Arts Festival and the streets were crowded with tourists, and artists, and the locals. Many of the shops we visited included the cheesy and cliché Irish gifts. Beside that, we also visited the Claddagh ring jewelers store. For those of you not familiar with the claddagh ring, it’s two hands holding a heart with a crown on it. The hands symbolize friendship, the crown loyalty, and the heart love. As tempting as it was to get a ring, I couldn’t. You’re not supposed to by the ring yourself or ask someone to do it for you. It’s supposed to be given to you, and depending on when and how you wear the ring will indicate your given romantic relationship status.
We had lunch in a pub called ‘The King’s Head’ and then headed to the cathedral in town. The Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St. Nicholas is breathtaking. I love how you can go to almost any cathedral in the world and still be blown away by just how beautiful it can be. After the visit, we went back to shopping and I bought some family gifts and a print photo of men in a pub playing music.
Sunday we headed down to the coral beach. Carraroe is located on a peninsula and so essentially you have a good shot of picking one direction and heading for the beach. My housemates and I are constantly turning to each other and exclaiming that Ireland can’t be a real place. Any image I had in my mind of what Ireland would look like has been completely surpassed. The sand on the beach was made out of coral pieces, and there were jellyfish everywhere (needless to say, I did not go swimming at that beach).
Class on Monday with another céili in the evening. Again, my dancing skills are growing exponentially or the teacher is just taking pity on me and teaching me really easy dance moves. Tuesday was just another full day of classes. We’ve been split in the intermediate class. There’s a group that is more comfortable speaking Irish that goes faster in the afternoons, and then there’s my class, which is primary people who understand the reading and writing for Irish, but are not incredibly fast speakers. It’s been really helpful to have this smaller setting for speaking, and I’m sure my spoken Irish will improve drastically in the days to come.
We took a trip to Kylemore Abbey (Mainistir na Coille Móire) and the Connemara National Park. The castle/abbey was bought as a gift from Mitchell Henry for his wife Margaret who loved the area. After being passed from the Henry family to the Duke and Duchess of Manchester, who lost it in a bad game of cards, the house was bought by the Irish Benedictine Nuns, who still live there today. The nuns created a boarding school for girls in 1923, which was closed in 2010. The castle is absolutely stunning. Having never seen a castle before, I was blown away by its size and structure. We also saw a beautiful gardens area, and a gothic mini cathedral that Mitchell Henry built in memory of his wife when she passed away. It truly is an amazing site to see.
For class Friday, we spent all of the class time after lunch going around the room and singing a song of our choosing to practice for the big night of music that was Friday night. There are some incredibly talented people in my class, and I heard some beautiful Irish songs sung (The Fields of Athenry, The Galway Shawl etc.) On Friday night we had a ‘Big Night of Music’ where local musicians and students came to play, sing, and dance. I loved it. From just a few songs you could tell how invested these people were in their culture, and how important they found it.
Saturday we had class in the morning and then spent the evening getting lost in Carraroe. The town is surrounded by beaches, so we just found one and then walked along it. It was breathtaking and beautiful and I don’t want to leave here. Saturday night we all went to the pub, which was a lot of fun! There were many locals there and there was dancing and singing and drinking and Irish there too.
Sunday was a free day, so I spent the day exploring more of the beaches, eating lunch outside and climbing all over the rocks on the beach.
Monday and Tuesday were just class days, but I’m learning things that make me love Irish even more. Many of the words and phrases of Irish aren’t direct translations but rather just idioms. For example, the phrase ‘go raibh maith agat’ is the Irish version of ‘thank you’ but it directly translates to ‘May good be on you’. My personal favorite from Tuesday is the word for cheerful, ‘gealgháireach’, which translates to ‘bright laughter’. I’m looking forward to finding more of these hidden treasures within the language.
Today we took a ferry to the Aran Islands. We rented bikes and biked all over the Inishmore, the largest of the islands. It was a beautiful day, until around 2 o’clock when the sky opened up and it started to pour. Regardless, the island was incredible. We saw a fort that is 3000 years old, and surrounding the fort was a cliff with a sheer drop of around 300 feet.
It’s hard to believe that I’m almost done here, but hopefully I can experience everything Carraroe has to offer before I leave in a week.

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Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:

Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:

How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future: