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Off to Ireland!

2005-06.killarney.Cill Áirne (17)

This was NOT what I expected to wake up to when I opened my email on the morning of May 30:

“30TH May 2013

Audrey, a chara,

I am delighted to inform you that due to another candidate’s withdrawal the Ireland-United States Commission for Educational Exchange has decided to offer you a Gaeltacht Summer Award.”

(To be honest, after I picked my jaw up off the floor, I’m told they could hear me squealing in Donegal)

A real surprise

When I applied for one of the Gaeltacht Summer Awards back in April of 2013, I knew it was something of a long shot.

For one thing, The Ireland-United States Commission for Education Exchange, which sponsors the awards, quite rightly gives precedence to people who have never been on a Gaeltacht program before. As regular readers of this blog know, I spent a fortnight at Oideas Gael in Donegal in 2008.

When I was notified in mid-May that I was not being offered an award, but had been made an alternate, I was disappointed, but not really surprised (and actually rather pleased to be considered as an alternate).

I pretty much gave up on the idea of going to Ireland this year at that point, as I had no idea how many alternates they might have chosen, or how likely it was that someone who had gotten an award would be unable to take advantage of it. I figured the odds were pretty slim.

I almost didn’t open the email

On the day the awardees were to be announced, May 30, I almost didn’t open the email titled “Gaeltacht Summer Award!” I thought it would just be an open note of congratulations listing the awardees.

I figured that I might actually know some of the awardees, however (the world of Irish learners is an amazingly small one), and should congratulate them personally, so I opened it and got the surprise of my life.


A whirlwind of preparation

Thus began a whirlwind six weeks of preparation. You’d be amazed at how much there is to do when you’re planning to spend a month in another country, leaving your family behind to cope with the things you usually do!

Fortunately, I had checked my passport before I applied for the award, so I knew that was in order (your passport must be valid for at least six months AFTER your visit to Ireland).

Still, there was the matter of arranging my flights, obtaining health insurance (an important detail…your personal health insurance may not cover you in another country, or may cover you only in very limited circumstances), ordering currency from my bank, etc.

On the home front, I needed to make sure my husband knew important things such as how I keep the books, when certain bills needed to be paid, what to do if our daughter or one of the animals were to get sick, where to buy pet food, etc.

And in the middle of all that came a planned family road trip to the Pacific Northwest…a week visiting family and more than 2000 miles of driving!

The preparations are done now, though, and all that’s left to do is to head off for the San Francisco Airport very early on Wednesday morning, July 10, for the first leg  of my journey.

The goal of the journey

If you follow this blog, you may have read my post of January, 2013, entitled “Fluency: What is it and when do I get it?” (If you haven’t read it, please do, especially if you’re a language learner yourself! It talks about issues a lot of language learners struggle with).

I have a very good understanding of spoken Irish. I have a good grasp of the grammar, and read the language well. But like many learners, especially those who, like me, are mostly self-taught, I lag in the speaking department.

My goal for the coming month is to bring my level of spoken Irish up to the same standard as my understanding of the language. In short, I hope to reach a standard that I consider to be true fluency.

To that end, I’ll be spending four weeks in the Donegal Gaeltacht (two in Gleann Cholm Cille and two in Gleann Fhinne, near the Blue Stack Mountains), once again under the tutelage of Oideas Gael.

So what about the blog?

I won’t be writing while I’m in Ireland…aside from the fact that I don’t want to lug along a laptop (I’m already planning to carry my smallest lap harp…one must have priorities!), I plan to use English as little as possible while I’m there.

The blog, however, will continue as usual. I write these posts several weeks in advance (usually there’s an eight-week buffer), so I’ve got plenty of material to keep you entertained while I’m gone!

In addition, Eoin is working on organizing some guest writers, to answer some of the questions you’ve been asking about life in Ireland.

When I get back, I know I’ll have a lot more to share!

Are you interested in studying in Ireland next year?

Applications for the Gaeltacht Summer Awards usually open in early spring. These awards are open to U.S. citizens who are either studying or teaching the Irish language, and will pay for up to six weeks of study in a Gaeltacht region.

For information on when next year’s award process will open, email awards@fulbright.ie, or keep your eyes on this website.

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8 thoughts on “Off to Ireland!”

  1. Táim cinnte go bhaineann tú sult as do sheal ag Oideas Gael. Fuair mise agus m’fhear céile an deontas céanna, agus bhíomar ann ar feadh coicíse ag tús mí Iúil. Bhí an-am againn!

  2. This is great info. I’m headed off to Scotland and Ireland in October. Have been doing a lot of surfing travel sites. This is the best info yet. Thank you.

  3. Hi Audrey,

    Thanks so much for the wonderful blog piece about the Gaeltacht Summer Awards! We can’t wait to hear all about your experience!

    All the best,
    Joanne Davidson
    Fulbright Commission

    1. Hi Joanne,

      I’m looking forward to writing about my experience! This is a wonderful resource for Americans who are serious about learning Irish.

  4. Gearoid O hAnnaidh


    Until what date will you be in Donegal?

    Perhaps we might be able to meet up?


    1. I’ll be there from July 13 through August 10. The first and the last week will be in Gleann Cholm Cille and the fortnight in the middle will be in Gleann Fhinne.