A trip to Ireland is always a thrill, but here’s one for teens—rising high school sophomore, junior and senior, to be specific—that will leave lasting memories, not just of places, but of the peers they’re going to meet along away.
It’s the Summer Immersion Program, sponsored by Philly’s Irish Diaspora Center, and it takes place from June 21 to July 3.
This is the second such trip sponsored by the center, and organizers hope it will be even bigger and better than last year.
Some of the kids who went to Ireland for the trip last summer had been to Ireland before; some hadn’t. But it’s a cinch that even if they’d gone before, they had never seen Ireland in quite the same way.
“We’re trying to show them a different experience from what they might have seen previously in Ireland,” says Center Executive Director Emily Norton Ashinhurst. “I think the beauty of this program is that the students who are participating get a feel for Ireland that you don’t get when you’re on even the best bus tour.
“Our young people last year were able to meet up with young people in Ireland, and form networks and connections that they continue to maintain today. They’re still talking to friends they made over there. That’s really the point of the trip—to give them connections back to Ireland and build those connections for the long term.”
Ciarán Porter, the center’s youth development director, notes that teens who travel on the summer immersion trip are likely to find out how much they have in common with their Irish peers.
“They see how similar they are even though they’re so far apart,” he says. “The lifestyle and the habits and the things that are going on in their lives are very similar, and they make that strong connection.”
Those connections from last year’s trip proved so strong, Porter adds, that several of them applied to colleges in Ireland.
That’s part of the focus of the trip, as well, says Ashinhurst—a continuation of that relationship that might extend into higher education.
(The Irish Diaspora Center has a group of parents working to promote colleges and universities in Ireland as an alternative to four-year degrees in the United States. “They’re doing great work in talking to the colleges and universities in Ireland about admission requirements, funding and just building good relationships with those institutions that might be good alternatives for students,” says Ashinhurst.)
One of the features of the summer immersion trip, she adds, is the opportunity to visit some Irish college and university campuses “to show kids there are different options over there.”
The students will fly into Dublin and travel to Donegal, from there exploring Louisburgh, County Mayo, throughout exploring Ireland’s scenic West, Northwest and North. Toward the end, they’ll spend a couple of days in Dublin.
Features of the trip will include the astonishing Giant’s Causeway—astonishing because it’s easy to believe that natural wonder was really the work of a giant—Slieve League, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, the Wild Atlantic Way, the Walled City of Derry, The Lost Valley, Galway City, the Book of Kells and The Titanic Museum. They’ll watch a Gaelic football game and a sheep-herding demonstration. They’ll take in Irish music and dance, and shop on Dublin’s Grafton Street—with much more on the itinerary.
This is far from a passive trip. The teens will have the opportunity to go horseback riding along the beach, climb Ireland’s sacred mountain, Croagh Patrick, surf in the Atlantic, and go hiking in Mayo.
They’ll ride aboard a small bus, thoroughly chaperoned, with a driver expert in the art of finding interesting stops along the way.
The Center organizers hope for a dozen or so students. This year, they’re reaching out to students in cities outside of Philadelphia. “That’s another part of what makes this trip beautiful,” says Ashinhurst. Philly-area students will “not only develop relationships with kids in Ireland, but if we end up having kids from New York, Chicago, Boston, D.C. and so on, they’ll develop relationships around this country as well.”
The trip, which includes airfare, room and board, transportation and group activities, costs $4,000. A fee of $100 is due with the application. Deposit of $500 is due with reservation after acceptance offer. Monthly payments schedules are available. Final payment due by June 1, 2020.
A teacher recommendation will be required, along with unofficial transcript, and either an essay or a video explaining the student’s interest in joining the trip.
For more information, contact Ciaran Porter at email@example.com or 610-789-6355, extension 3201.
Additional info and application forms are on the Summer Immersion Program website.