As we drove out of the Ulster University driveway, waving goodbye to the other victory scholars, I was overwhelmed with emotions. I was excited, scared, and surprisingly sad, all at the same time. I was excited to get to Limerick and get acquainted with my accommodations for the year. I was scared of the unknowns that this new journey brought. These emotions were ones that I was prepared for, but being sad was something that I hadn’t seen coming. I was so sad! It is hard for me to believe that I could’ve became such close friends with 23 strangers after one week together.
We spent the week together on the University of Ulster’s campus in Jordanstown, just outside of Belfast. We spent much of the week training and preparing for our responsibilities of the coming months. We worked with local children through a two day basketball camp and two nights at local youth centers. I wanted to learn as much as I could about their lives here in Northern Ireland. I wanted to learn about all of their favorite places to eat, favorite sports, and their Irish slang. What I’ve learned is that many of them said their favorite restaurants are KFC, McDonalds, Dominos, or Subway. It wasn’t exactly the Irish flavor that I was searching for. However, they taught me a lot about Gaelic Football, Hurling, and how to understand what all of the Sports Changes Life leaders have been saying all week. (A “wee bit of craic” means a little bit of fun). Even with all that was accomplished through training, we had plenty of time to explore the sights of Belfast and the surrounding areas as a group. We explored downtown Belfast, checked out a few local pubs, and hiked up Cavehill overlooking the Irish Sea and all of the surrounding towns. The area was beautiful and we just soaked it in as much as we could. No matter what we were doing, we were having a blast. I have never laughed as much as I have laughed this past week. Whether it was because of the other scholars, kids, our bus drivers, or just people we met in the street, stories were made that will be told throughout the scholars for the rest of the year. As we pull into Limerick, all of the unknowns and fears come back, but it is easier to deal with knowing I have already made 23 friends here in Ireland. I am excited to get settled into the Limerick community!