SNC students experience Ireland’s magic

Emily Tessmer, Editor

SNC students gather during a study abroad course in Doolin, Ireland, this summer. Below: Students hiked to the region’s famous crown jewel, the Cliffs of Moher. | Photo credit: Clayton Coates

Misty streams of sunlight peeking through the dense moisture-laden clouds, the smell of the sea in the air, the faint sound of the tin whistle and guitar from the local pub. This is Doolin, Ireland, where Sierra Nevada College students – undergraduates and graduates alike – came together in celebration of Irish literature and travel writing in August.
The trip and its courses were orchestrated by June Saraceno, SNC’s humanities department and English program chair. The program focused on students’ direct experience of Ireland and their unique expression of the experience through writing.
The sparsely populated town of Doolin offers the Cliffs of Moher, a national Irish treasure, as well as some of Ireland’s best “Trad,” or traditional, music.
“The landscapes are breathtaking, whether it’s the sea-swept Cliffs of Moher, or the Aran Islands, or horseback riding in the woods,” Saraceno said. “It feels like being outside of time, in some magical realm.”
Zoe Tuttle, an SNC senior, joined the trip.
“My favorite aspect of the trip was the culture, hands down,” she said. “There’s something magical about Ireland. Where we were, and the people around us just made the trip amazing.”
Tuttle is now considering attending graduate school in Ireland to pursue her master’s in journalism.
The trip to Ireland was initially organized as a part of SNC’s master’s in fine arts creative writing program, but was also offered to undergraduates for credit.
Students and faculty stayed at the Doolin Hostel in the central part of town, surrounded by pubs, the ocean and vibrant Irish culture. In addition to exploring the Cliffs of Moher, students also visited the Aran Islands, which are home to some of the oldest ruins in Ireland.
Pubs are central to each town’s community, and music, libations and laughter are key ingredients to an evening out on the town.
“Pub life in Ireland is so different than anything we have here in our ordinary social life.” Saraceno said. “Evenings at the pub are so communal, vibrant, and literally musical.”
Whether it was making new friends, experimenting with a new writing style, enjoying a whiskey or beer, or taking in new sights and smells, a memorable adventure was had by all.
Terra Breeden, journalism professor and MFA creative writing program coordinator, who along with Saraceno made many of the arrangements and accommodations, felt Ireland imbued her students’ writing with a new spark unique to Ireland’s culture.
“It was the perfect writing retreat,” she said. “The towns were magical, and the Irish traditions of poetry and music inspired the students’ writing.”
In addition to experiencing pub life, writing, music and creating new friendships, students and faculty enjoyed a horseback ride that made a lasting imprint for many.
“I’ll never forget the horseback ride,” Breeden said. “I galloped on a horse through a forest that was covered in moss and ferns. It was like a fairytale!”
Saraceno hopes students returned with a desire to explore more places and connect with people all over the world. And she plans to carry on the legacy of literature classes abroad, but has yet to reveal the next destination.