Olwen Sheedy reflects on the halfway point.

 

Four weeks into The Washington Ireland Program 2012 and what a four weeks it has been. So much has happened and I have already learned so much. There are so many parts to the program and each is unique. Each element offers numerous opportunities to learn and to develop your skills.

 

Host families…          

What an unusual situation. Your host family picks you up from the airport and off you go. You move into their home for eight weeks and become “part of the family”.  To some this component of the program could be viewed as somewhat logistical but it is so much more than that. It is without doubt one of the most important components of the program. I have loved having the opportunity to experience a real American way of life. I have adopted rituals of my host parents and I have become accustomed to some of their daily routines. My host mom and I now share a strong pot of coffee each morning along with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice from Wholefoods! The three of us have hiked and we have biked and we have had numerous delicious meals together. I have adopted the dog as my own. As someone who was never considered a “dog person”, I have become very accustomed to having a dog around the house. I have taken a great deal from the experience of living with a host family. I am truly enjoying getting to know my host parents and I am learning a great deal from them.

 

Internships…

My internship with The Washington Performing Arts Society has been fantastic. I have completed three weeks and each week was completely different. I am working with the education department and I am involved with their summer programs. For the first two weeks I worked on site at the summer camps. Week 1 was with The Capitol Jazz and Strings Project and Week 2 was with the Playful Rhythms camp.  Last Week, I was based in the office for the first time. I consider myself very fortunate to be getting exposure to both the office environment and first hand experience at the camps.  

 

Evening Events/ Service Opportunities and Social outings…

In the past four weeks we have had speakers, debates, guided tours, volunteer opportunities, discussions, meetings and a baseball game. It has been jam-packed but each and every event has offered different opportunities and experiences and each has been hugely beneficial. We have been privileged to be exposed to a wide range of notable speakers and extremely fortunate to be offered opportunities to see amazing parts of Washington DC. In my opinion, the impact of these events may be even more striking on return to Ireland when we really have time to process each and every one and to reflect on the significance of each. Right now I’m finding it hard to truly comprehend the whole experience.

 

The Class of 2012…

The host families, the internships, and the organised events…I can’t deny that each and every one of these plays a hugely significant role in the overall experience of The Washington Ireland Program. They are the core components that are central to the existence of the program. That said, four weeks in I have decided that the single most important aspect of this program is the class itself. The dynamics of the class shape the entire program each year and it is the class that makes each year unique. I believe that the most important lessons I will learn this summer will be through my interactions with my peers. We have an extremely diverse group of individuals. We each have our own personality. The way that we have interacted so far is really fascinating. For a group that have only been together for four weeks it is clear that friendships are developing that will be lifelong. I feel privileged to be part of such a fantastic group and I will be forever grateful to those that have made this experience possible. 

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