The time would fly by they said. You would be extremely tired they said. You will get the best experiences and opportunities ever they said. They said you would be challenged, they said your views would be molded and changed. They were right.
It can be at times difficult to put words to an experience such as the Washington Ireland Program. It can be at times difficult to appreciate what has been given to you when you are so immersed in it. For the past 8 weeks I have been placed into the most politically powerful capital in the world, an opportunity I will ever be grateful for. In my first blog I quoted the following, ‘the road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.’ It has been some journey. Each week new dimensions of the program have been uncovered. New dimensions of my leadership style have also been uncovered.
As some people on the program including the Host Families wind down after 8 weeks of putting up with us, the class are winding up to make the most of the last week and all that it will throw at us. This final week I have no doubt will be just as inspiring and thought provoking as the other ones have been.
On my way to DC I thought about what I wanted to get out of the program. I thought long and hard about what I am good at as a leader and what I need to improve on. For me being outside my comfort zone is something that I promised myself that I would do. I feel that I have accomplished this goal. I feel that throughout the 8 weeks I have put myself in uncomfortable positions, I have challenged myself to push the boundaries in what I think I can do. This was seen simply by going out on a night out, something that I never liked back at home. Something that I said many times before I came to DC, that I would not do. To put this into context I have gone on several nights out much to my mother’s dismay I would say! I have gone on a Party Limo Bus around DC. I have gone to Six Flags a rollarcoaster theme park. I have most importantly begun to accept things for what and how they are. In saying all this, for me to come out of my comfort zone I needed some assistance! In this regard my fellow class members have certainly helped to feel somewhat as ease in the noisy dirty nightclubs! They have pulled me onto the dance floor and pushed me into the roller-coasters. They have been the driving force behind me being so uncomfortable for the summer! Thanks Guys!
If the Washington Ireland Program has offered me anything over the summer it would be the new found energy and drive to achieve all those goals I mentioned I wanted to achieve and do in my last blog. WIP has made me realize that I do want to run for public office when I return, I do want to make significant changes in the educational landscape and I do want to be a voice for the continuing drive for excellence in education.
Programs like the Washington Ireland program do not just happen, it takes a lot of preparation, organizing and most importantly fundraising. It became apparent over the last number of weeks that those who give to the program have a keen interest in our futures and what we will achieve. In saying this as with any program it is dynamic and things will change and develop to make it an ever better program for the coming years.
One thing is for sure though; I have had the pleasure of meeting 29 inspiring leaders. Each participant brings with them their own personal life story; they bring with them a unique style of leadership. Above all else they bring with them a lifelong connection through friendship. A connection that I will maintain over the years! Your never know when you might need a Doctor or Lawyer!
So all things must have a beginning and an end, this experience has been one of most beneficial in terms of personal and professional development. I am safe in the knowledge however that when I board that plane in Dulles Airport on Sunday night I will have made amazing connections with Host Families, Speakers and WIP Staff. I also know that when I touch down in Dublin Airport on Monday morning I will use those connections to make the difference in my community locally and nationally that I feel needs to take place. I know and understand that saying farewell to those people you have spent 8 weeks together is going to be difficult. I know that adjusting to normality will be a difficult task to do. What I do know however is that I now have newfound and developed skills to get me by.
And so after a total of 14 blogs this being my 15th one much to the dismay of my fellow Wippers the journey in DC has come to an end. To reference an analogy used in Belfast when asked how I was feeling, I said I felt as if I was on a 5 lane highway on a pushbike with no pedals. Much to the amusement of Ben English this analogy has stayed with me. However, after 8 weeks I have found the pedals, I have bought myself a Harley, adjusted the seat and I am cruising along full throttle.
That Ladies & Gentlemen is a wrap on DC!