Last week, I received an email regarding my acceptance for my study abroad program at Maynooth University in Ireland this fall. Throughout this application process, there seemed to be a common question among the people I talked to.
Now, sometimes I didn't even get time to answer. People would repeat my name to me and go, "oh, it's 'cause you're Irish."
Well, yes, but that doesn't even begin to describe it why I chose the Emerald Isle.
Imagine being about seven years old again. Very innocent and naive, and you still have so much to learn. One day, your family starts to talk about your family history, and while you usually tune them out to play with toys, you decide to listen in. They bring up the history behind your family name. They talk of what seems like a magical land, where there are rolling green hills and monstrous cliffs the seas crash against. Then there's cities full of people laughing and playing music on every street.
I know this isn't a true description of Ireland, for there is a lot packed into one country. Some good, and a little not so good. Even still, I pictured this country with stars in my eyes, and continued to listen in to my family's conversation.
Finally, my dad told me the meaning of my name. I didn't believe him at first, so I made him look it up. It turned out to be true; the Gaelic meaning of "Erin" is "Ireland." I was named after a country. I felt a new sense of pride within my Irish heritage, and would proudly share this newfound information with anyone who would listen. I would joke, saying the country was named after me, and it would always get a few pity laughs.
A few years later, we have our family name history document hanging up in our family room. I have read that paper so many times I could recite it to you forwards and backwards. It shows who of my ancestors came to America, when they left, and then gives the different variations of my last name. Two prime examples are Leneghan and Lenihan. Spelled different, yes, but still the same family history. If anything, this document further encouraged my dream of visiting Ireland.
Since I first learned the meaning of my name, it became a life-long goal of mine to make the trip to the "homeland." I not only want to go, I now feel I need to go.
I am so excited to travel this fall to Ireland, and I hope to get the most out of this trip. While it may seem like I have very high expectations for this small country, the truth is I'm just excited to get out of my comfort zone and go. September can't come soon enough!
Interested in my travels? Check out Erin Everywhere to stay up to date with my adventures this upcoming fall!