The “Walk” – By Ashley Smith

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Our Shamrocker tour continued with a scenic drive and then hike up one of the highest cliffs in Europe: Slieve League. Well, actually it was not originally phrased as a hike, it was phrased as “a nice walk.” It was a hike. Our tour guide kept stressing that “the walk is worth it,” which raised some concern in my mind. Was he already anticipating us complaining, and if so, why? I found out very soon. We spent a total of two hours at this location, and about an hour and 45 minutes of it was us laboring up the steepest and windiest incline I have yet to encounter. Honestly it isn’t saying much, because if you couldn’t tell, I’m not a hiking kind of gal. Nevertheless, we slowly traversed up this hill. My good friend and travel buddy, Maeve, and I fell to the back of the group, IMG_3284-1often pausing to take pictures. The views were amazing. Rolling hills surrounded us in every direction. Not to mention little gems that we would notice, such as bath tubs being used as watering troughs for sheep in one of the nearby fields. We passed a few locals on the way. They could definitely tell we were about two minutes from resulting to crawling up this incline. They offered kind smiles and words of encouragement: “you’re almost there!” I was thankful, but not convinced. Soon enough, the road began to level out as it reached the top of the cliffs. As the road started to edge toward the side of the cliffs, we were exposed to breathtaking views of jagged cliffs, tall islands, and the faint sound of IMG_3302waves crashing into rocks in the distance. We were almost to the top. We met up with the rest of the group once we reached the end, and we about cried tears of joy when we saw an ice cream stand awaiting our arrival. We each ordered a scoop and sat down to enjoy the view. It looked like it wasn’t even real, like I was looking at a post card. Our guide was right, it was worth the walk.

After enjoying the view and taking our share of touristy pictures, we headed back down. You’d think that going downhill would be easier than going uphill, but it was just as trying considering the fact that we nearly had to plant our feet on the pavement to stop us from falling down the incline. Once we were about a third of the way down, Maeve and I stopped to take a few pictures. Shocker. As we were documenting the view, a car came around the corner with a few other tourists in it. They saw us taking pictures, and decided to stop their car to take some too. However, they were trying to take them from the inside of their car. I offered to take a picture for them from outside, and they happily agreed.

Returning the favor, they asked if we wanted a ride down. I have never moved so fast to get into a car. We thanked them endlessly. They were visiting from Canada, and we made small talk about the area on the way down. After what would have taken us twenty-five minutes by foot, they dropped us off at our bus, and drove off into the horizon. It is instances like these that remind me how important it is to extend help and hospitality to others, because you never know how much of an impact a small gesture could make.

Continuing on the theme of connecting with others, study abroad offers such a unique opportunity to connect both with people from the area you are visiting along with people in your group. Without study abroad, I doubt I would have crossed paths with half of the students on this trip. So far, the friends I have made here have opened my eyes to numerous different cultures, communities, and nationalities. Not only am I afforded the opportunity to get to know other students from Michigan State, but we all get to bond as we share our international experiences as well.

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