Study Abroad News from Ireland: Part 2

[The author, senior Nola Grace Brown, applied for an Honors study abroad scholarship (SAS) and received one. How about you?  Do you want to study abroad in Summer or Fall 2020? Watch your email inbox in early Dec 2019 for Honors SAS application materials. Applications are due by 15 Feb 2020. This summer, she completed an eight-week internship in Ireland.]

At this writing, I have just finished my seventh full week of interning at the Irish Wheelchair Association.  It is so hard to believe that I have only one week left!

Some highlights from the last few weeks at IWA include working the “Members Camp,” helping to organize and run a team-building event, and stepping into the role of personal trainer for a variety of new individuals.  

While the IWA hosts inclusive sports camps for kids of all backgrounds all summer long, the Members Camp is only for children with disabilities.  The week was so much fun!  I had a blast playing games and going on field trips with the kids while simultaneously learning so much about caring for upwards of 20 young individuals in wheelchairs, all at the same time!  

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Participants in the Members Camp pose for a photo. Nola Grace is pictured in the back row, towards the middle of the group.

The opportunity to help orchestrate the team-building event was so exciting as well!  The IWA hosted an evening of playing wheelchair basketball for employees of a local company.  The event helped to push the participants outside of their comfort zones while also teaching them lessons in working together and giving them a new perspective on the life of a wheelchair user.  After putting themselves in the position of a wheelchair user for only a few short hours, all of the people in attendance said that their appreciation for what wheelchair users go through on a daily basis had skyrocketed!  They confessed how frequently they find themselves taking life on two legs for granted. 

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Employees and interns play wheelchair basketball to simulate what it’s like to not be able to walk. Nola Grace is pictured in the background.

Then I started to wonder: How often do I do the same?  How often do I overlook the blessing of an able body and the independence that that provides?  How frequently do I complain about what isn’t there when there are so many things to be thankful for?  Even in the realm of travel, how much do I take for granted with my place in the world at home, or with the chances I have had to see brand new, fascinating cultures?  

Finally, I have learned immensely more from my personal training clients than I ever anticipated!  I have been working one-on-one with many people, but two in particular have captured my heart with their determination and desire to grow!  One is a man who suffered a 40-foot fall: Pat shattered his lower spine, cracked every rib on his left side, punctured his lung, fractured his pelvis and forearm, and had a great deal of nerve damage.  Even after all of this, Pat is a walking man.  He is a miracle, and my work with him has taught me so much about pushing the limits of what is said to be “impossible.”  

Another stand-out was sweet Miss Brid, a remarkable 78-year-old woman with Guillian-Barré Syndrome—a neurological disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the peripheral nervous system.  She inspired me every day with her radiant positivity and her passion to see improvement. 

As my trip is coming to a close, I am overcome with thankfulness and gratitude for the experiences I have had, the people I have been blessed to meet, the lessons that I have learned, and the gorgeous places I have been able to see!  A huge thanks goes to API, the OIP, and the Meredith Honors Program for helping to make this dream come true!  Cheers!