May Trips: Discovering the Magic of Ireland



Lindsey Graham | Assistant News Editor

At the end May, a new group of students will embark on a routine endeavor to a small town in Ireland. From May 27th to June 12th, five students (Stephanie Steiner, Makenzie Mauntler, Jessica Weatherman, Kim Niehaus, and Laura Eberly) and the advisor, Andrea Frantz, will be spending the bulk of their time with the natives in the village of Sneem. After 8 nights in Sneem, they will be touring other parts of Ireland, such as Galway, Dublin, and the National Theater in Tralee.

The focus of this trip is storytelling, using digital photography and journalism to tell the stories of Ireland. One of the main projects will be interviewing the people of Sneem, the village of roughly 400 people. The students will be writing articles about the town to be published in the Sneem Parish News, the village’s annual magazine.

The second main project is producing a book of photography. Each student and advisor will have their own section of the book, using their own theme for their visual story of Ireland. These projects are what make this a distinctive trip, by producing works for public consumption, outside of Buena Vista University. “I have never done anything pertaining to journalism, interviewing, or taking photos. It’s a new experience I’m looking forward to,” said Makenzie Mauntler, a freshman Graphic Design major.

According to Andrea Frantz, “This is a magic place.” She then told the story of an old, grizzled farmer with a thick accent that they tried to interview on one of the first trips. His rocky farmland was steep where it went up a mountain, and then it leveled out towards a cliff with a sheer drop-off to the ocean. After hours of trying to talk to the shy man, he walks over to the edge of the cliff, and began to whistle in a weird, melodic, minor key. The students didn’t know what to expect until they saw dots in the ocean, heading their way. When the dots were close enough, they realized the old farmer was a seal whisperer, calling for the seals to play in the bay.

“Life is about discovering the magic. Living and experiencing the magic,” claimed Andrea Frantz, “The Irish are pretty serious about their beliefs in fairies, leprechauns, wee folk, and spirits. I learned a long time ago to not be a skeptic.”

Frantz mentioned a tale in Ireland of the white thorn trees. If one is all by itself, the belief is that it is a fairy tree. If one disrespects the tree, the fairies set a curse. A few years ago, one of the professors on the trip was a skeptic. She ripped off a leaf from the tree and then had the worst year of her life with health issues, work problems, and a bad divorce. She had to return to Ireland the following year to lift the curse by walking by the exact tree she disrespected, without looking at it.

“I became a believer. The Irish truly believe in the mystical part of this world, and we have to respect that.” Frantz stated. By telling the stories of other cultures, students’ eyes are opened to a whole new world. This is an important part of the college experience, and Ireland is a trip worth being very excited about.

Photo courtesy of Andrea Frantz