Postcard from An Cheathrú Rua

Cúrsa Gaeilge na Mic Léinn Idirnáisiúnta sa Cheathrú Rua

I previously wrote how I began my Irish journey and exploration of my familial past, which eventually led me to the community. You can also view my profile here. We who choose to be here, learning and practicing Irish, do this not just for our love of this beautiful language, which is but one manifestation of the Irish people and their very rich, vibrant culture. This community is also a chance to explore Gaelic Ireland through its music, through its film, through its literature, through its art. All of these are windows into the Irish soul. Thank goodness for the Internet, as it has made possible for people around the globe to join this family and share with one another this unique and uplifting culture!

A year ago, Múinteoir Quinton recommended to me a short summer Irish course in Connemara. As I live and work in America, he let me know that I could be a candidate for a Fulbright grant of €2000 from the Ireland/US Commission for Educational Exchange that would cover much of the tuition and accommodation fees for the programme. The programme includes instruction in Irish at the A1, A2, and B1 levels, cultural events and excursions, plus room and board with a local Irish-speaking family. After I researched it online, I could not contain my excitement about the possibility. I applied. Not only was I accepted for the programme, but I also received the Fulbright award. I participated in study-abroad programmes as a student before this, and I later led them when I became an instructor myself. These are opportunities that can change lives in every way that is good. This programme has, I can say with confidence, done that for me yet again.

Programme directors made clear at the beginning that this immersion course would not make us fluent, but its goal was to make us stronger in the Irish that we now have, not only through the coursework that we would do but also through using it with our host families, in the local stores, in the pub, and with each other.

Is féidir liom ag rá duit gan dabht anois: Tá níos mó misneach agam an Ghaeilge a úsáid anois ná bhí agam roimh an gcúrsa – I can say to you now without a doubt: I have more confidence now in using my Irish than I had before the programme.

Daily Schedule

The daily language classes were only part of this experience. Many nights, we gathered as a group to experience sean-nós dancing and Irish folk singing – with some songs becoming anthems for our course, which we sang spontaneously in the courtyard of An Acadamh in An Cheathrú Rua – and pub nights featuring local musicians who would invite the musicians of our own group – including Barry, another of our family members on the programme – to join them for a few numbers. I loved the spontaneity of these musical events, and we were all filled with joy at how easily locals invited us to be part of their music. Barry had mentioned in a previous course that he played the tin whistle, and it was a pleasure to hear his passion for traditional Irish music in the perfect setting for it, over pints of Guinness.


We spent a day in the Aran Islands off the coast, along with daytrips to An Spidéal and the famous Kylemore Abbey. I bought a poster of Kylemore for my university dorm room many years ago, and it was a great to cross off the ‘bucket list’ seeing it for myself. To be honest, the photo of it here does not do it full credit.

I personally thoroughly enjoyed meal times with our host families, and it was gratifying to hear more and more Irish being spoken as the programme moved forward. We were immediately welcomed by them as extended family members, and they made sure that our every need, our every concern, was duly addressed. I have been all over the world, and I have lived in some very welcoming places. Ireland’s world-famous hospitality is, if I may respectfully say so, very much understated.

A Pleasant Surprise!

I even had a surprise chance to meet in-person Clydette, a fellow member of our online community who happened to be in Ireland and paid a personal visit to the programme (read Clydette’s article here). One of the lessons from the programme was a reminder that this world is small indeed. Programme directors invited her to our wine and sweets social that followed a scholarship presentation event that the a representative from the Canadian education system conducted for students for his country. She was impressed, and I hope that I will see her on the programme next year, or at least some time in the future.

I cannot say enough good things about this programme and the opportunities it represents to anyone who wants to experience Irish music, culture, language, and daily life first-hand. For myself, I have every hope of returning.

Join the online Irish community for cúrsaí, comhrá & ceardlanna, and follow along on social media @LetsLearnIrish – beidh fáilte romhat!

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  1. Bhain mé taitneamh as sin a léamh uait, Jeff. Ní féidir an áit thiar a bhualadh. Bhí mé a chaint le Ronan a tharla ag teacht tríd an mbaile mór anseo agus a bheannaigh isteach chomh fada liom cúpla lá ó shin. Labhair muid faoi chúpla rud a bheas ag teacht aníos. Tá súil agam a bheith páirteach i gcuid de na grúpaí Súm amach anseo le cúnamh Dé. Mar adúirt mé, bhí sé go deas an píosa sin uait a léamh.

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