Tara O'Toole

Bio Summary
Cohort Year: 
Home Institution: 
Washington & Jefferson College
Heinz Programming Area: 
Arts & Culture
Study Abroad Country: 
International Experience

Tara took an Irish Studies class at Dublin City University in Ireland for four weeks during which time she learned about the beginnings or Ireland to the country in its present day. This class taught her a lot about the struggles which shaped Ireland and have given the people their certain beliefs and values.  Tara explored a lot of Catholic and Protestant churches and castles which all played pivotal historical roles in shaping the country through fighting during times of political and religious tensions. In addition, on the weekends she explored the entire country in order to truly understand all of the history she was learning about.  Being able to see all of this history opened truly enlightened Tara to the religious, dedicated, and feisty ways of the Irish people and identity.  Furthermore, whenever she went to a new city or town she made it a habit to walk around and get a feel for how it was different or similar to the other towns she had already seen.  She also spent time at the local pubs wherever she journeyed in order to talk to the locals and get a feel for the authentic culture. Going around the country she established a true feel for the political and religious tensions and history between the North and South/ Protestants and Catholics of Ireland.  This clear division really impacted her as she has been raised in a firm Christian home and really taught her the value of not only the freedom she has to practice her religion but the value of her own faith and spirituality.  Through her travels and studies she also developed a strong admiration and appreciation for her Irish roots which encourage standing up for one’s own beliefs, rights, and values no matter the cost.  Last but not least, traveling great distances by herself gave Tara a lot of introspective time to reflect on the kind of person she wants to be perceived as while finding a new independence in exploring a foreign place alone for the first time.

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