Irish Way, a non-profit program to help teens connect to Ireland

I have Irish roots, barely. I’m one of those people whose genetic make-up is a mixture of a few countries. But, I did go to Ireland with a friend who has more claim to the country than I do. We visited his father’s second cousin near Clifden.

They didn’t know we were coming, but as soon as we introduced ourselves when the front door opened, we were welcomed inside for a wonderful visit and a meal. Ours was a barely organized, shot-in-the-dark approach to connecting to my friend’s Irish roots. After that meal, he went back to visit again a couple weeks later after I flew back to the U.S. Although his approach worked because of his family ties, those without family ties also have a way to connect to Ireland if the person looking to connect is a high-schooler.

Irish Way, in existence since 1976, is a study abroad program for high schoolers. Operated by the Irish American Cultural Institute, the program includes classes and workshops in Irish culture and tours of various sites in order to enhance participants’ interest and develop their understanding about all things Irish. Interestingly, the program is based in Galway which is near Clifden, the town closest to where my friend’s relatives live.

I can vouch for Galway. It would be a wonderful place to spend four weeks. The deadline for applications is in March. Although the cost isn’t cheap, there is scholarship money available. From reading the literature, I don’t think being Irish is a requisite, just an interest in Irish culture.

For an article about one girl’s experience going through the program, click here. As Steve Stephens of the Columbus Dispatch reports, the experience won’t be her last.