By Jordan Stratford, Designer
One of the reasons I came to Wilson was to meet awesome people from all over the country and, I hoped, the world. I am pleased to say that opportunities to do just that exist within the Wilson community for anyone interested in seeing a new perspective. Last October, study abroad student John McCaul from Newry, Northern Ireland created An Cuman Gaelach, The Irish Cultural Society. McCaul is one of 80 study abroad students that came from Queens University in Belfast to the United States in search of a Liberal Arts experience. Through the Study USA British Council, McCaul was matched with three colleges. McCaul chose Warren Wilson College and decided that he would use aspects of his major in history and politics to bring Ireland into conversation on campus.
The Irish Cultural Society meets every Sunday in Sage Cafe from 8-9pm and is open to everyone. The first time I attended a meeting was at the beginning of February, and the topic was Irish Authors. Upon entering Sage, I found a round table surrounded by seven students. Without having to interrupt the flow of conversation I pulled up a chair and they made room. Welcoming me into the conversation with smiles and a quick introduction, McCaul explained the topic and stated that the group is very much a learning environment where confronting your preconceived notions with facts is fun and even funny at times!
Prompted by the discussion, a student shared her knowledge about the potato famine only to be followed by student Pellegrini De Paur who shouted, “And then there was the black plague!” Everyone paused and looked at McCaul. We waited as the smile subsided, and he said ”Actually that was 500 years before the plague.” The circle erupted in laughter.
Taking turns reading from a printout McCaul has compiled, we were guided back to the topic. Did you know that C.S. Lewis was born in Ireland? Going over the author’s most famous work, McCaul asked “Have you all read The Chronicles of Narnia?” A female student quickly said, “Is that really a question?” More laughter. One of the most successful parts of organizing an event is the ability for attendees to feel comfortable engaging in dialogue, and this group is a great example of that. The group was even encouraging when my dyslexia kicked in halfway through reading my paragraph out loud.
The topics of An Cuman Gaelach span beyond literature and have included the Irish language, Irish vocabulary, history, weather, leisure, music, numbers and colors. Future topics include film and culture. McCaul also mentioned that he enjoys taking on suggested topics, so it would appear there is a lot more to cover. The possibilities are endless, and with an open mind you can travel a very long distance.