Stories from around the world

Pamela Bump

Galway, Ireland

“Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye.”– Helen Keller

I stood on the beach, gazing at the horizon in front of me. I saw distant mountains, rolling green hills, a bright sun and a sparkling sea. As I stepped along the rising tides, I felt sand and warm water rushing between my toes. I looked down to see a crab crawling along the shore, and up just in time to catch a swan glide across the waves.

On this shockingly warm autumn day in Galway, Ireland, I felt like I was truly experiencing what the world had to offer. This short moment was even more monumental as I thought of my childhood goal. Early on, I told myself I would never let anything stop me from seeing the world. Not even my legal blindness. When I chose to study abroad, some were concerned about the idea. Close friends, professors and family were not. The only thing that had ever stopped me from travel in the past was my inability to drive. In the scheme of things, my low vision didn’t matter when making this decision. I was not about to let my lifelong partial blindness stop me from actually living my life.

Contributed Photo: Pamela Bump visits the garden at Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, Ireland.

Contributed Photo: Pamela Bump visits the garden at Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, Ireland.

Just after stepping off a bright green, shamrock covered, Aer Lingus flight to Ireland, I set foot on the cobblestone streets of Galway City for the first time. I was welcomed by sights and sounds of street performers, and the overwhelming smell of all types of food rising through the air. As I walked down Shop Street, the heart of the city where many pubs and traditional Irish restaurants were located, I couldn’t help but hear the spoken Irish language, along with the tapping of step dancers and the hum of tin whistles, bagpipes and didgeridoos. It was no surprise to me that many considered Galway to be the most cultural city in Ireland. Even as a low vision student, I felt safe. With the amount of vision I have, it was very easy to navigate the area. There were also plenty of pedestrian roads, streetlights and beeping crosswalks. Even though the university’s size and population was at least three times larger than Keene State College’s, I also adapted quickly. I found housing located just between Galway’s city center and the school. My apartment was shared by two other roommates, one being my best friend from KSC. The central location allowed us to learn about the area quickly.

We immediately started meeting new people, learning the slang and adjusting to new and surprising norms of Ireland, like the edgy but colorful fashion. We were taught that the Irish slang term for “fun” was the word “Craic” [Crack]. When it came to finding the craic in Galway, we had no problems. Like most American students abroad in Ireland, we explored the nightlife first. One place that we visited, called the Roisin Dubh, was known for its weekly silent disco nights. When we weren’t exploring Galway, we would also plan trips to areas in Ireland, like the Aran Islands, as well as areas outside of Ireland, as air travel is cheaper from country to country in Europe.

While exploring this new city, I learned that Galway is a place where you can and will meet a new friend or interesting people each day. Many of our new friends are also international students from countries outside of the U.S. and Ireland. Along with all the friends I have made, when I think about my time abroad, I will also remember a few significant strangers.

Contributed Photo: Pamela Bump visits the castle at Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, Ireland.

Contributed Photo: Pamela Bump visits the castle at Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, Ireland.

The most memorable stranger was one I met in a coffee shop. My roommates and I were greeted by an older Irishman named Jack. After welcoming us to the city, he spoke softly and said, “I’m reading a book called ‘Life.’” He said that the story in it would change from year to year and explained that the only way you could read this book in detail was by “Living it.” He encouraged us to read it as he left with his coffee. At first, this journey was about seeing the world, learning new things and, most importantly, learning about myself. It was never meant to be about conquering my visual impairment, but I believe I have seen more than most people with perfect sight ever will.

I believe that I have taken Jack’s advice, and I will always read the book called, “Life” in detail.

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