A love of Irish music led English major Amy Baker '15 to pursue an Irish studies minor. She will delve deeper into the culture this summer under a grant that takes her to the Emerald Isle for a month.

Amy Baker

Amy Baker '15 will spend a month this summer in Ireland living with an Irish-speaking family and honing her Gaelic skills under a Gaeltacht Summer Award.

Love of Irish Leads to Gaeltacht Award

Amy Baker ’15 first fell in love with Irish years ago, listening to the music on the radio. That love led to a desire to study the language, the literature, and the history of Ireland and its people.

Amy, an English major minoring in Irish studies, will have the opportunity to do just that firsthand as she spends a month in Ireland this summer as a recipient of a Gaeltacht Summer Award. “Gaeltacht” is a Gaelic word for an Irish-speaking region.

The Gaeltacht Summer Awards are grants provided to U.S. citizens studying the Irish language. It allows them to participate in summer Irish language courses in Ireland. The grants are supported by the Department of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht and the National Lottery and is an award from the Ireland-United States Commission for Educational Exchange.

Joining Amy as an Elms recipient of the award is Gerald Costello, head of the Irish Cultural Center’s language program. They will study at National University of Ireland (NUI), Galway International Summer School from July 11 to Aug. 8.

Amy, 43, is a non-traditional student, having taken a six-year break between attending community college in Wyoming and transferring to Elms at the beginning of this academic year.

“The main reason I came to Elms is because I wanted to do Irish studies,” Amy said. “When I first started, I thought I’d learn Gaelic because its cool. But when I started learning it I actually fell in love with it. It’s beautiful, and I enjoy speaking it. I don’t think I expected to love it quite that much, but I do.”

Amy says she’s really excited about her first trip out of the country.

“I’m looking forward to hearing Irish spoken in Ireland, hearing the cadence and the tones from native speakers is going to be immensely beneficial,” she said. As part of the grant, Amy will stay with a family in Carraroe, a village in the Irish-speaking region of Connemara.

An English major, it’s perhaps no surprise that after discovering Irish music Amy turned next to its literature.

“I love the way they tell their stories in both literature and music.” she said. “And the way their stories can be incredibly funny, incredibly sorrowful, incredibly ridiculous and incredibly profound, all at the same time.”

She is extending her Ireland sojourn by two weeks after the summer school ends so she can visit the home and grave site of noted Irish Poet William Butler Yeats, and also the prehistoric monument Newgrange on Ireland’s east coast which “has a lot of association with fairy tales and ancient tales of Ireland,” she said.

Both Amy and Gerald were nominated for the awards by Elms Irish Fulbright Language Teacher for the 2013-14 academic year, Siobhra Aiken, who was able to nominate them through Elms’ participation in the Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant Program.

Siobhra says she nominated Amy because, although she’s only been taking Irish since September, “she stands out because she’s so passionate. She’s also quite competent in picking it up.”

Amy says she hopes to be able to return to Ireland after graduation, and plans to apply for the master’s program at NUI Galway.