Studying abroad and learning to speak Gaelic gave Kevin Corcoran ’19 a new outlook on his Irish heritage and cultural community.
Building Community Through the Irish Language
Studying abroad during college gives you a chance to see the world up close. For Kevin Corcoran ’19, learning to speak Gaelic in the Irish village of Carraroe (An Cheathrú Rua, as he would say) changed the course of his experience at Elms.
“I like how Irish gives me that whole transient perspective of how it is to be someone who doesn’t speak the local language,” he said. “When you think about immigrants coming here, you get that feeling where you know how hard it is.”
Learning the basics of Gaelic proved to be challenging, even though Kevin had the opportunity to practice with a visiting Fulbright scholar.
“We spent 100 days — a whole semester — on the present tense, learning ‘to go’ verbs,” he said. “You learn what you would use in your average day. The teacher makes it practical for you.”
Language, Family, Community
Two study abroad trips to Carraroe helped Kevin achieve intermediate fluency in Gaelic, as well as complete his Irish minor. For several weeks he took eight hours of intensive immersion classes every day, building his vocabulary and knowledge of the language.
Even more importantly, though, he reconnected with his Irish roots.
“My grandfather was an Irish speaker,” he said. “I saw that and thought, ‘It’s part of my heritage.’ Then it just snowballed for me.”
Kevin’s passion for Gaelic also led him to volunteer with the Irish Cultural Center in Springfield, MA. With Catholicism and Irish culture being tightly intertwined, the center periodically sponsors a mass delivered entirely in Gaelic.
For Kevin, this was an excellent chance take his newfound language skills and put them to the test.
“I kind of joke that I gave the last Mass at Elms, in the old chapel on campus,” he said with a laugh. “It was a great experience for me — I gave a sermon in front of a bunch of people in a language that I barely knew at the time.”
History and Cultural Encounters
As the president of International Club for the 2018-2019 academic year, Kevin hopes to help students bridge language barriers and learn about the many benefits of cosmopolitanism.
“I try to portray the club as a place where people who have American culture can learn about other cultures while meeting people from around the world,” he said. “It’s also for people from other countries to come here, learn about the cultures here, and make some friends.”
As a history and secondary education double major, Kevin has found that cultural encounters represent the bedrock of his academic interests.
“I just did a seminar paper last semester on the Faroe Islands,” he said. “I kind of like finding these obscure little histories.”
“You learn so much more about people, language, and culture by studying history,” he added.
As he gears up for graduation in spring 2019, Kevin has his sights set on giving back to another community that is close to his heart.
“I’m from the inner city, and I’ve noticed that a lot of people tend to leave it once they get out,” he said. “I want to go back and make it a better place for future generations.”
The International Programs office at Elms College gives students the opportunity to enrich their education from a global perspective. Students can study abroad, participate in cultural immersion trips, and get involved with International Club on campus. Contact us or schedule a campus visit to learn more.