The luck of the Irish

In the land of the Scots, one little Irish dame has found a home for the last year.

She is the kind of girl whom you hear before you see, but she is always up for a good time, no matter what the occasion may be.

Rachel Carey’s year exchange in Maryville is drawing to a close, but she will likely leave behind her mark well after she is gone.

The aspiring lawyer was on a one-year exchange program from Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Through StudyUSA, a program designed to bridge communication and relations between American and Irish students, Carey was able to get to know the South a little better.

The StudyUSA exchange program was a huge success for Carey, and she hopes it will be just as rewarding an experience for the American student who ends up in Northern Ireland next year as the roles are reversed.

“I really think the South has a certain magic about it,” Carey said. “You come to the South, and it’s like a different world. People really want to get to know you here genuinely. I was in California last summer, so I’ve been to America before, but there is nowhere in the country quite like the South. I don’t know who is coming across to Belfast yet, but they will have a brilliant time.”

Carey, 22, comes from a family of six, with three siblings. She has a 25-year-old sister, who lives in Australia, and two brothers, 17 and 22, back in Northern Ireland.

However, despite missing her family back home, she was never homesick, which was in no small part due to her adoptive U.S. family.

“Momma and Pappa K sorted me out,” Carey said. “Justin [Kirkland] and the Kirkland family were like my adoptive family. They were my rock throughout the year, and [I] really do appreciate everything they’ve done for me. Aw, and Casey [Kirkland] too. I’ll really miss them.”

Carey also explained—albeit with a chuckle—she was looking forward to reacquainting herself with the things she misses most (in the following order): her dog, Gaelic football, home cooking and her boyfriend of five years.

Number two on her list of wants, Gaelic football, is something that most Americans won’t be familiar with.

When asked to explain Gaelic, Carey responded without so much as a flicker of hesitation, “It’s the greatest sport ever created.”

“It’s a combination of all the American sports,” Carey said. “It is the roughness of American Football, the fast pace of soccer and the intensity of basketball all rolled into one. There isn’t any professional Gaelic football at home because they don’t want to spoil it. The clubs won’t pay the players because they don’t want them to lose their love of the game. That in itself is really special. We would go see my old math teacher play on a Saturday in front of 80,000 fans. Then he would come into class on the Monday with a black eye. It’s brilliant.”

The most interesting piece of Carey’s puzzle seems to offer living, breathing proof that “the luck of the Irish” is not just a myth. She’s survived not one, or two, but three car crashes.

“I had my first one when I was only 7 years old,” Carey said.  “The second came in 2009; then the third one was here in Maryville. I was with Sarah Jenkins in her BMW, and somebody in a truck hit us and she wrote it off. I got pretty beat up by the first two, but I’m still going strong. The one here I didn’t even get a scratch from.”

Finally, Carey noted what she would take away from her Southern experience.

“I have learned how to shoot a gun, I’ve tried moonshine, I wear “cammo” on a regular basis and I’ve played softball,” Carey said. “My favorite place to eat here is Olive Garden, and my favorite color is purple. It’s been amazing, unusual and unforgettable.”

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