Inspired by her travel-study experience to Ireland, third-year student Trinity Kirk represented St. Thomas University’s Irish Studies Program at the Fourth Annual Celtic Studies Conference in Toronto.

In pursuit of a minor in Irish Studies, Kirk travelled to Ireland with students from her Irish Language class. Through a partnership with the Irish Canada University Foundation (ICUF), St. Thomas offers the course, which includes an opportunity to apply for an exchange to Ireland.

While in Ireland, Kirk met students from all over the world who shared her interest in Celtic culture. The group kept in touch in a Facebook group, which is how she first heard about the Celtic Studies Conference.

“I decided it would be an excellent opportunity for me, and also for St. Thomas, since no one from the east coast had ever attended or presented at the conference,” Kirk said.

After months of preparation, with help from friends she met in Ireland and professors at St. Thomas, Kirk was off to Toronto to present her research on the Gaeltachts of Ireland and the expansion of the Irish language.

“I conducted first-hand research, surveyed individuals who had visited the Gaeltacht An Cheathrú Rua, and incorporated the 20-Year Strategy and 5-Year Progress report from the government of Ireland to show how they are working on growing resources in the language.”

Kirk said the support Professor Lorraine Nolan, and the current ICUF Scholar at St. Thomas, Ian Mac Gabhann, was invaluable.

“To say the least, I was nervous—nervous of getting on a plane, nervous of presenting, and nervous to be out of my element.”

Having people in her corner—before and during the conference—helped her see the conference as an incredible opportunity for learning and personal growth.

“The experience was amazing and life-changing,” she said.

Kirk plans to form an Irish Society at St. Thomas and hopes the university will someday host the Annual Celtic Studies Conference in Fredericton.

“I hope St. Thomas will continue to be represented at this conference by Irish Studies students. It’s an amazing and fulfilling experience.”

In addition to her minor in Irish Studies, Kirk is pursuing majors in Criminology and Psychology and a minor in Forensic Anthropology.