by Aliciah D.

My first trip out the country can be considered one of the most noteworthy chapters of my life. The country the I got to explore was none other than Ireland, a place known for particular beverages and plants with four petals.  I have traveled out of the country of my origin to experience cultural differences. Every day in Ireland showed me something new, and everyday that influenced me positively. During my travels I kept a journal to document certain events that stood out each day I was in Ireland. There was so much to write about because each day we were taken somewhere that never ceased to be interesting.

I remember the flight over to Ireland which began the long list of new experiences that I would embark on. I have of course traveled long distances…by car but my feet never left the ground. It was unavoidable that I had to take a plane considering it was the most efficient means of travel over seas. I was just extremely anxious about the thought of flying but put my fears to rest so I can get to do something I never done before. Take off was the hardest part but when we reached cruising altitude I took a look out the window and I was stunned. “The clouds seemed to be marshmallow mountains that floated on a sea of blue Koolaid.” At least that’s how I described it in my journal. In my own way I was trying to convey how majestic and whimsical the sight seemed to be. After looking through the window for quite some time I finally felt at ease about flying. I mean who would complain with a view like that?

When the plane landed in Dublin, Ireland the reality that I was in a foreign country finally hit. As soon as we left the left the airport I immediately experienced sensory overload. Everything seemed so different yet so similar! For example, when we got in the cab there was a driver, but his seat was on the wrong side. I wrote in my journal about a particular incident that really reminded me I was in a foreign country. The passage went like this “On the radio a lady was talking about the weather and said, ‘You can expect temps ranging from 10°and 15°.’ I of course had to remind myself that I’m not America and the lady wasn’t predicting freezing temperatures.

After spending all time in  Ireland I was surprised by the mix of modern and natural scenery. In places like Dublin there is an abundance of shopping malls and clothing outlets. In other regions of Ireland you’ll see countless rolling hills with bright green grass where numerous  sheep roamed. The urbanness and events made Ireland seem alive and vibrant. I remember writing about how the community had come together one day to sport people who ran in a marathon. It was interesting and showed me the friendly nature of Irish people.

Another factor that I saw a lot of was the use of music in Ireland seems to be a huge influence on the community. I remember seeing countless street musicians singing all sorts of genres ranging from traditional Irish jigs to modern pop. The music scene in Ireland is also the reason I came, too, and I am so glad I found it interesting. My work with the Walled City music festival exposed me a variety of music styles.

Ireland is so historic and it is so obvious that its citizens care deeply about their history. “I love how every place no matter how big or small has some sort of history behind it” is also something I wrote in my journal after touring ancients sights in Ireland. The people of Ireland made it their mission not to forget the past no matter how negative. They also embrace the progress the made to overcome those negatives.

What made the trip even more enjoyable was the company I was surrounded by. The other teens that I got to travel with made the time fly by. They were all funny and intelligent with their own talents and passions. Everywhere we went as a group we always seemed to have fun even when we were working. I shared a room with one of the female teens, named Khamyl, she was super funny and even though we didn’t know each other that well at first I feel we can comfortably say that we are friends now. The two males that were a part of the teen group, Jalen and Kameran, also were super fun to hang around. There were multiple situations where everyone was just having a great time. Our supervisors Sabrina and Amber were also great positive energies that helped guide us to do our best during our job.

Ireland made me ask multiple questions like why is lemonade 7up? How can the Irish be so friendly? Why does it rain so much? Although I probably won’t get answers to these questions, but I feel good after asking them. It was a bittersweet when my time in Ireland came to an end. Although I was slightly homesick I knew that I would miss the constant stimulation that Ireland provided. Traveling to Ireland is something that I will always remember and refer back to when I need to think about happy memories.

by Jalen E.

Ireland almost feels like it was a dream, like it never really happened. It’s hard for a person like me, a teenage African American gay male to find opportunities like this. Where I can be who I am with no fear, and no criticism. The trip itself was a paradise. Everyday learning about someone else’s culture and doing it with friends who are inexperienced in what’s happening as well is an awesome opportunity to have. Words cannot explain how grateful I am to the people who helped me to be able to experience what I experienced. 

I think my favorite part of the whole trip was really getting to be with the other interns and Amber and Sabrina. I really grew to love and appreciate every one of them and it was really interesting to be able to learn about other people’s lives and history. My favorite activity was the day we went to the Irish museum. At first I didn’t like it because of the bugs and the fact that it’s 95% outside, but I got over that and grew to appreciate it. It was as if I got a very good glimpse into the life of a Irishman in the past and to see the torment and the attacks they had to endure. It made me think that maybe I’m not the only one who comes from a terrible background. It got me thinking mainly about others and not myself. It made me humble and I began to appreciate the life I live more because that could’ve been me.

Ireland was honestly beautiful, the tall mountains and the wind that blows against your face, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever felt. It’s honestly the sensation of the York peppermint patty in better words. Although besides that I really felt closer to nature, like every time I touched the rocks on the wall and I listened to the stories of those that fought for their rights it made me feel something indescribable. I understood how they felt and in that moment I bonded with that. More kids should be able to experience this type of life changing experience because it is truly magnificent and amazing. 

My favorite food I ate was probably either the spaghetti at Denannos or the burger at the restaurant we ate at. I forgot the name of it but I met my future husband there he was a waiter. All jokes aside that spaghetti was amazing and they also have amazing chicken strips. Me and Khamyl are so used to Irish cuisine we started drinking coke with lemon which is a thing they do in Ireland. It’s actually pretty good so I wouldn’t knock it until I tried it. Ireland’s welcoming of the LGBT is probably my favorite thing about Ireland. The island is really full of loving people. It’s most likely due to how many troubles they’ve been through due to violence but everyone was so welcoming to me. They didn’t see a gay male, they saw a black male before they even saw that. It really didn’t feel like I was a alien anymore and I didn’t feel abnormal although I should have. There weren’t many black people there but the ones we did see were pretty cool. 

I also loved the living spaces. I’m the type of person who likes simpler things and smaller spaces don’t bother me. It was really cool to actually see that things aren’t that different across the world. I hated the flights, though. I never really liked flying in the first place so this wasn’t new but I had never been on a plane that long before. It didn’t really bother me all that much though, the airport process was a pain sometimes but that always usually happens. Sabrina and Amber were the best chaperones ever and our driver Martin was an amazing guy and I’ll never forget him. I also really enjoyed Sabrina’s student lolly, she would come and hang with us a lot and it was almost as if she was one of us going on the trip and it was really nice. I gained a lot of relationships with a lot of people and networked with a lot of Irish youth so I’m very grateful for the experience, if I had to suggest it to anyone I would definitely recommend it to them. It’s an experience I’ll never forget, from the beaches, to the hotels, to the museums, everything was amazing and I can’t complain about anything.

by Khamyl B.

Being in MMI Works has given me many opportunities. MMI Works has given me the opportunity to help with the Walled City Festival in Ireland. Being in Ireland I was able to reflect on my experience. Starting with first day of this trip I went to the Memphis Airport. It was my first time ever being in an airport. I was nervous and also very excited. We all said good-bye to our families. We were then all off to start our adventure. I found out we were flying United Airlines. I learned how to check my bags by having them weighted. I was checked by the TSA. Once were done being checked by the TSA, we waited for our flight to be called. Again, I was so nervous because this would be my first time on a plane. While waiting for our flight to be called we tried to come up with a group name. We decided with Fantastic Five or the Setting Six.  After that we were called to board the flight. We got on the plane. I put my bags in the overhead. I had the aisle seat. The plane began to rumble. After the plane began to rumble it moved quickly. I was in the air. It reminded me of the beginning of an amusement ride. The sky was gorgeous. After the flight was over we went through immigration check. We did this cycle about two more times until we finally got to Ireland. We then took a two-hour taxi drive to Derry.  I got see some greenery and sheep. What I saw is what I envisioned of Ireland.  We finally got to the hotel where we rested to start our days of touring Northern Ireland.

In Ireland, we got to see the Wall of Walled City. We walked along the wall where got to see where Bloody Sunday had taken place. We also took a bus tour where we saw the major areas of Derry. We saw monuments, buildings, and murals.  One of the most important learning experiences that I learned from the tours would be the murals and civil rights. The murals in Derry represented the different stages of their civil rights movement.  Their fight for rights was not about race it was about religion. It was the Catholics verses the Protestant. As a society, I feel we forget that civil rights do not just encompass blacks versus whites, it encompasses all people.  Civil Rights encompass race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. Being able to hear a different side of history about civil rights that mostly involves religion was interesting to hear. I also learned that Dr. Martin Luther King’s speeches and marches affected Derry. In the history books, they tell you that his words affected others, but you do not get a detailed explanation. When I looked at the murals and saw people marching in their best outfits like how they marched in Selma it opened my eyes. It helped me think about my future and how everything we do is a domino effect. We may think that what we do will not affect others, but it does. That can be an amazing and scary thing to think about.

We then began to help out with the Walled City Festival. It was great to see people appreciate music. My job was concert management. It was the same as stage management. I moved the equipment around. I even got to shadow the lighting and sound engineer. Ulster University stuck out to me because how they are able to incorporate students with disabilities to be able to play music. The smile on their faces when they participated in the show told us how they felt about the program. I really hope Memphis begins to have the program they have. Since we are the city of music it would be great to help the students produce, play, orchestrate, and read music. After helping with Ulster University, we help at Glassworks with setting up. The last performance was at the Foyleside Theater with the Ulster Orchestra. It was beautiful. Sabrina and her husband were great performing with the orchestra. Being able to see the end result of all the work we did during festival was worth it. It makes me see how hard work can make anything succeed.

After working at the festival, we went to Dublin where we mostly did sight-seeing. We went to the Giants Causeway which had the most gorgeous greenery. It was my favorite place out of everything we did. I enjoyed the nature. We got to go to the Titanic Museum where we got to see the history come to life. The Titanic Museum really helps you to be able to see what they went through. We also took a bus to Wicklow which was a great too because it was a chance for us to see more nature.

In the end, this trip was life-changing to me because I would have never been able to do something like this without MMI Works. This trip will be able to help me in the future because it taught me about different cultures. It helps me appreciate other’s history. This also teaches me how to handle an externship or traveling abroad. This trip is honestly a dream come true and I hope others will have this opportunity also.

by Kamren W.

My externship experience in Derry, Ireland was more educational than anything else, which is what I think the main goal of the project was. I say this because the trip had a lot of the aspects I expected but even more aspects that I didn’t expect. For example, I expected the food to taste fresher because the lack of hormones. I also expected the scenery to be beautiful. I didn’t expect things to be so similar as far as the people enjoying a lot of the same thing things that Americans do. They like to play video games and music. They like hamburgers and pizza just as much as we do, even if it is totally different than ours. I wasn’t expecting the food to taste so much differently though. In my opinion our food tastes better, even though the added sugars and hormones make it a lot less healthy.

Derry is a small city in the mountains of Ireland so there isn’t much to do other than work, shop, and play music. And the city is surprisingly heavily focused on music, with students from several countries of the world studying at their school of music. I think Derry’s lack of activities is what drives it to be so deeply rooted in music. The music festival wasn’t what I expected it to be either. I expected it to be like an iHeart Radio Music festival because those are the types of festivals that I see on tv. But when we got to the first rehearsal, I realized that this wasn’t the type of festival that gets much publicity. Sabrina and Measha’s music selection made me realize that it was classical music. I personally liked it because I appreciate the ability to play and sing complicated pieces of music with technique but I think everyone else was a little out of their comfort zones but I could be wrong. We didn’t work as much as I thought we would during the festival, except for Jalen when he had to “help” Maesha. But he only had to do that for one or two days because the Ulster University music students had to manage some of the concerts for grades. Most of them performed for their final grades.

Before the festival we attended a few STEM symposiums that focused on enabling disabled musicians’ creativity and their ability to display and output that creativity. The main guy had a disability that restricted the use of his arms and hands because they weren’t fully developed. So, they made him a special guitar that was connected to a piano so he could play the chords. I’m not really sure of how it works so I can’t explain it that well but it was really interesting to watch. There was also a performance by an ensemble of disabled, and not disabled, musicians. Most of them had physical disabilities but a few of them had “intellectual disabilities” so they played computerized sounds through programs. Derry wasn’t as diverse as I expected it to be, but everyone was very accepting. It became refreshing to see other black people and Asian people. Whenever we saw them, there was an unspoken connection.

There was way more diversity in Dublin, though. The tours we participated in gave a lot of information that I didn’t expect. Most of them talked about the history of the city’s civil rights movement. Their civil rights movement started towards the end of the southern civil rights movement. This was mainly because it was inspired by the southern civil rights group, but mostly Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. There are murals on the side of buildings featuring him and the people of Derry are eagerly willing to tell everyone how much  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela inspired them to take a stand for their rights and what they believed in. Other tours focused on the scenery and how far the city has come in development. Most of the trip was sightseeing but I think there was still a lot of things and places that we didn’t get to see. All of the places that we did go were totally different but so much alike at the same time. They all had the same scenery: sheep and a lot of land. Even when went to Dublin that’s what we saw: sheep and mountains. Apparently there are 8 million sheep and 6 million people. That explains why you see them at every tour site.

But before we went to Dublin, we went to the Titanic museum, Giant’s causeway, and an arcade that was kind of like Main Event. Sabrina promised to take us go-carting and zip lining when she came back to Memphis from Spain and I’m going to hold her to it. I think the only thing that we did more than learn was bond. Jalen, Aliciah, Khamyl, and I connected over dinner, lunch, work, and sometimes at the end of the days in our rooms. I’m extremely thankful to Brittany and Sabrina and Amber and the entire MMI organization for giving us this opportunity and helping us broaden our horizons. I’m glad Sabrina and Brittany picked who they did because now I think I have three intelligent young people who will do great things as potential connection, but definitely as friends. I’m glad that I had the chance to experience this because we had fun while we learned in a city full of information. Overall this was an amazing experience that I hope more students get to be a part of.