Day 12: Getting Real in Galway

Our journey to Galway wasn’t as smooth as.  would have liked; in fact, it was incomparably inconvenient. To elaborate, it was a complete ordeal that consisted of at least an hour of waiting and then a two hour drive before we would finally reach our desired destination. You would’ve had to have been either absolutely daft or completely oblivious to fail to recognize the tangible duress that was tip was having on me as it toeing its way through the bus. To put it lightly, my morale was low. The thick rain clouds and overcast sky were strangely accurate manifestations of my fairly negative mood that was palpable in the air.
I was ill-slept, irritable, hungry, and once I arrived in Galway, I had a very limited period of time to select one of the many cafes available, scarf down some fish and fries, and hustle back to the Oscar Wilde statue for the walking tour. Some of us made it, some of us, me included, dragged our feet and missed a brief, but detailed, overview of the city.

My exhaustion was evident on my visit with Shoutout (an LGBT advocacy group that educates the youth on the LGBT community and the social issues plaguing them). Typically, I would’ve been over the moon about this type of visit; as it directly correlates to health and equality throughout the UK and Ireland. This organization, run by college students, centralizes on education, support, and acceptance for high school students dealing with discrimination and social issues because of their sexuality. It also works to educate non-LGBT teens about how to be effective allies to their LGBT peers and fosters a general atmosphere of acceptance for all; regardless of sexual orientation. This is achieved through 60 minute workshops that Shoutout conducts in various schools throughout Ireland.

Given all of that, it’s fairly obvious why a visit to Shoutout was one of the most perfectly crafted plans in our study abroad trip-which focuses on LGBT advocacy and acceptance. To reiterate, normally, I would’ve been very excited. I could see the excitement and engagement in others. They seemed to love the get together.

When I arrived at our meeting, I grabbed some red, white, and blue cupcakes (or buns, as the Irish would say) poured ourselves cups of tea or coffee, and sat in chairs that were arranged in a large circle in the center of the room. Maria, one of the leaders of Shoutout, sat down in one of the empty chairs in our circle of students. Immediately, she piqued our interest. I could see people shifting in their chairs to face her, lifting their gaze from the gym floor below us, and losing themselves in her conversation with us. She told us her story, we told her ours. Some people cried, some people bared their scars, some people released demons they had shackled deep inside themselves.

It was the waving of a white flag after a very hard fought battle. One by one, I could see that our heartstrings had been plucked by this woman and by the sense of sanctuary that descended upon the room.

It was like diving into an icy pool of water on a hot, summer’s day; we just woke up and came alive. She reminded us why we were here. She shook us loose from the complacency we were starting to feel. She brought us back to reality and gifted us with the realization that we were here, in Ireland, in a space with so much love, and reiterated that we came here to use our voices.

This is not a vacation. This is an opportunity. A chance that most people never get. We were determined enough to have gotten this far; it was time to take that passion that so filled ourselves and transform it into something beautiful. It was time to do something with it.

Shoutout wasn’t just another visit on a trip cluttered with them; it was something entirely different. It was a battle cry and we were the soldiers. It was a beginning. We left that day with renewed energy, invigorated senses, a readiness to act, and a new perspective; on the LGBT community, on this trip, and most importantly, on each other.

Written by Hannah Austin

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