“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve begun our final descent into Dublin, Ireland,” the pilot announced after a 7 ½-hour flight across the Atlantic Ocean. As if on cue, the sound of 220 window shades opening filled the cabin, and an excited murmur spread. A vibrant green countryside juxtaposed against a perfectly blue-green ocean was breathtaking and undeniable. This was Ireland. And four ClemsonLIFE students, their parents and ClemsonLIFE staff had traveled nearly 4,000 miles to participate in the program’s first study abroad. 

For the next 10 days, the students showed Ireland and the world what it means when Clemson University says that learning is for everyone. They hiked across famous landmarks, traveled by planes, trains and automobiles, studied with prospective students at the Trinity College’s Centre for People with Intellectual Disabilities summer school program, made new friends, tried new and challenging activities, and started each morning ready to tackle the day.

When asked to share their favorite part of the trip, the students’ answers were unanimous: “Going to class.” In a country with freshly fried fish and chips, melt-in-your-mouth doughnuts and pour-over coffee, castles on what seemed like every corner, cinematic views of the Cliffs of Moher, and larger-than-life boulders at the Giant’s Causeway, the one thing that everyone enjoyed the most was going to class.

Because going to class isn’t just going to class for these students. It’s going to class when they and their families have been told repeatedly that going to class may never be an option. Each family’s story was unique but held a similar message. There had been a lifetime of challenges and obstacles for these students and their families. Each parent was told things like your child will never talk, walk or run. Your child will never be independent. They will never play sports. They will never go to school — and on and on. 

With every obstacle these Tigers have overcome, they have been blazing a path to a better future for themselves, other students and families of students with intellectual disabilities. They are studying at Clemson. They are living independently at Clemson. They are working jobs. They are in sororities, completing internships and playing sports. They have friends and lives of their own. They are living life to the fullest, and they are happy. And they cruised through a study abroad like it was the most natural thing they had ever done.

Recommended Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow Clemson World!