Do you remember when people used to ‘visit’? As in people besides the ones whom you have seen every day for the last 14 months and, frankly, of whom you are getting a bit tired? Neighbours, relatives, friends… and international students like Conal Richrads? Well, things are finally opening up again and hopefully that means a return of more people like Conal to our shores and our school. Conal was a breath of fresh air in 2017, bringing energy, good humour and that distinctly American combination of gregariousness and impeccably pressed ‘slacks’ to every class and school gathering he graced with his presence. Here, Conal recalls his year at St. Conleth’s and its lasting positive effects:
My name is Conal Richards, and I come from a small town called Scranton, Pennsylvania in the northeast United States. In 2017, my mother’s Fulbright research grant afforded my family the opportunity to live in Dublin for a year, where I attended St. Conleth’s as a third year.
It’s often said that Ireland is the place of a thousand welcomes, and I was greeted with generous friendship and hospitality from my first day at school there. I came from a large American public school system, and my new friends and teachers helped me every step of the way in navigating a new academic environment. Conleth’s was a tiny school with a close-knit community, and I fell right into the new routine. I still remember my first geography class with Mr. Lonergan where we explored maps and images of my hometown of Scranton with the class. I’ll never forget laughing when he told me, “Good man! He knows his geography.” From there, I fell in love with the school and understood why my classmates and friends had such a strong Conleth’s spirit. Many of my best memories come from the everyday things: going for a 99 ice cream with my friends on a warm day, sharing our joy for music at school assemblies and concerts in the hall, and collaborating on community service projects across Dublin city.
Today, I remain in contact with the close friends I made at Conleth’s. Hanging on my bedroom wall is a full-sized Irish flag signed by all of my classmates, a touching gift to remember my time in Ireland by. Since I returned to my hometown in the United States, the academic and social experiences I had from Conleth’s have prepared me for any challenge, including facing the COVID-19 crisis. Like many schools across the world, my own high school (Abington Heights) shut down in mid-March of 2020 and switched to online instruction shortly thereafter. As my family adapted to a new lifestyle and I learned how to work in a new environment, I found myself comfortable in navigating changes. Moving to Ireland from the United States taught me the values of patience, perseverance, and gratitude in all aspects of my life.
I’ll forever remember my time at St. Conleth’s as a time where I learned to develop myself and explore the world. I’m grateful for the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people and experience another culture. To my friends and teachers in Dublin, I thank you all for such a great year.
-Conal Richards, The United States of America