Reflections at Kylemore

Christina Wells ’19 recaps a European Retreat Weekend at the Kylemore Abbey Global Centre.

Reflections Kylemore Photo 2Photographer: Owen Smith, Dublin Global Gateway

"Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created." – Revelation 4:11

February 16th. It was exactly one month since I stepped off the plane to embark on a new and exciting educational journey in Ireland. While it took some time initially to acquaint myself to the city, I have finally learned my way around. When I learned of an opportunity to experience the Western part of Ireland, I was excited to explore a part of the country that I was unfamiliar with. Additionally, when I found out that this experience would be a retreat, I yearned to take a step back and reflect on the first month that I have spent abroad.

At the beginning of the retreat, we introduced ourselves and included a question that is not usually in our repertoire, “Where are you studying?” The wide range of responses were astonishing: London (UK), Oxford (UK), Norwich (UK), St. Andrews (UK), Toledo (Spain), Athens (Greece), Rome (Italy) and Dublin (Ireland). It was amazing that each program and country was so different. In Dublin, we live in dorms at University College and Trinity. It was especially interesting to hear about students that live with host families and are immersed in a new language as well as a new culture. While we all come from different programs, it was eminently clear that we all remain a part of the Notre Dame family. This was quite obvious during the first night’s activity, as we heard one of our peers speak about the theme of empathy, illustrated through her personal experience. With this moving speech to break the ice, the tone was set for the weekend.

That night, we had free time and decided to walk outside to gaze at the stars. Within the stillness and beauty of the night sky, God’s presence was evident. I reflected on the majesty of God’s creation. Throughout the weekend, this became a common occurrence, especially when we had the opportunity to hike Diamond Hill. I was struggling climbing up the mountain and did not know if I would make it to the top. However, whenever I felt that I would need to stop, I felt a sudden motivation to keep going. Upon reaching the top, I saw one of the most beautiful landscapes that I had ever seen in my life. After soaking in the immeasurable beauty and taking countless pictures at the top, we had to head down. I heard echoes of, “God is so amazing”.

Kylemore Reflections Photo 1Photographer: Owen Smith, Dublin Global Gateway

After this awestriking hike, we had the opportunity to look at pictures of “family” and reflect on what family means to each of us in the gorgeous walled gardens of Kylemore. This was one of my favorite parts of the retreat as I took the time to reflect on my new family in Ireland and the experiences that I have had so far. I was able to take time to focus on what He has done for me and how blessed that I am to be in such a beautiful country, with Europe at my fingertips. I have met so many people already that I know will be my friends for a long time. Having the time to reflect and think about my time abroad was invaluable. In addition, I thought about my family and friends at home and realized that I could do a better job of keeping in touch. After the reflection in the gardens, we walked back in pairs, with individuals that we had not yet talked to on the trip. It was fun to have a deep conversation with someone that was studying in a different country than me, that I never would have met if I had not gone on the retreat.

The activity for the evening was shared prayer. I had never participated in this reflection before but will definitely do so in the future. One by one, each person reflected on what was most moving to them during the weekend and where they had witnessed God. It was such a moving experience to see what had touched each person. This was the culmination for me of the entire retreat – meeting people that are studying in different countries with diverse perspectives and joining together as members of the Notre Dame family. This retreat at Kylemore was a fantastic opportunity to reconnect with my faith, to experience God’s majesty through nature, to reflect on my first month of study abroad and to grow closer to individuals who I never would have gotten the opportunity to meet if I had not gone on this retreat. I am so thankful to have had this opportunity.