To Realize You Don’t Know As Much As You Think You Did

Studying with Champlain Abroad in Ireland has provided me with a million different opportunities, but I think the one I will always be the most thankful for was the opportunity to see myself as a part of something bigger. It’s intimidating, at first, I have to admit. To see how small you really are in the grand scheme of things. To see your life and your experiences as a just blip on the world’s radar. To realize you don’t know as much as you think you did… But then you realize that’s okay. Because everyone on the face of this earth, the whole global community, is just that: A bunch of blips.

Strike for Repeal gathering on O’Connell Street in Dublin

A bunch of blips with individual thoughts and ideas and experiences who are capable of coming together and making something out of nothing. It’s mind-blowing, really, when you start to think about it. So looking back now I can’t say I’m surprised that my first experiences with activism were abroad. I’ve always been a champion of causes, that’s for sure, but it took Ireland to teach me that democracy was not a spectator sport. That you had to really fight for what you knew was right, and that fighting involves putting feet on the ground.

In Ireland, there’s a movement called Repeal the 8th. I had heard a little bit about it before my travels, but I never imagined how prevalent it would be when I actually arrived in Dublin. The 8th is a reference to the 8th Amendment of Ireland’s constitution, under which abortion in the state of Ireland is punishable by law and forbidden under any and all circumstances. It’s a law which has led to the wrongful death of many women, and each day more and more Irish women must leave their country for what some countries would consider routine medical care.

Strike for Repeal Participants from Champlain Abroad Dublin

Abortion has always been a touchy issue in the States, but at least we can say we have access. To see these women essential fighting for their lives with their government was heartbreaking, and it was in that moment I realized we were all blips. Blips brought together by an understanding of what it means to be a woman. I saw that we were our own global community, and in that spirit of kinship I wasn’t going to deny them. I wanted to stand with them in solidarity to get the legislation they deserved. So after months of marches and protests, I joined in the strike.

Along with 18 other fantastic Champlain Dublin peers, we joined crowds of Irish men and women striking for the right to choose. We stopped traffic on the O’Connell St. Bridge and brought Dublin to a halt in demand of a referendum. To move as a collective body, and to be a part of that throng, is perhaps one of the single greatest feelings I have ever experienced. We made national news, and few of us even got to feature in a Buzzfeed listicle.

Strike for Repeal participants in Dublin

A day later and I’m still glowing with pride. Pride for my Irish sisters and our shared femininity. Their referendum, when (not if) they get it, will never be mine to vote in. But I know it was never mine to begin with. All of this is so much bigger than me, bigger than us, and I’m so thankful I had a chance to participate. 

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