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Active Ireland:

Westfield State students travel to Ireland, learn importance of community health

Twelve Westfield State University students, supervised by Holly Noun, chair of the movement science department, traveled to Galway, Killarney, and Dublin, Ireland as part of the course Irish Sports Science and Culture.

The course explored the various aspects of sports and physical activity in Ireland including health promotion, epidemiology (incidence, distribution, and possible control of diseases in communities), and exercise physiology. Students met for one hour per week on campus during the spring semester and completed two weeks of additional work in Ireland in June. According to Noun, the course focused on Irish sport science because she felt her students could benefit from the country’s attitude towards recreation.

“The Irish government is supporting sports at all levels as a pathway to health and wellness for its citizens,” Noun said. “This is an important model for the students to experience, as we face many of the same health issues in the United States.”

Students attended lectures at Ireland’s National University in Galway and at Dublin City University on a variety of topics including the Irish medical model, rehabilitation, and biomechanics. In addition to the lectures, students explored the cultural context of Ireland by visiting historically relevant sites including the Cliffs of Moher, the Dingle Coast, and the Gaelic Sports Museum. Keeping in theme with course, many of the excursions required a little sweat. Students also participated in the Gaelic Games Experience, an afternoon dedicated to learning traditional Gaelic games including handball, hurling, and Gaelic football.

For Noun, the highlight of the course was reading her students’ reflective projects and discovering just how much they learned. “Seeing the degree to which the students truly understand the integration of culture and sport in Ireland, and how they learned and experienced it, and the impact of experiencing another culture with their classmates has been extraordinary for me,” Noun said.

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