PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — When Lucus Ireland began college at Northern Maine Community College, he never thought he would be in a classroom away from the Presque Isle campus.
Then, during his junior year, Ireland went to Ireland.
The 20-year-old Mapleton resident packed his bags at the start of the year to spend four months studying in Cork, Ireland. His journey began after he was selected as a 2009 recipient of the George Mitchell Peace Scholarship.
The scholarship fund was created in 1998 to honor former U.S. Sen. and Maine native George Mitchell for his work and dedication in helping to establish peace between Northern and Southern Ireland.
Ireland gave a detailed presentation about his journey to fellow NMCC students last week.
Now a senior with a double major in residential construction and computer-aided drafting, Ireland was one of two Maine Community College System students selected to receive the scholarship. He lived in Cork, Ireland, from February through May, studying at the Cork Institute of Technology.
“It was incredible,” he said during an interview late last week. “The learning styles over there are very different from what I have experienced at NMCC, but I learned so much and met so many great people. It was the experience of a lifetime.
“It was very enlightening to go and see how other people live and to appreciate the world view of others,” he continued. “I gained a lot of appreciation for my heritage and learned a lot about myself and others.”
Ireland took five courses and completed a full semester at the Cork Institute of Technology. The courses included construction management, measurements and estimates, construction law, cost planning and control, and construction technology.
“At NMCC, learning is definitely more hands-on,” he said. “We are always in the lab doing projects and working with materials and equipment. The instructors also give out homework. Over at the Cork Institute of Technology, you go to class and take notes and that is pretty much it.”
While in Ireland, he lived in an apartment block in Cork with many students from other foreign countries, including Finland, France, Spain, Germany, Czech Republic, Croatia, and South Africa.
Ireland said that everyone in the program spoke English, and he often shared stories and photos of Mapleton and life as an NMCC student.
He also did a lot of listening.
“I was very interested to hear about life in the countries of the other students,” said Ireland. “I was exposed to so much during a relatively short time.”
Ireland immersed himself in the Irish culture, visiting shops, restaurants and local landmarks. He also took short trips to England and Spain during his time overseas.
It took awhile for him to adjust to life away from home, he admitted.
“I have never lived away from home before,” he said. “So that was a difficult transition at first. I missed my family and friends. Shopping for food also was a challenge. Food spoils faster over there because they do not use as many preservatives as we do over here. It took me about a month to learn how to shop so that I did not have to throw out most of what I bought.”
Aside from allowing him to meet new people and see new things, Ireland also said the experience “reactivated” his “thirst for learning.”
“It was nice to have a break from the normal routine,” he said. “It opened my eyes about how people learn and how things can be taught differently. I apply things I learned in the classroom in Ireland here at NMCC, and I used information from NMCC in Ireland.”
Ireland said that he was able to share with fellow students abroad information about much of the lab work done at NMCC, such as how NMCC students spend time practicing safe use of power and hand tools, and how residential construction students learn by building a full-size modular house in the lab.
Ireland said that the detailed lecture information he obtained abroad has helped him be more thorough, because he learned how to create budgets and estimate total costs of projects while also learning about new technology.
Ireland will graduate in May and plans to stay in The County.