Athletic training students study abroad in Ireland


By: Kyle Kirby '18
Creative Services

JMU students in Ireland

In the spring of 2016, ten students in the Athletic Training program were given the chance to learn more about their future careers in an international setting. Although only ten days long, the trip to Ireland was filled with cultural, historic, and scholarly learning opportunities. Participants studied everything from local traditions to concussion management. Trip leader, Dr. Connie Peterson, spoke passionately about their time in Ireland. “It’s a totally different environment, we learn about the health care environment, the sport culture, and the community and club oriented culture. So it’s a multi-pronged approach to learning, as well as an excellent opportunity to explore a different way of doing things.” Athletic training is a profession that has just begun to make its way to Ireland. The U.S. has a reciprocity agreement with the nation, meaning that their athletic training programs are accredited and modeled after those here in the States. Therefore, certifications and degrees earned in Ireland are valid in the U.S. and vice versa. This agreement is what made Ireland the perfect place for AT students to study abroad.

The participants toured Dublin, hiked a small mountain to view ancient ruins at a pagan burial site, and trekked around old castles. The lush land of Ireland provided an excellent backdrop to the educational activities offered to the students. They attended seminars and lectures by acclaimed professionals in the field. Participants were taught about a therapeutic technique called dry needling, which is similar to acupuncture and used to treat muscle pain. In one seminar, students learned about a new technology being implemented in professional sports around the world. It is a highly detailed tracking system that allows for coaches and medical staff to better predict and prevent injuries to their athletes. By keeping up data on practice times, rigor of workouts, and previous injuries, athletes are kept safer, and more productive in the long run.  

When they were out of the classroom, students experienced a variety of traditions, including Gaelic games; such as hurling, football, and dances. Francesca Genoese (’17) said, “Having elite level athletes there to teach us these games was amazing. Even though we were horrible at them, everyone on the trip was so ready to try new things and completely immerse themselves in an unfamiliar sport.” They also observed athletic trainers in action at a professional rugby game. While entertaining, watching these sports also emphasized an important component of the athletic training profession – learning more about how the body moves in a particular sport. Peterson said, “Knowing how to play a sport can be vital in understanding where injuries that happen during its performance stem from.”

Peterson also emphasized the value of travel, and getting out of one’s comfort zone. Being immersed in an unfamiliar landscape and culture can be intimidating; however, it sometimes takes a little discomfort to grow. Katelyn McNamara (’18) shared, “At the beginning I was much more reserved, and honestly extremely nervous. But by the end of trip I was really able to open up to my peers, and know that I had made some lasting connections.” The students agreed that study abroad trips allowed them to learn more about their profession, make strong friendships, and experience an entirely different culture. All, Peterson believes, are extremely valuable opportunities for the students to grow and learn professionally, and personally.

Peterson plans to offer the trip again next year, and encourages all athletic training students to apply. When asked what he would say to students applying for the next trip, Luke Kratzer (’18) stated, “Hands down, this excursion was one of the top ten moments of my life.”  Peterson believes this trip in particular is the perfect blend of structured cultural learning, content learning, and a bit of free time. She ended with these words, “For any student who has the opportunity to study abroad: do it. Because we’re living in a global society, I believe that exploring other cultures and ways of existence, and getting outside your comfort zone a little, is vital to the learning process; both in regards to academia and personal life.”

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Published: Thursday, November 3, 2016

Last Updated: Tuesday, November 17, 2020

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