Gannon University Hosts Exchange Student from Ireland
Posted: May 15, 2014
More than 150 years ago, Thomas Patrick Gannon came from County
Roscommon in Ireland, not far from County Limerick, to settle in
northwestern Pennsylvania and start a family that would include
Archbishop John Mark Gannon.
A scant 50 miles from County Roscommon, the town of Limerick
sent another sort of pioneer to northwestern Pennsylvania. Her name
is Mai Burke Hayes, the first student from Limerick's Mary
Immaculate College to attend Gannon University as part of a recent
cooperative agreement between the two Catholic institutions of
Mary "I," as Hayes calls it, is the oldest institution of higher
education in Limerick, and is recognized as a leader in teacher
education in Ireland. "It's very much the same as Gannon," she
said, "a small, tight-knit community.
Arriving on campus during the coldest month of a winter that
challenged even lifelong Erieites, the junior education major
learned that things are a bit different on this side of the ocean.
"I won't miss the snow," she said in a charmingly tangy brogue. "At
first I thought it was so pretty, but now . . ."
Hayes also had to adjust to the way that teachers are trained in
America. "At Mary 'I,' it's your responsibility to go to lectures,
to do the work. It's independent study, and we do everything
together, the same 64 people in every class we take. Academically
of course, Gannon is very strong, with a lot of homework. I'm at my
desk for hours, whereas at 'Mary I,' we'd get weeks to do
Still, she said, "I see the upside to smaller classes and
getting to know different people, and Gannon is much more
interactive than 'Mary I' that's lecture-based."
Just the same, when the opportunity to spend a semester at
Gannon arose, Hays leapt at the chance with the tenacity of an
athlete who excelled at camogie, the rugged female equivalent of
Irish hurling. The adjustments necessary to become accustomed to a
different culture weren't always easy, but Hayes has been able to
find echoes of home. "I'm on placement at St. Peter Cathedral
School, which is close to my experience," she said. Though she
misses her family, Hayes has friends to ease the transition. "That's
been very easy. Everyone has been so lovely."
And there is shopping, something she will miss when she returns
to Limerick at the semester's end. "The price of clothes and makeup
is next to nothing here," she noted. "I can't help myself,
especially when you hit the sales."
About her experience in Erie, Hayes said, "It is hard to be away
and missing things. I had no idea what to expect, It was a lot of
work, and a lot of adjustment, but the opportunity to travel to
places I've never been, like Florida or New York, is so