For many Americans, the word Ireland conjures up images of an emerald isle with grassy hillsides, four-leaf clovers, leprechauns and all things green.
“On average, they get about 285 days of rain per year, so that green color is well earned!” said Chelsey Hipkens ’13, who had the opportunity to spend some time in Ireland’s countryside during a study abroad trip and then pursuing a graduate degree in archaeological excavation from the University College Cork.
“Ireland was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I enjoyed immensely,” Chelsey said.
During her time in Ireland, the history major excavated several sites, including her favorite, a 19th-century house in a remote section of Ireland in Keem Bay on Achill Island. Through a very slow and deliberate process, she and her classmates unearthed centimeter-by-centimeter the living area of the former home of English Capt. Charles Boycott, after whom the term boycott was named.
They found all sorts of tools, broken pieces of pottery and, perhaps, the most interesting discovery, some children’s toys.
“According to historical records, he was not a parent, so this means that it is likely other people stayed with him at the house,” she said.
Much like her down time at Oswego which she spent along Lake Ontario, she spent her free time along the shores of Keem Bay.
In addition to the green landscape, she said she admires Ireland for its green living.
“They are great at recycling and reusing, and they just tend to have a lot less waste than we do,” Chelsey said. “When we excavated sites there, we were always careful to minimize our footprint on the earth.”
Today, she said she tries to incorporate a similar philosophy in her day-to-day living as a legal extern/acting assistant district attorney in the Cayuga County District Attorney’s office in Auburn, N.Y.
“For me, it’s the little things like walking to work or taking public transportation, recycling or reusing an empty container,” said Chelsey, who will graduate with a J.D. from Southern Illinois School of Law this year and hopes to return to Auburn to work full time as an assistant district attorney after passing the New York State Bar Exam.
Looking to her future, she said she found a way to tie her passion for archaeology and law together.
“There’s a field called cultural heritage law that is a combination of property, international and art law,” she said. “I spent last summer in Siena, Italy, studying it at their law school. Afterwards I worked for a firm in NYC that does work for HARP (the Holocaust Art Restoration
Project), which seeks to return art to families who had their property stolen during the Holocaust.”
Regardless of where her career takes her, she said she will return to Ireland again soon and throughout her life to stay connected to the people and the land that she came to love.
“They’ve never met a stranger,” she said.