Photo of Meghan Osekowski with text Éasca Péasca: Student Stories

Éasca Péasca (Easy Peasy): Student Stories

Student Stories

By Meghan Osekowski

For as long as I can remember, Irish culture has been one of the biggest parts of my life. My grandfather, originally from Connemara, Galway Co. has continually passed down traditions and stories to his daughters and grandchildren, which has given me various opportunities to embrace my lineage.

I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to begin taking Irish dance lessons with the Burke Conroy School of Irish Dance when I was nine years old, to begin curragh racing for the Pittsburgh Irish Rowing Club when I was 11 years old, to learn how to play traditional Irish music on the tin whistle, and to now be able to learn another aspect of Irish culture, Gaeilge.

I am a Senior at the University of Pittsburgh, where I am studying nursing with a minor in social work, now accompanied by a minor in Irish language. I began learning Gaeilge with Marie Young my junior year of college, but within that short amount of time, I have progressed through three levels of Irish.

Through my studies with Marie, I have loved learning such a beautiful language, giving me a chance to incorporate my heritage into my everyday learning. I tend to have a very packed schedule of classes each semester between both nursing and social work courses, so adding Gaeilge to my courses has not been easy, but I feel that it has been worth every second. This has been one of the most incredible experiences.

In addition to taking Irish language classes, I have had the opportunity to compete with the Irish Dance Team at Pitt, also known as Rince na gCathrach Cruach, meaning Steel City Dance. I competed regionally and nationally with the Burke Conroy School of Irish Dance for nine years, where I had the opportunity to not only compete, but also perform with bands such as Gaelic Storm and The Chieftains. I also was able to learn how to play the tin whistle from one of our alumni, and friend, Katie Grennan.

Going to college, I did not imagine that I would be able to continue with Irish dance, however, I discovered the Irish Dance Team at Pitt. I joined the team my freshman year, dedicating my time to being on the executive board as the Mental Health Liaison, while we formulated our practices to work with the COVID-19 pandemic.

My sophomore year,  I took over the role of Public Relations Chair, which I held for two years, and we were back to in person practices as we prepared to compete at Villanova University’s Intercollegiate Irish Dance Festival.

Competing with the Irish Dance Team has given me the chance to continue with Irish dance, while being able to share that with an amazing team of girls. As we prepare for another run up to Villanova this December, and now being the Vice President of the team, I am excited for the things we have planned and to enjoy my last year of college with my team.

In addition to Irish dance, I have competed in curragh racing with the Pittsburgh Irish Rowing team for the past 11 years. My grandfather, along with his brothers, began the curragh racing team in Pittsburgh in 1984, passing this tradition on to their children and grandchildren. This being the case, most of the team is made up of my family, but there are also other members who have embraced rowing alongside us.

This sport is a part of a national organization referred to as NACA, the North American Curragh Association, of which there are eight teams registered: Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Boston, New London, Albany, Leetsdale, Annapolis, and Milwaukee. The season usually runs from June until late September or early October, with each city holding a regatta for the other teams to compete at, with the ultimate goal being to win the NACA cup at the end of the season.

The 2023 season finished up in Leetsdale the last weekend of September, where my team won the NACA cup after a hard fought season against both Philadelphia and Annapolis, 2nd and 3rd overall respectively. Being a part of curragh racing has been such an incredible part of my life, allowing me to share in the Irish culture with my family as well as with such a tight-knit community like NACA.

By having Irish culture be involved so heavily in my life, I have been graced with so many amazing opportunities that I do not believe that I would have experienced otherwise. I could not have envisioned myself ever learning how to speak Gaeilge, let alone work through 3, soon to be 4, levels of it.

Being a part of the Irish Dance Team at Pitt has also been such an incredible experience, as I have been able to continue Irish dance both competitively and for show. I am so grateful to have had people at the University of Pittsburgh, such as Marie, to form a community and share Irish culture with.

Find this column and others from this issue here.

Meghan Osekowski

*is a senior majoring in nursing with minors in social work and Irish language at the University of Pittsburgh. Originally from just outside of Pittsburgh, she has been Irish dancing for 13 years and curragh racing for 10 years. She is also a part of the Pittsburgh CCE, Comhaltas Ceoltóiri Éireann, and plays the tin whistle. Upon graduation, I plan on working in the pediatric intensive care unit at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh as a nurse.

Picture of Marie Young

Marie Young

*Marie Young is a native of Dublin, moving to Pittsburgh in 2001. She is the Irish language instructor for The LCTL Department at the University of Pittsburgh. She is married to a fellow Irish man John and has 3 children, Jack (22), Ronan (14), and Tiernan (8).

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