‘As far as any place would feel like home, that would be Cork’

New to the Parish: Jared Peters arrived from the United States, via Canada, in 2012

Jared Peters, his wife Sabina and their two children Finbarr and Ayla. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

When Jared Peters visits Pennsylvania these days he feels like an outsider. His years spent living abroad, combined with a huge wave of support in his small hometown for Donald Trump made him disconnect from the place where he grew up.

"I was never consciously trying to stay in Europe but the longer I spent away from the States the more strange that place became to me. And now it's the biggest culture shock ever when I go back, it feels like I'm an alien. If Trump hadn't been elected it probably would be better. My home changed while I was away and I changed too.

“Pride in where you come from can be a good thing but sometimes it’s horrible, and the patriotism where I grew up right now is not good. To think the place where you’re born gives you privileges and rights over others, that’s bizarre.

“I’m all for having pride for your home when it’s about helping your neighbours or cleaning your sidewalk. Society needs that. But the pride [in the US] has left me with a weird taste in my mouth.”


Born in the town of Hershey, Pennsylvania – also the home of Hershey's chocolate – Peters grew up on a small farm in the borough of Waynesboro near the border with Maryland. His family loved the outdoors, and free time was spent camping, hunting, fishing and canoeing. It was this appreciation for the outdoors which eventually inspired Peters to leave his job in construction where he had worked after finishing school.

“I barely made it out of high school; I wasn’t intellectual in the slightest. I just wanted to earn a paycheque and go to the pub. But climbing gave me the opportunity to start expanding my mind beyond what the small-town education had given me.”

He found work as a rock-climbing guide and started taking people on trips around the country. Living in a small log cabin without heat, plumbing or electricity, he read as much as he could and developed an interest in science and education.

“I loved living in that little cabin in the woods. I didn’t spend years off grid but it was a bit crazy I guess. You learn to cook with one pot to minimise dishes. You sit around campfires in the evenings and climb or hike or swim when you aren’t guiding.”

The job brought Peters all over the US, from Maine to California, Colorado to Arizona, but after a few years working full time in climbing, he decided he wanted to pursue a career that was more mentally stimulating.

“I could see how you could spend your life doing it but I started to feel like it was a bit unfulfilling. I don’t want to talk badly about anybody else’s passion and I still do climb, but doing it as a job, I definitely felt like my brain was just along for the ride.

“For some reason school hadn’t clicked with me before, I didn’t realise I could enjoy learning until I was much older. I’d also always had pretty bad learning disabilities when I was younger. I just had to learn to appreciate it on my own.”

Aged 27, Peters started an undergraduate degree in geoscience at the local public university in Pennsylvania before moving to Vancouver to study for a master's in paleoglaciology. In 2012 he was offered a PhD position in environmental science at Ulster University and moved to Northern Ireland. He admits he knew "shockingly little" about the Troubles before leaving North America and only learned about the tensions that existed through friends.

Coming from a background of sheep farming and construction work, Peters says his family probably thought he was “crazy” to move halfway around the world to study environmental science. “I think most of them have given up trying to figure out my life decisions. But my sister is a biologist; I guess we are both a bit black-sheepish when compared to the rest of the extended family.”

While in the North, Peters met his future wife Sabina, who was from Germany and was teaching at the university. The couple went on to get married and have two children, a boy and a girl. Peters also has an older daughter called Hazel from a previous relationship. She lives in the Netherlands.

In 2018, Peters was offered a postdoctoral research position at University College Cork and started looking for a place for his family to live near the university. At first he worked during the week and drove seven hours back to Coleraine to spend time with his young family at weekends. However, exhaustion quickly set in.

“That was a a stressful time. You’re killing yourself driving so much and the letting agents make most of their money off selling houses; they didn’t seem interested in helping me find a place to rent.”

Peters eventually found a house to rent in the village of Crosshaven by Cork Harbour. "As far as any place would feel like home, that would be here. It's the place I'm most familiar with now and I wouldn't want to move back to the States or to Germany. This is where my kids are growing up and where my career has come to fruition."

In June 2020, Peters joined Green Rebel Marine, a recently established company working in offshore energy development. As director of the survey division, he leads research and data collection on finding the best locations to develop offshore energy projects.

“I guess I’m still a bit of an idealist and like that I can help Ireland join the rest of Europe in building its green energy infrastructure. It’s a lot of work but I like it and there’s some thing romantic about going offshore. It’s still sort of exotic for me when I grew up in a landlocked bunch of fields.”

Peters says he feels extremely lucky to be in Crosshaven during the pandemic, where he takes his children to the beach almost every day. “I can’t imagine being in lockdown in the city. We go to the beach to skip rocks and explore, it’s literally just outside our house.

“I’d like to keep the kids here in Cork to give them continuity and stability. I don’t think it’s good to be moved around too much when you’re growing up. Everything is going pretty well here.”