Experiences, Cultures & Societies
written by Kati Scanlan, University of South Florida
With what little time we have left in Northern Ireland, I thought it would be prudent to reflect on what this experience has done for not only our group as USF students, but also for each of us on an individual level. As a group of college age students, we have been introduced to—in a baptism by fire sort of way—a completely new culture and society that is so vastly different from our own. In truth, there are many similarities as well, but the spectrum of conflicts that exists within Northern Ireland is quite dissimilar to those experienced by the United States. With such an abrupt introduction to Northern Ireland, we, as a group, have had to acclimate and adjust quickly. We hit the ground running as soon as we landed in this country, and we still haven’t broken stride. I think our ability to work cohesively together (by making sure no one got lost or forgotten) is a great telling of how quickly we grew accustomed to each other. Especially when we consider how little we knew of each other prior to this venture. Travelling allows you to form bonds quickly and indiscriminately. We all went into this trip with open hearts and open minds and I am forever thankful for every individual in this group that made this venture so worthwhile.
On an individual level, I feel as if this trip has affected everyone in different ways. For those further on in their college degrees, such as myself, it has probably solidified our ideas for what we wish to pursue in the future, or at the very least was another opportunity to make the most of our few remaining college days. For those earlier on in their college experience, I hope you use this trip as a foundation for further adventures and exploration of self. Travelling and experiencing the world is the most opportune way to confirm your future career goals and to know if you can handle such a lifestyle.
To connect this blog back to our educational experience, I feel the discussion panel we had yesterday, with members of Parliament, and today, with religious leaders, was a good conclusion to all the knowledge we have learned over the last three weeks. These Panel discussions allowed us to use our knowledge to ask educated questions of people with bias on all sides of the Northern Ireland conflict. Our entire group asked thorough questions and we were not caught unawares if the panelists retaliated with questions of our own.
Furthermore, hearing first-hand accounts from individuals made the points of conflict seem more real. It really drove home the fact that the conflict in Northern Ireland is still very much alive despite the more peaceful times the country is now experiencing. We heard from and engaged with educators, religious leaders, members of parliament, and even former combatants. What an amazing three weeks this has been!
I hope everyone from this program has enjoyed our time in Northern Ireland together. We met other students from all over the world and were assisted by the academia and students at Queen’s University. We have laughed together, struggled together, been sleep deprived together, and, most importantly, we experienced the privilege of education and travel together.