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Hiking, Ceilidhs and Finn McCool- First Week in Belfast!

Alyssa Santa Cruz from Arizona State University shares the story of her first week of the International Summer School in Irish Studies...

Alyssa at Causeway

Hello All!

Welcome to the diary of my first week in Belfast, I am having a blast so far!

On Monday, we officially started the program with registration and welcome events! We got an introduction to the summer school as a whole and toured the beautiful Queen’s campus. After finishing registration and getting our Queen’s ID Cards, we all went to a wine reception in the Naughton Gallery. It was great to get to know everyone from our program and the concurrent Conflict Transformation summer program in a relaxed setting. A lot of us went to The Parlour afterwards for some pizza!

Tuesday was our first real taste into Irish Studies with introductions into the history and folklore. I especially liked learning about the myths and legends of Ireland. We read The Expedition of Connla which featured the fascinating idea of the ‘Irish Otherworld.’ We finished the day with a tour of Belfast with a focus on the the murals, interfaces, and economic development in different communities. Later that day, some of my new friends and I took a cab down to Titanic Quarter and City Centre to explore more of Belfast.

Today we learned about archaeology, landscapes, and mapping in Ireland before hiking up Divis Mountain. It is the highest point in Belfast and was a beautiful hike- although it was freezing! Later that night we all went to the Ceilidh to learn some Irish Dancing. I will admit, I wasn’t that good at it, but it was really good craic!

Alyssa Folk Park

Thursday featured another field trip to the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh. The drive through the Northern Irish countryside was amazing and we arrived for a short lesson (with tea and biscuits!) before being able to explore the park. It was such an informative and exciting trip. We were able to go into houses set up with speakers dressed up for the time period. They explained what it was like to live as an Irish emmigrant and we explored all the exhibits set up throughout the park.

We finished up our lectures for the week on Friday with some introductions to literature, religion, and music of Ireland. Later that evening, we even went to the Eg to see some live music!

Dunluce Castle

Saturday was by far my favorite trip! We went to Dunluce Castle, a beach in Portrush for lunch, and to the amazing Giant’s Causeway! I loved the story of the Causeway, where Finn McCool built a bridge across the sea to challenge a giant in Scotland. However, once he got there, he saw that the Scottish giant was huge! He ran back to Ireland, but the giant followed him home. Finn and his wife quickly though of a plan to dress Finn up as a baby, and when the giant saw how large the ‘baby’ was, he was terrified of how big Finn would be and ran back to Scotland, destroying the bridge on the way back and leaving what is left of the causeway. The views along the trip were spectacular and with a scenic ride back to Queen’s, I was in awe! That evening was filled with more music and fun as we explored some of Belfast’s fantastic nightlife scene.

Today was our only free day of the week! A few new friends and myself went to St. George’s Market to shop around at local vendors and get some delicious food! We took a cab to Belfast Castle and tried to walk to the Belfast Zoo from there, but on our adventure got lost among the way and decided to take a cab back to visit the Ulster Museum. The museum was full of cool and interactive exhibits, and I especially enjoyed the nature zone!

It was a great first week in Belfast and it went by so fast....but we still have three more weeks here and I am excited to see what else is in store!