So long, Farewell...Class of 2016!
written by Stuart Irwin, PhD Student Assistant to the 2016 International Summer Schools
The first day of the Summer School started with an icebreaker quiz, so it was only right and proper that the final evening of the program had students participate in a pub quiz and enjoy traditional Irish music in McHugh’s Bar. Much fun and frivolity was had throughout the evening, in keeping with the mood that had prevailed over the past 3 weeks.
I’m writing this final blog as the class of 2016 are presently negotiating their way through busy airport terminals and parting company from one another as they make their journey back to their respective homes. On one level that is the wonderful thing about the summer school experience; to bring a group of people together from different countries, cultures and backgrounds, that wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to meet, where they can live and learn together. But how does one attempt to summarise all that happened in a relatively short period, albeit with a jam-packed calendar of activities?
For those interested in raw facts and numbers, over 70 students participated in the summer school, which ran for 19 days. The summer school hosted 42 lectures and seminars; 9 fieldtrips and bus tours; 3 panel discussions; an opening wine reception to welcome students, and a farewell event in the city centre; and, not forgetting, the Céilidh! Of course, this does not include the exciting adventures the class got up to during their free time, which included exploring Belfast and its surrounding areas and, for the more adventurous, short trips to Dublin, Galway, Edinburgh and London.
The summer school offered students the opportunity to learn more about Conflict Transformation and Irish Studies in a friendly and safe environment, whilst actively exploring aspects of the history and culture of Northern Ireland. They had the opportunity to discuss and debate; to share experiences and ask questions; and to learn together. Carolyn McDonald – an Irish studies student and an inspirational individual who works in the film industry – reflected on her summer school journey, stating that before coming to Queen’s, ‘I didn’t know what I didn’t know’. 
I think the best overview of the summer school is offered by Kati Scanlon – a talented and articulate student from the University of South Florida – who sums up the past few weeks perfectly: ‘We have laughed together, struggled together, been sleep deprived together, and, most importantly, we experience the privilege of education and travel together.’ 
Indeed, on a personal note, it was an honour and privilege to be involved in the summer school. I am particularly thankful to have met Aline and Matt, my fellow student assistants over the past month. Special mention should also be given to Dominic and Fiona, for putting together an intellectually stimulating program, and to Teresa and Robbie, for ensuring the summer school ran smoothly.
But the biggest THANK YOU must go to the class of 2016. I count myself very, very lucky to have met such a wonderful and diverse group of people. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the class; for example, a shout out to Karen for the great conversations we had over our shared interest of history and, in particular, President John F. Kennedy. As clichéd as it may sound, I am confident that the class of 2016 are going to go on to achieve great things. For anyone who was lucky enough (some might say unlucky enough!) to have been on my bus when we went on fieldtrips, I insisted on starting every journey with a quote from the movie Back to the Future: ‘Where we’re going, we don’t need roads’. On reflection, maybe there is some wisdom in this line for the class of 2016; continue to explore, learn and forge new friendships!
Congratulations to the Summer School Class of 2016!