I have shared several posts about my experience in Northern Ireland. I've grown, learned, and felt things I never expected. I am forever grateful for my parents allowing me to go on this wonderful trip. A special thanks to Terrie McCants for continuing to inspire me in many ways. All the members of "The Sunshine Group" for making my trip so memorable. And to many of the individuals who shared personal stories and heartbreak...I thank you. A piece of my heart will forever remain in Northern Ireland. I learned about a novel culture, studied a chilling conflict, and discovered a part of myself. Study abroad. Trust me, it is not something you would ever regret.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
The title of this post is a very familiar toast in Northern Ireland that the locals shared with us. I had the pleasure of meeting some extraordinary people. All from different majors and backgrounds came together and experience an emotional adventure. I consider these individuals my friends. I keep in contact with them often, professors included. I went into this trip knowing no one and I left with my new friends that I will forever cherish. Studying abroad is so much more than the educational experience you can gain. Paired with developing sincere friendship, I could not have asked for better travel companions :)
I am a psychology major and I LOVE IT! Paired with my minor (conflict resolution and traumatic studies) my ultimate passion is helping people. I am curious about everything. I am always coming up with questions and searching for reasoning. Perhaps this is why I was so enthralled with all my experiences in Italy; I was eager to learn more to better understand. I had the honor of meeting a prominent the Lord John Alderice. Not only was he a practicing psychologist, but also a Northern Ireland politician. Member of the Alliance party, he was driven to find peace and reconciliation. He approached other leaders that others found intimidating and threatening. As he explained to us, "to solve a problem, you must get to the heart of the pain; where it is coming from." We spent our last evening in Belfast sharing in a delightful dinner with a question and answer review. If this didn't inspire me to further pursue psychology, I don't know what would do it.
Many years after the Good Friday Agreement was signed and finally agreed upon, agreed on a peace treaty in hopes for a new reality. Families were ruined, brothers were killed, fathers sent to jail for years and years. The dividing walls remain. The river clearly splits the unionist and nationalist communities. You cannot help but be emotionally touched in some way to the conflict. The few days before we departed Northern Ireland I experienced mixed emotions and confusion. On one hand, I got to go back to my normal life in the states and would not have to live a daily life in conflict. However, I knew what I was leaving behind. I heard first hand accounts about the death of children and siblings from surviving family members. I saw reminiscence of Bloody Sunday. I saw the physical barrier dividing the communities; the Derry walls. I could not help but feel bad for all those families who were forever scarred by the violence and disruption of peace. I found myself brainstorming ideas to help settle the conflict. Is it even possible? What about the walls? The derogatory murals? The ingrained state-of-minds of the citizens...and then I saw Terrie's face light up..she brought us all here for one thing..to challenge ourselves..she told us to take a look around..what do you see..
The mother church of the church of Ireland; Saint Columb's Cathedral located in the heart of Derry since 1633. This towering structure is clearly visible in all of Derry. This is the oldest building in Derry that stands today. This cathedral represents the Catholic spirit of Ireland. It brushes against the historical "Derry Walls" that separate the Protestants and Catholics. The cathedral still has many of the original artifacts that we got to see! Take a look...
While studying the peace agreement we learned about the strong role of John Hume. Being able to meet this prominent man was such a rewarding experience. He gave us a first hand account to his experiences dealing with the Northern Ireland conflict. Reading the textbook is one thing, traveling to the place is another, and meeting individuals who played a large role in all of the tribulation was a complete package deal. Hearing John Hume reflect on his attitudes and determination was very inspirational.