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Back State Side!

Time July 8th, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

It seems like such a long time since I’ve been in the United States. After writing my last post I traveled Europe for a few weeks and returned to Belfast for a week before flying back to Shreveport, Louisiana.
During my travels in Europe my boyfriend and I went to Romania, Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia, The Czech Republic, and Amsterdam. It was quite a whirlwind adventure! We saw Bran Castle (more commonly known as Dracula’s Castle) in Transylvania, a part of the Iron Curtain death fence that still stands in Slovakia, the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, Diocletian’s Palace in Croatia and so much more that would just be too long to include. It was liberating to be in new countries every couple of days and go to places (like Slovenia) that I had never even heard of before. It made me wonder what else is out there that I don’t know about, what other adventures await that I can’t even dream of yet because I don’t know they exist.
After visiting so many places returning to Belfast felt like going home. Walking down familiar streets and seeing familiar faces felt like coming home from college the first time when you’ve made some friends away but the people that truly know you well are still in your hometown. I made new friends in my last week in Belfast that I wished I’d met sooner and had to say bye to all of the old ones. It’s amazing how quickly somewhere can feel like home.
I was nervous about coming back the US at first. After all I hadn’t been here in months and I had changed but everyone here knew me as the person I’d been when I left. I was worried that I might not be able to relate to them as much or that home wouldn’t be as desirable anymore. But actually coming back alleviated these fears. My friends and family were touchingly excited to see me and because I’d been gone so long everything seemed sort of new. I looked at my hometown and Jackson, Mississippi, where I go to school, with a different pair of eyes and a different perspective from what I had when I left.

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The Begininning of the End: The Start of my Last Week in Belfast

Time May 30th, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Time flys when you’re having fun. It’s something that we all here over and over again, so much so that it loses its power and is relegated to the world of cliches. But sometimes cliches describe a feeling or an experience in a way that nothing else can – such is the case with this particular cliche and my time in Belfast. It is so hard to believe that this is my last week here, my last week with all of my friends, my last week to do all of those things with them that we kept putting off until later because it always seemed like we had so much time.
That being said, time does fly when you’re having fun, but Studying abroad is not always fun – at least not in the way that one usually imagines pure, carefree fun. There are times when you won’t know how to do something that would be simple to take care of back home, or times when your friends back home will tell you the hard things they’re going through in their semesters at home and you’ll just wish you could be there for them. It’s getting through these experiences that help you grow while abroad. I’ve looked back on my semester and realized how much I’ve changed since I’ve left home. I couldn’t be more grateful for these changes and the ways in which studying abroad has helped me grow.
Don’t be scared away by my mention of the hard stuff – being in Northern Ireland has been amazingly fun as well! I’ve traveled to Scotland a few times and seen Edinburgh, the foothills of the highlands, and St. Andrew’s, where the famous university is that Prince Charles and his wife Kate attended. I’ve enjoyed the famous Irish pub culture, having to accept that no matter how long I’m in Belfast I will never be able to go to all of the old historical pubs.
I leave in just two days to begin travelling Europe. I was lucky enough to be able to change my flight at the end and stay for an extra week. I will post about my European adventures and my last week in Belfast when I return!

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Why studying abroad has helped me determine my professional goals

Time May 13th, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Ifsa-Butler asked the First Generation Scholars to dedicate one blog post to reflecting on how studying abroad has helped us with our professional goals in some way. In my case how living and studying in Belfast was helping me in obtaining professional goals was not immediately apparent, as my professional goals are not exactly concrete yet. I am a peace studies major and know that I want to be in this field in some way for the rest of my life but how I want to enter the field professionally is still a bit allusive to me.
So as I sat down to write this blog post I began thinking about how being in Belfast has aided me in my future career goals in some way. Although I still don’t know exactly what I want to do after graduating college I have developed a more solid idea of what I want my future career to be like. While in Belfast I have been researching for a thesis that I’m writing for my home university that is partially about The Troubles. In my research I have been able to get to know locals and go to parts of the city I probably wouldn’t have gone to otherwise. I’ve really enjoyed this experience and have come to know and appreciate the people of Belfast in a way I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. Locals have shown me around their city and cultivated a unique appreciation in me for their home. Doing my research has made me realize that I want to enter a career where I’m able to do this sort of interactive research, where I’m talking to people and walking around cities rather than spending the majority of my time in libraries. So, while the specific career I want to enter into is no clearer than before, being in Belfast has given me a better idea of the type of work I’d like to do.

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Return from Easter Break

Time April 22nd, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Spain was absolutely incredible. The proximity of the countries in Europe allows you to arrive in a place that seems like a completely different world in just a couple of short hours. Spain was so different from Ireland, but with an equally rich and deep culture that I’d have to spend a year there to really delve into.
Returning to Belfast was a little surreal, but it is equally surreal that not even two weeks ago I was in Spain. I’ve been back in Belfast for over a week now and I feel like I’ve taken advantage of the city in a way that I haven’t since I first got here. It was absolutely incredible to spend three weeks in Spain but it did make me appreciate Belfast more. I guess remembering to fully take advantage of the opportunities around me while traveling with my mom caused me to do the same in a place that wasn’t as new to me anymore when I returned to Belfast. This past week and a half I have gone to new pubs, I’ve seen walked through parts of the city I hadn’t even seen before and I traveled to Derry/Londonderry, which is a smaller city about a two hour bus ride from Belfast. Derry/Londonderry, like Belfast, has a troubled past. On January 30, 1972 a civil rights peaceful protest turned horrifically violent when fourteen protestors were shot and killed by soldiers of the British Army. Bloody Sunday, or the Bogside Massacre, as this event is known, is commemorated by political murals, much like those that can be found in areas of Belfast, in the residential area the Bogside, where Bloody Sunday occurred. Also located in the Bogside is the Free Derry Museum that commemorates Bloody Sunday as well as the civil rights movement in N.Ireland.
As my friend Caitlin and I entered the museum we were greeted by a man named John Kelly, who was there on Bloody Sunday and whose own brother was tragically killed that day. I still find it shocking when I meet someone in person who has experienced the tragedies that I have studied about in school. Everyone in N. Ireland has a story and it is not as unusual to meet an ex-political prisoner or someone who lived through famous news stories that were nothing more than images on a TV screen or newspaper to most of us. What is particularly striking is not the shock of the horrible tragedies that these people have lived through but rather their resilience to move forward and sustain a peaceful N.Ireland.

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Easter break!

Time April 1st, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

At Queen’s University students get a three week Easter break — a perfect time to travel! My mom came to Belfast on March 24 and spent a few days in Belfast. I took her to some of the old historic pubs, like Robinson’s, and she got to see the boxing gym I’ve been going to. She visited the Titanic Museum and the Giant’s Causeway while I, a bit forlornly, finished a paper.
On her first full day in the city we took a political black taxi tour, which I think was as almost as much of an eye-opener for her as it was for me. Because The Troubles and the peace process following them are why I came to Belfast I have quite a bit of background knowledge about the conflict itself and Irish History in general. But simply knowing the facts about Belfast’s history does not even come close to comparing to someone personalizing and contextualizing the violence and horror that was once commonplace in Belfast. While I had talked to Irish people about The Troubles prior to this tour, having a someone who had lived in Belfast their entire life drive us around and really strive to make us grasp how bad it really was here, and how far Belfast has come was unlike anything I’ve ever done before.
Two days after taking this tour, my mom and I were off to Spain! It was quite a surreal experience. In only a couple of short hours we went from the unseasonably cold Belfast to sunny Barcelona. Barcelona shares a cultural similarity with Belfast; a group of its people wish to be separate from Spain and identify as part of a different cultural heritage – Catalan. It makes one wonder about the human condition. It seems that everywhere you visit you find a people that consider themselves separate from the larger state they see themselves as forcibly a part of – fodder for thought.

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A weekend in Edinburgh…

Time February 28th, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

About a week and a half ago I spent the weekend in Scotland and it was absolutely incredible! My boyfriend (Reilly) is studying at the University of Sterling, so we met in Edinburgh and checked out the beautiful and historic city together. I don’t have classes on Friday, so I was able to be there from Thursday night to Sunday. I stayed in a hostel for the first time. It was also Edinburgh University student accommodation so I got the chance to meet some young Scottish people my first night in the country. Before my boyfriend met me on Friday afternoon I was able to research some of my Scottish ancestry. I found out the clan my family would’ve been a part of (the MacFarlane clan) and saw the pattern of our tartan, our motto, and our crest. The American notion of heritage is something that has been in the forefront of my mind since coming to the UK. As a nation of immigrants, it seems that many (even most) Americans feel a certain connection to the countries of their ancestors. Even though I am so far separated from my Scottish ancestry, I felt a certain sense of belonging knowing more about the roots of my family.
When Reilly met me on Friday I got a full tour of the city. We took an Edinburgh goes tour that took us to the dark and spooky vaults, where we were told stories that would keep anyone up at night. That night we had dinner at The Elephant House; the cafe J.K. Rowling began writing Harry Potter in. With a view of the Edinburgh castle from the window and such a magical city surrounding her, it’s easy to see where she got her inspiration.

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Hiya!

Time February 13th, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Hello everyone! It’s been a great first three weeks of courses. The difference in the system here from what I’m used to at home has been a bit difficult to get used to. I seem to have a lot of free time but I need to do all of the readings! It is much more independent and students have a fair amount of choice in what readings they choose to do. There is required reading but students are also expected to do some outside reading. I personally have really enjoyed this aspect because it gives me the freedom to choose readings about the specific issues I’m interested in. Nearly everyone on my living hall is very nice and they are all Irish, which is great because I know I can go into the communal room and learn about Irish culture everyday.

The refreshers fair was this week which gives students the opportunity to sign up for clubs that might hold their interest. I recommend signing up for anything that sparks your interest, you can always go to everything the first week or so and decide what you want to stick with later. I went to the boxing society meeting tonight and it was incredible! I’ve never thrown a punch in my life but most of the other Queen’s students that came tonight hadn’t either. It was a fantastic workout and a good way to relieve the tensions and stresses of the day. After all, who doesn’t want to repeatedly punch something when they’re frustrated? I got to meet people in the community as well as other Queens students. I’m also planning on going to the mountaineering society meeting next Thursday night and the photography society meeting Tuesday night. They also have skydiving, surfing, even Chinese dragon dancing! There truly is something for everyone.

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Here in Belfast

Time January 28th, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

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I haven’t started classes yet, but I already feel like my short time in Belfast has been an educational experience. The picture in my post is of a traditional Irish band playing at Fibber Magee’s, which features traditional music every night. I’ve been doing my best to soak up all the culture. There is so much going on and so much to learn; it’s a good thing I’ll be here for five months!
The Ifsa-Butler orientation was a great way to transition into being in a foreign country. I’m still hanging out with many of the people I met from the Ifsa group, and the orientation leaders made sure we were having a great time. We ate at wonderful restaurants, went to the Titanic museum, and had plenty of free time to get to know our fellow travelers. The Queen’s University foreign exchange student orientation also offered opportunities to meet new people and experience Irish culture. I met people from so many different places — The Czech Republic, Belgium, France, Germany, and so many more. Yesterday, Queen’s offered foreign exchange students the opportunity to take a city bus tour, which I promptly took advantage of. They took us through parts of the city that were ravaged during The Troubles, and explained how far Belfast has come since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 began to bring peace to Belfast. We also got to see parts of the wall that still divide the Protestant and Catholic communities in some areas. Our tour guide speculated that it would take another generation for the wall to come down, as so many people still have the wounds of losing a loved one so fresh in their hearts and memories.
One other girl in the Ifsa-Butler group is also a First Generation Scholar, and it was really nice to talk to someone who is going through a similar experience. Hopefully our blogs will encourage more first generation college students to apply for the scholarship and take advantage of the many opportunities studying abroad can offer!

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Time January 14th, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

This is my first blogging experience, how exciting! Well I’ll be leaving for Ireland soon and I am very excited, but also a little nervous. The tensions are building in my house as my parents and I both feed each other’s frenzy. While we are all nervous about this experience, it is actually much less nerve wracking for us than when I left for college. I have been out of the country a few times since being at Millsaps but when I was leaving for college as an eighteen year old high school graduate neither my parents nor I knew what to expect. I was ready to move out of the house and get a taste of independence but I also remember the date of departure coming with trepidation. My parents were nervous that I wasn’t ready and they didn’t really know what to tell me to be ready for. In a way, going to college was like going to a different country in my family in that it was an unfamiliar experience that none of us knew quite how to prepare for. During my past two and a half years of college I have been able to mature and prove to my parents that I am responsible and deeply passionate about my education. My own maturity and passion for learning that was not as evident when I left for college in 2010 comforts my parents because they know that I will make the most of my experience in Belfast and that I will make intelligent decisions while there. I feel sure that the next time I post will be to update everyone on all of the exciting adventures I’ll be having in Belfast!

 

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