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1 posts from October 2012

10/16/2012

Fall 2012!

Dia Duibh
agus Fáilte go Béal Feirste!

Hello and welcome to Belfast!

So far during this Fall 2012 semester the CIEE students participating in
the Society, Conflict, and Peace program have already started their classes and
are truly embedded their learning into the CIEE host institution, Queen’s
University Belfast.

Alongside studying in the classroom students have also started
exploring the living experience of Belfast. In their university accommodation
with local Irish students, the CIEE students are making local friends,
developing local knowledge, and learning to understand what is it to grow up
in, study in, and live in post conflict Belfast?

Students have even started to explore the rest of the island of Ireland
visiting the cities of Dublin, Cork, and Galway…and they’ve just been here over
a month!

On top of their travels the CIEE students are participating in
fieldtrip associated to the Society, Conflict, and Peace program. For example,
students have taken part in an exclusive CIEE walking tour of the various
interface areas in Belfast. Interface areas are basically areas of contention,
no-man’s land, and walls that stretch beyond sight. Students have also been
brought on an exclusive CIEE tour of the infamous former Shipyards of Belfast,
now known as the Titanic Quarter. Here the CIEE students visited the largest
Titanic interpretive centre in the world, opened this year in commemoration of
the 100th anniversary of the ship’s tragic demise. Here CIEE
students considered the reimaging of Belfast that is now taking place in the
post-conflict era.

History in Belfast is not just a reference. It is a lived experience.
The history of the city, of the society, is everywhere to behold. It’s written
(literally) on the walls. It is the walls. With this in mind, here are some
examples and excerpts from CIEE student perceptions of Belfast and history.

 

  1. ‘The history I knew about
    Belfast centered around The Troubles. I knew that Belfast had been a type of
    war zone, but I never realized how much it still affected the city. Life in
    Belfast has seemed relatively normal or at least the normal I am accustomed to.
    My first impression of life in Belfast has been one of relative normality and
    quietness.’
  2. ‘Before I came to
    Belfast, I have heard of the Troubles and the fact that Ireland is now in a
    “Peace Process.” However, through my experiences talking to local people and
    exploring the city, I’m beginning to question what a “peace process” really
    mean. The violence no longer threatens daily life, but the tension and division
    between the Protestant and Catholic communities still largely influences and
    determines different aspects of people’s lives. The segregation represents the
    norm and in that sense, is taken for granted because society has functioned
    with this divide for so long. Looking back at Irish history seems to further
    fuel these tensions because it functions like “look what the Protestants did to
    us…” and vice versa. So how does a deeply divided society reconcile with this
    history and be able to use it for the purpose of creating “peace”?’
  3. ‘In my first few weeks in
    Belfast I have come to understand that this is a remarkable time to study
    abroad here. We do not need to look back centuries, or even decades, to see
    important moments in Belfast’s history, we simply need to walk out our front
    door. By this I simply mean that history is being made in front of our eyes...I
    can see the scars of the last century –– specifically from “the troubles” ––
    just beginning to heal.’
  4. ‘Before I arrived I knew
    that there were some intense religious divides, but I was hoping that the
    politics of the conflict would be the strongest factor contributing to the
    division, not the religion – by this I strictly mean the political debates and
    disagreements over whether or not Northern Ireland should stay with the United
    Kingdom. I never realized… how tightly religion is woven into the conflict;
    from speaking with some of the students here it has become clear that many
    people (of the fairly small number I have talked with) have not weighed in the
    political and economical relationships between Northern Ireland, the Republic
    of Ireland, and the United Kingdom when deciding whether or not Northern
    Ireland should stay with the UK. They have instead taken the position of
    whatever religion they were raised with and become segregated along religious
    lines. I also recognize that this is probably an unfair blanket statement and I
    know that much of the youth here may not be anything like the youth I have
    spoken with so far. It is incredible how much underlying segregation I think
    there may actually be in this city, I just haven’t become accustomed to
    recognizing it yet.’
  5. ‘The proverb “History
    repeats itself” says more than enough when you relate the history of the island
    of Ireland to life in Belfast today. The history shows that Ireland is a land
    of take over. One comes in, takes over, people fight, someone comes out on top.
    However, the perspective from the people is different. People lose and find
    their own identity in this time. The crisis we have today is that the people in
    Belfast are unable to find their identity due to the constant hostility, fear,
    and possible consequences of saying what they are…What is interesting to me is
    how when we look at the historical aspect of Ireland, it seemed like take overs
    just happened and then it was done with. But when I look at Belfast today, it
    amazes me on how media, politics, and propaganda have all become instigators of
    separation even when the war has ended. The people cannot move on with these
    instigators which will drag out the point of resolution that is desperately
    needed: It is needed for the people, the economy, and life in general so
    stability can ease the tension.’

Bombay street picture 2CIEE students visit Bombay Street on an exclusive CIEE walking tour. Bombay Street is a famous street by the peace wall in West Belfast as the entire street was destroyed during the conflict. It has since been rebuilt.

  Titanic picture 2
CIEE Students providing the infamous pose from James Cameron's 'Titanic'. This is where the ship originally first touched water having been built and launced in Belfast's shipyards.

Titanic picture
CIEE students outside the Titanic center. The red brick building in the background is where Titanic was designed.

QUB library statue picture
The statue for 'relection' stands in front of the new McClay library at QUB, the host university for CIEE in Belfast.

Botanic gardens picture
Botanic Gardens is immediatly adjacent to QUB and is a popular break-time spot for students.

City picture
Belfast has become a bustling city with architecture reflecting the former glory days during the reign of Queen Victoria.

City hall picture
Belfast City Hall was built in 1906. It is now becoming one the shared civic sites for the population of Belfast.

Giants causeway picture
The world heritage site that is the Giant's Causeway is easily reached by bus or train from the CIEE study center at QUB.