Hello from Belfast!
Well, it has been a wonderful couple of weeks since our students arrived in beautiful Belfast. The city is alive with culture, both traditional and contemporary, as our group of CIEE study abroad undergraduates begin their semester long living engagement with life in Belfast.
Already our students are enrolled and taking part in a wide variety of classes. From physics to politics, anthropology to celtic mythology, our students are enjoying what our wonderful host university has to offer!
However, we do much more than simply enrol into courses! At CIEE, we engage with the local culture. We explore our local history. And we strive to understand our place in an ever increasing global world! As part of our orientation and arrival, our students took part in an exclusive CIEE walking tour of West Belfast peace walls. These giant walls were erected to maintain stability between the differing factions of our society.
In our second week we visited the East of Ireland as part of our overnight excursion. This excursion introduced our students to Ancient Irish society as we explored (and entered) the Stone Age burial site, Newgrange. Following this epic trek back in time to a site older than the Pyramids and Stonehenge, we down the River Boyne to Oldbridge, where in infamous Battle of the Boyne took place is 1690. As a consequence of this historic battle, the history of Ireland was determined to follow along sectarian lines between the Catholic and Protestant population.
Following these sites would be a difficult task. But Dublin's Fair City did not disappoint as we enjoyed an exclusive walking tour around the historic Georgian architecture of Dublin city centre. In the evening our group recharged with a full three course traditional Irish meal in the city centre. Of course, one cannot visit Dublin without exploring the lively and dynamic arts and culture district, Temple Bar. Here we sampled the revelry of traditional Irish music and dance as we brushed shoulders with people from all over Ireland and the rest of the world!
The following day our group, bellies full with the great Irish breakfast, entered the Kilmainham Gaol. A prison on the outskirts of Dublin city centre, Kilmainham has been a central feature of Irish politics and rebellion for over two hundred years. In many ways it replicates the historical significance of the Bastille in Paris.
Once home and rested in Belfast, are students were not to rest for long as we set out for the St. George's Market on Saturday morning. The market, on the eastern edge of Belfast city centre, is a traditional food and crafts market where students can explore ideas for food and creative arts. Students can also purchase fresh produce and materials, unique to the local environment of Belfast.
What is before us this semester is a time of more excitement, living experience, and learning as our students will encounter more of Belfast life through more excursions and events. Keep watching this blog to see how our group set out on this life changing journey in Belfast.
Slán go fioll,
Dr Ray Casserly