Our Fall 2013 semester has now come to a close as last weekend our students departed from Belfast! Before they departed to enjoy the Christmas holidays at home in the USA, our group experienced more of the wonders of Belfast and Northern Ireland through CIEE exclusive excursions.
In November we enjoyed another exclusive CIEE Interview with Trevor Greer of the South and West Action Team who discussed with our students the current status of the working-class Protestant community in South Belfast.
Our group also enjoyed the Apprentice Boys of Derry celebrations in early December by watching one of the 'feeder' parades in Belfast. These parades are fascinating, and at times contentious, representations of cultural identity in Northern Ireland.
The bands on parade differ significantly in many ways from the types of marching bands in the USA as most are often male-dominated music groups with a wide ranging age profile. Visiting an event like this parade gives our students a critical insight into the various demonstrations of culture, protest and conflict. However, traditional music is not always an outdoor event in Belfast as our group later visited a traditional Irish music pub session!
European continential foods and crafts were also available to our group as we visited the traditional Irish music night as the Belfast Christmas Market opened in the city centre. In the image below our students navigate through the market's various international stalls and bars!
During our last month we also toured beyond belfast city to visit the UK City of Culture, Derry-Londonderry city. Here we toured the 400 year old walled city and visited the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Our group met serving officers who explained how policing has changed in Northern Ireland in the wake of the peace process. Or group were also shown the equipment used by the PSNI during public order disturbances.
The following day our group headed to the north coast of Antrim where we visited the ancient geological wonder of the Giant's Causeway. Local folklore tells the tale of two giants, one Irish and one Scottish, who built the causeway as a bridge between their countries as they sought out one another in competition. In the exhibition centre our group also learned the scientific explanation behind the beautiful rock formations. Whether it was the giants or the ancient flows of magma, the Causeway is a wonderous and wild place to be!
This trip also included a visit to Carrickfergus Castle and the Carrick-a-rede ropebridge! All included as part of the CIEE program in Belfast!
After all the travelling our students are now at home, whilst in Belfast we are preparing for the Spring 2014 semester. In the meantime we wish all of your and yours the very best for this holiday season! Happy holidays, and see you in the New Year!