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Spring Issue I 2015


Greetings and welcome to the first Spring Term 2015 newsletter from Belfast, Northern Ireland!


Our students have been on site for over half the term – having completed orientation and fully enrolled in courses at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) – and are well settled into the exhilarating and challenging experience of study abroad. As a member of the Russell Group, QUB is one of the UK’s 24 leading universities and is world renowned for producing high-level academic research in a wide range of areas, from cancer studies to sustainability, from wireless technology to poetry and from pharmaceuticals to sonic arts.


As well as completing on-site orientation our students have enjoyed several experiential excursions – from a weekend visit to St. George’s Market, the last surviving Victorian covered market in Belfast, where they experienced the sights, sounds, and tastes of a vibrant weekend market by sampling some local culinary delights, arts and crafts all while accompanied by live local music – to a walking tour of West Belfast, where we discussed the reality and politics of division in the city, and the use of history and symbolism in the cultural expressions of various communities in Belfast.

  International wall

Our students visited the International Wall on the Falls Road. The wall is a popular tourist destination in the city and includes murals relevant to republican, communal, and international conflicts and historical events.


March has been a busy month for the cohort, with visits to the Ulster Museum, a mini-excursion to the Belfast St. Patrick’s Day Carnival Parade, and an exclusive visit to the Action for Community Transformation (ACT) offices and exhibition spaces (a new addition to the program).

St Pats 1

Traditional Irish musicians play for the crowd as the parade passes the quintessentially Victorian Belfast City Hall.

ACT visit

ACT is community based organization which delivers programming relating to the training and reintegration of former combatants into post-Agreement society. The students enjoyed the unique opportunity to learn about the ACT Initiative and talk about the challenges of conflict transformation in a Northern Irish context.


We have a dynamic second half of the term ahead for the program! Over the rest of term our students will visit Dublin for an overnight excursion, travel to Giant’s Causeway and the stunning North Antrim coast, and take a day trip to Derry/Londonderry where they will be given an exclusive tour of the Bogside from a leading peace maker in the city!


Stay tuned for further editions of the newsletter and more exciting news from the staff in Belfast!


Bye for now!


Erin Hinson




Spring Issue II 2014


Hello all

Since our last newsletter we have enjoyed a fantastic time of learning and experience at the CIEE study centre in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Our group have engaged in a number of wonderful learning experiences both inside and outside the classroom setting. As part of the excursions for our CIEE students we have visited a number of key and fascinating sites, including the great burial mound of Newgrange. The mound is one of the oldest human constructions standing today. Often associated with the Celtic era in popular discourse, this site pre-dates Celtic Ireland; the mound is believed to have been constructed in the Neolithic age in Ireland.



Our CIEE group hear from the Newgrange tour guide before entering the mound.


Surrounding the mound are replicas of ancient buildings.

From there our group visited the significant historical site of Oldbridge, where the Battle of the Boyne occurred in 1690. This battle, between the Protestant King William and Catholic King James, secured the Protestant ascendency in Ireland. It is this hierarchical division in Irish society that has shaped the contemporary history of Belfast.


Our CIEE group depart via the front of the Georgian house after their tour of the Battle of the Boyne site.

Afterwards we travelled to Dublin city centre for our overnight excursion. On arrival we enjoyed an exclusive CIEE walking tour of Dublin city centre, uncovering the rich history and living traditions of the urban landscape which inspired the writings of James Joyce. After a traditional Irish evening meal in a local restaurant, our group enjoyed the cultural landscape of Temple Bar district, taking in the sights, sounds, music and dance the city has to offer.


The city soundscape offers great music to our visiting students!


At the entry to St. Stephen's Green stands the arch memorial to Irish men from Dublin that fought in the British Army.

DSCF1014The wonderful pedestrian streets of Dublin.


The final course of a traditional Irish dinner is always sweet!


After dinner, music and dance is in abundance in Dublin's Temple Bar.

For our second day in Dublin we made our way to Kilmainham Gaol (after a large Irish Breakfast) to realise the impact of one building on the history of a nation. Kilmainham Gaol, since it’s opening in the 1700s, has witnessed the trials and tribulations of the birth of the Irish nation. From being over populated during the great famine, to operating as a holding centre before forced emigration (indentured servitude), to finally holding prisoner some of the most significant figures in Irish political history Kilmainham is a vital experience when seeking to understand Ireland. Kilmainham is a source a deep reflection, as well as critical learning, as students ponder what does prison offer societies throughout the world? What is the nature of punishment?


The halls of Kilmainham Gaol have locked away much of Ireland's recent history.


Our group is all smiles knowing our trip to prison is brief!


The 'Escape Gate' takes the name from one of the rare prison breaks.

Afterwards our group visited the National Archaeology Museum where the famous ‘bog bodies’ are on display for the public. This museum hosts a wealth of materials from ancient Ireland, tracing through the various invasions to the formation of modern Ireland.

Dublin was not our only excursion since our last newsletter. Our students have also visited the Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, and Carrickfergus Castle as part of our day tour to the north coast. The epic world famous scenery leaves one in no doubt as to why numerous US film and television productions are choosing Belfast to create their work.


Carrickfergus Castle is one of the great Norman castles in Ireland.


Crossing the rope bridge at Carrick-a-rede.


On a clear weather day, Scotland is easily seen from the north Antrim coastline.


The Giant's Causeway is a fantastic formation of cooled volvanic rock.


Climbing the rock formations is a must for so many CIEE students!

Our group also visited Derry city to partake in a series of exclusive CIEE tours in the city. First, we started with a tour of the Bogside district. It was here in 1969 where riots erupted, leading to the decades of conflict that transformed Northern Ireland. In the Bogside our group visited the Museum of Free Derry, a museum with a political motivation to highlight the injustice of the Bloody Sunday massacre, and the subsequent political whitewash of the event. Later our group toured the 400 year old city walls, culminating in a tour of the Tower Museum (the civic museum of Derry) where students learned of the ancient and modern history of Derry city. As we prepared to depart the soundscape of the city was engulfed with the sound of traditional music as the pan-Celtic festival was taking place.


CIEE students standing before the famous mural of Free Derry


An interpretation of Picasso's famous work on the side of the Museum of Free Ferry.


As in Belfast, murals in Derry recall history for a community.


The Walker Memorial stands in ruin after a bomb attack during the Troubles.


St. Augustine's Church is believed to be built on the site of the first Christian church in Derry.


The Pan Celtic festival hosts traditional performances before the walls in Derry city

Now we are entering the final stage of our semester in Belfast, and in the spring term our students will sit summer exams. Before then we will have more CIEE exclusive interviews with local representatives, as well as a farewell event for our group.

If you wish to see more images from our semester, check out our Facebook page

Also, follow us on Twitter @CIEEBelfast


Until next time!


Spring 2014 Issue I


Hello and welcome to the first newsletter in the Spring 2014 semester in Belfast, Northern Ireland!

Our students have arrived, completed orientation, and are now fully enrolled in courses in Queen's University Belfast. Queen's, as it's known both affectionately and locally, is part of the exclusive UK Russell Group (a selection of the top 20 research led universities in the United Kingdom). The university is held in high regard for the academic rigour of its courses, leading in areas as diverse as anthropology, history, psychology and conflict studies to biomedical science, engineering, and chemistry.

Studying abroad with CIEE is not only about classroom based learning. Our students learn about living in Belfast and all its fascinating nuances and dynamics. The learning is facilitated through our Resources in Ongoing Orientation program in the CIEE Study Centre.


(CIEE Students at their first Irish music session!)


(The sounds of the city! Musical life and experience in Belfast for CIEE students)

We both encourage and develop mechanisms to support student engagement with Belfast life and culture through excursions and events designed for our particular program. For example, already our students have experience a 'taste' (both metaphorical and physical) of Belfast. We've attended traditional Irish music sessions in the city centre, visited the Titanic Quarter, toured the East Belfast community interface, and shopped in the local St. George's Market - a market that specialises in local Irish, European, and International foods for the Belfast population.


(St. George's Market is a hidden gem in Belfast city centre)

Ahead of us is a busy and exciting semester program. We’ll visit Derry city, Dublin, County Meath, the Giant’s Causeway and much more! We’ll also meet exclusively with public representatives and peace workers in Northern Ireland. This and much more is ahead for our current group of students. A very busy and exciting time indeed!

Until next time, slán (bye)!

 Dr. Ray Casserly

Resident Director




Fall 2013 Issue III


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.


DSCF0772 DSCF0775

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!


Fall 2013 Issue II


We've passed the mid-way point and we are now preparing for the last run of classes and coursework in Belfast!


However, our time in Belfast is about more than classroom based learning. Since our last newsletter we've enjoyed a range of activities at our study centre. We've visited St. George's Market, a Victorian market near the centre of Belfast city where students can browse and purchase locally produced goods and food (the local tea, sausages, fish and chocolate are particular favourites)!


This was soon followed by a CIEE tour of the Ulster Museum, where students explored relics from Irelands complicated history, including artefacts and items of clothing from leaders of the 1798 rebellion (on display at the museum). The story of 'The Troubles' began to unfold before the students' eyes in an objective presentation as images and recordings from the conflict were on display.


This semester was particularly special as the CIEE Belfast Study Centre hosted it's very own screening of Girl Rising in celebration of International Day of the Girl. This outstanding movie was screened before an audience of CIEE students, Queen's University Belfast students, and members of the public. The screening was introduced by Dr Clair Rush (Girls Brigade) who spoke of the hopeful and positive impact a global movement for change in attitudes can bring to girls and their access to education.


(Dr Claire Rush - Girls Brigade)

(CIEE students, QUB students, and members of the public discussing the impact of Girl Rising)


This semester our CIEE students were also warmly welcomed to Belfast City Hall by Cllr. Claire Hanna (SDLP) who provided a wonderful tour of the Hall, explaining the valued meanings of artefacts and displays throughout the corridoors. This was followed by a discussion with Cllr. Hanna on the current status of Northern Ireland politics and the role of non-violent Irish Socialist Nationalism. Students were also fortunate enough to meet the Deputy Lord Mayor, Alderman Christopher Stalford, who gifted the CIEE centre with a beautiful plaque of the city crest.


(Belfast City Hall)

(Plaque presented to CIEE by Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Christopher Stalford)


our group were invited to return to City Hall later in the semester where we witnessed a meeting of the city council take place. Here our group also met the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, and Councillors Colin Keenan and Mervyn Jones.


Thanksgiving has also come and gone and our students did not miss out on this wonderful American feast of giving thanks! A turkey dinner of epic porportions was laid for our students to enjoy! Home is never too far away...


As we prepare for the final stretch a few more events for our programme are before us! Watch this space for what's next!


Fall 2013 Issue I


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


Spring 2013, Issue III



Hello again (and farewell for now),

Our Spring 2013 semester has come to an end with all of our students having departed for their
respective homes. It has been a wonderful semester here in Belfast as our
students explored the fantastic city of culture that is Belfast! We’ve visited
many historic and scenic sites and met with many great people from Northern
Ireland. All of which has added greatly to the academic integrity and student
experience of the CIEE Society, Conflict,
and Peace
study abroad program.

Here is a recap of what our students explored this semester!

Besides travelling to other European destinations our CIEE students also took part in more excursions and exclusive seminars with key figures in the community in Belfast.

Our group met with Councillor Claire Hanna, from the Social Democratic and Labour Party, who
invited our students to Belfast City Hall for an exclusive chance to explore
the politics of non-violent Irish nationalism. Our CIEE students engaged with
Claire in a lively discussion during this unique occasion where a fantastic
meeting-of-minds occurred. Together the group explored the potential positive
future of Belfast and Northern Ireland.

This was followed by another CIEE exclusive event where our students met with a representative from the South and West Action Trust, Trevor Greer. Trevor, who hails from a
loyalist Protestant working class area in South Belfast, spoke candidly with
the CIEE students providing them with a rare insight behind the public narrative
of the British identity in Northern Ireland.

Our students also explored Dublin during the St Patrick’s day parade! As part of
our expenses paid programme our CIEE group travelled to the capitol city of the
emerald isle to explore how culture and identity is marketed to an outside
audience. It wasn’t all though classwork, though! Our group took the
opportunity to explore and enjoy the city landscape during the festive day – we
even watch the wonderful parade!

St Patrick's Day

One would imagine these excursions were enough! Certainly not with CIEE as our
group of students also participated in two separate overnight trips to the East
of Ireland and Derry city (all included in the program fee)!


During our first overnight trip to the East of Ireland, our CIEE students enjoyed the
luxury of a private bus where we explored the wonderful heritages sites of
Newgrange (a burial site older than the Pyramids at Giza), the Battle of the
Boyne site (the largest battle in Irish history, occurred in 1690), and
Kilmainham Gaol (one of the most politically relevant prisons in Irish and
British history). Student’s also visited the National History and Archaeology
Museum of Ireland where the witnessed first-hand the world famous ‘Bog Bodies’
– human remains that are traced back to the Iron Age. In the evening we enjoyed
a full three course meal in a wonderful traditional Irish restaurant-pub, only
to retire in a wonderful centrally located hotel in Dublin city centre.


The following week our group went on their second overnight trip to the City of Derry. Derry, a
city that traces its charter back to the 1600s, is a walled city with two names
– Derry and Londonderry. During our visit we explored the Bogside district and
Free Derry corner. It was only metres from this site where the infamous shootings
on Bloody Sunday occurred in 1972. Our students visited the Museum of Free
Derry – a locally run museum designed to tell the story of the victims from
that day. From there our group visited the Police Service of Northern Ireland
(PSNI) in the Strand Road Police Station. Our exceptional hosts welcomed our
group into a seminar room, where officers of all ranks spoke candidly about
their jobs, their roles within society, and their positivity for Northern


Having been presented with a tour of the equipment and vehicles used
by the PSNI, our group left with great excitement to visit the Apprentice Boys
of Derry (ABOD) museum. The museum is housed in the headquarters of the ABOD
who are one of the large Protestant fraternities in Northern Ireland.

Students also visited the first ever purpose built Protestant Cathedral in the world –
right in the heart of Derry city! St. Columb’s cathedral, in its grand position
in the city centre, towers above the city. Within the cathedral the students
toured the various displays, including the remnants of flags from the US
military forces that were stationed in the city during World War II. Again, to
unwind and relax another wonderful dinner in a fantastic hotel was enjoyed –
all to be followed by a full Irish breakfast the next day!

Now our time has
come and we move our attention to other pressing matters. Results from
the recent examinations are currently being processed and should be released by
late July.

For more information and up to date ‘tweets’, check out our Facebook ( and Twitter (@CIEEBelfast) sites

Until next semester!