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The Bogside

Our trip to Derry-Londonderry may have been one of the best moments of my CIEE study abroad experience. Meeting with the Apprentice Boys of Derry was fascinating. Their impact on Northern Ireland –– indeed all Irish history –– cannot be undermined and they have proven to be far more mature than the Orange Order in their reception to the peace process. Furthermore, seeing their closing of the gates parade was a valuable cultural experience. We’ve read so much about parades in Northern Ireland and we finally got to see authentic melody bands and hear the crash of the blood and thunder drums in person. Culminating in the burning of Lundy the traitor’s effigy, the trip managed to teach us far more about Protestantism in Northern Ireland than any book.


The most important part of the trip to me, however, was our tour of the Bogside. Nearly forty years ago Catholics in Northern Ireland were clamoring for civil rights. Their struggle was akin to the American Civil Rights Movement in the Jim Crow South. The movement mirrored everything from the inaction of the National Government to the resilience and determination of the protestors. Unfortunately the analogy is broken by the brutality of Bloody Sunday. Under the stress of a largely imagined threat the well-trained British paratroopers cracked and ignited a blood bath.

(Students Abraham Nelson and David Huff standing by bullet holes in Glenfada park)

The walk through the Bogside was overwhelming and deeply touching. I stood in Glenfada park where Michael Kelly was shot in the stomach. I saw the murals. I touched the bullet holes from the British Enfields. I almost cried looking at the faces of the dead and wounded at the memorial next to the Free Derry City wall. It made me appreciate the reality of the Troubles more than anything else since arriving at Queens. The people who were tragically murdered on the 30 January 1972 weren’t characters in a movie or morbid statistics in a book. They were mostly kids (five of them only 17) as well as friends, neighbors, fathers, United Kingdom citizens and human beings. Most of them chased girls, listened to music their parents didn’t like and had hopes of a bright future outside of their home town. Other than their situation in deeply divided society they were not so different from me now. Yet they were murdered because they dared to demand the most basic of human virtues from a supposedly progressive state. In turn, untold numbers of Nationalist dissidents into the opportunistic talons of the IRA and ensured the continuance of the Troubles. If anything that hour, which felt like a lifetime, proved there is no price tag on truth as a part of reconciliation. The Saville Inquiry cost  £200,000,000 (when’s the last time you saw a number that large not associated with deficits), but it brought a degree of closure to a black mark on the UK’s past. David Cameron referring to the events of that day as “unjustified and unjustifiable” was the long sought after apology that came far too late –– but at least it came.


I am so thankful that I had this experience. Even in Belfast it’s easy to dismiss and forget the significance of where I am. Going to Derry jolted me awake. It reminded me of the most important aspects of my last three months here and more importantly made me think about my future. I don’t want the Derry field trip to be a nice story I tell my kids one day. I want it to be a reminder of what true empathy of past events feels like. I want it to be something that motivates me to be more passionate and understanding. I want it to be something that makes me fight for a better future. I’ve stood under the Derry City walls and I never want to forget.

Abraham Nelson, Kenyon College

Spring Semester in Belfast

Living and Learning in Belfast

As of my writing this, I've been in Belfast with CIEE for roughly nine weeks. It's really surprising how different life is here from the USA, the shared English language can make you overlook
the fact that you're going to a totally foreign country in the time leading up to the semester abroad, but the little things tend to add up: the cars, people keeping to the left side of sidewalks, the massive amount of regional slang, the clothes (track pants everywhere).

Then there are of course the big differences that come with being in Belfast: the murals of guys with ski masks and AK-47s on the sides of houses, the massive “peace line” walls dividing catholic/nationalist and protestant/unionist neighborhoods, the marches, and parades.

Mural 8

Even the university system here is different (and its taken me ages to get used to). I am in no way saying that different is bad, I chose to do a semester abroad because I wanted something different. I
love the sense of, I suppose you could say, adventure that comes with settling into a new culture. Belfast has been far from a disappointment in that regard.

One of my biggest fears about studying abroad was that I would wind up trapped in what I call the “American Bubble” where I spend my entire trip around other Americans and don't really spend time with the locals. You see this happen with students who go abroad all the time, but that thankfully hasn't happened to me. Nearly all of my friends here are Irish (or English or Scottish as Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom). There are only a few other American students I know of in Northern Ireland at all (if you went to Dublin that would be a totally different story).

It was easy to integrate here, the shared language obviously helped, and beyond that, the people here are really friendly, the friendliest I've ever known to be honest. If I meet someone here I almost always like them, and thats not something I could say about back home.

Queens University itself is great. The university is massive, with over 20,000 students, so coming from a small college of only 2,000 I was a little bit worried about getting overwhelmed. Queens handles its size well though, all lectures have a “tutorial” each week which is a small discussion class of about twelve to sixteen students each week.


The smaller size gives you a chance to actually ask questions and have more face-to-face time with your professors. Class can sometimes get confusing though. My field for example, anthropology, is taught completely differently
here in the UK then in the USA. But for any problems that arise, I have my own CIEE director here at Queens.

All-in-all I'm having the time of my life here. I just wish the weeks would stop passing by so quickly and that I could stay longer!

Silas Owings, Millsaps College.


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
  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.


Society, Conflict, and Peace in Northern Ireland at the Institute of Irish Studies at Queens University Belfast

The Society, Conflict, and Peace in Northern Ireland program at the Institute of Irish Studies at Queens University Belfast is appropriate for students from a variety of social science disciplines that are well prepared academically for direct matriculation. The program is also ideal for students wishing to take courses in the area of conflict studies and related fields and who wish to participate in the rich campus life of a large and globally renowned university. A member of the Russell Group of the UK's 20 leading research-intensive universities, Queen's is recognized as one of the very best universities in the UK and Ireland.  

  • Look at key contemporary issues in Northern Irish society and develop a broad understanding of the history and politics of the state
  • Examine how contemporary political communities use the past to construct traditions, ideologies, and identities
  • Demonstrate multi-cultural leadership skills through participating in various group projects with British/Irish peers
  • Analyze the complexities of contemporary life in Belfast

Belfast 1

Founded in 1845, Queen's University Belfast has a record of academic achievement which stretches back more than 150 years. With a student body of 24,000, Queen's University is a broad-based, research-driven university with world-class research and international connections.

Belfast 2 

 The Institute of Irish Studies at Queen's University Belfast was the first of its kind to be established in the United Kingdom and Ireland. It was established in 1965 “to encourage interest and to promote and co-ordinate research in those fields of study which have a particular Irish interest". The Institute is one of the leading centers for research-led teaching in Irish Studies The Institute’s focus is less on language and literature, as other similar Institutes in Ireland but more on inter-disciplinary studies in a wide range of fields, but especially in the social sciences.

Belfast 3 

 Belfast’s greatest, and most unique, attraction is its people, whose enduring warmth and friendliness remain a welcoming truth, their distinct character and culture evolving with the new city as it merges with the old.     Today, Belfast it is a vibrant European capital with a truly international flavor.  Like most cities of old, Belfast grew around its cottage industries in locales or quarters, from the old French term ‘quartier’. Weavers gathered together with other weavers, tanners with tanners and butchers gathered with butchers and most had a local church which often became the trade guild church. In Belfast the remnants of certain quarters still exist today. The Cathedral Quarter  is located closest to the waterfront and dominated by the beautiful Church of Ireland Cathedral, St Anne’s. It was here that Belfast grew from an obscure village to become the vibrant city that it is today.  Close to the Cathedral Quarter is Queen's Quarter and its heart is the university from which it takes its name. It is an energetic, lively area of character and charm that fuses academia, entertainment, culture and commerce to create a uniquely sophisticated and spirited neighborhood where intellectual wit merges with the vibrant humor of the streets.  Relatively new in name though not in spirit, the Titanic Quarter is located in the old shipbuilding yards of Harland and Wolff. This is the area that helped create Belfast in reputation and fortune and it was here that so many great liners rose from the dry docks to cut the oceans of the world. Life will soon return to the old yards as a £7billion waterfront development, twice the size of London’s Canary Wharf.  The roots of Belfast are Celtic and the music, myth and folklore of her people is Ulster Irish. This heritage is celebrated in the Gaeltacht (pronounced 'gael-tock-t') Quarter of West Belfast. Here, along the Falls Road the Irish language, music, literature and culture has flourished, igniting a range of 21st century cultural experiences for all to share.     

Belfast 4 

Belfast 5 

Contemporary Belfast remains a center for industry, as well as the arts, higher education and business, a legal center, and is the economic engine of Northern Ireland. The city suffered greatly during the period of disruption, conflict, and destruction known as the “Troubles”, but recently has undergone a sustained period of calm, free from the intense political violence of former years, and substantial economic and commercial growth. Belfast’s city center has undergone considerable expansion and regeneration in recent years.  

Belfast 6 

 Student life at Queens University of Belfast (QUB) centers around the campus with its over 150 social clubs and spills into the University Quarter area of South Belfast. The area is attractive, leafy and lively, filled with cafes and shops.  

 Belfast no longer has a reputation as a dangerous city. A recent study by the United Nations International Crime Victimization Survey (ICVS) shows that Northern Ireland has one of the lowest crime rates in the industrialized and developed world, only behind Japan. The majority of incidents are committed by local people against local people, unsurprisingly following religious, sectarian or political differences.   Belfast was recently awarded the accolade of being the safest city in the UK, based on a comparison of nation-wide crime figures, and, as part of its commitment to maintain peace, now seeks tourism from all around the world, especially from countries other than the Irish Republic and the rest of the UK.

Belfast 7