Wednesday, May 8, 2013

"Every goodbye makes the next hello closer."

The SIT Spring 2013 Group during Orientation

I don’t know why I have such a problem with goodbyes. I’ve only noticed this about myself in the past few years. That urge to push the thought out of your mind until the last possible moment when it sneaks up on you. You feel it slowly bubbling in your stomach then all of a sudden it smacks you hard in the face when you begin to realize that you are not only saying goodbye to people, but also an experience.

I knew my experience of studying abroad would be amazing wherever I ended up. But I ended up in Ireland and for four months, that was my world. I saw incredible sites from the cliffs of the Aryan Islands to forests of Glendalough to the beaches of Donegal. I learned more than I could ever imagine about Irish history, the Northern Ireland conflict, and myself. I met some amazing people along the way: my Dublin host mother Carmel, the Lyttles – my host family in Derry, my academic director Aeveen, and many experts and lecturers who challenged us to look deeper into everything we studied.

But this is not just MY experience. I shared it with seven other students and this will forever be OUR experience. As John Donne said, “No man is an island, entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” In my mind, it is impossible to separate these people from Ireland because it was with them that I experienced it. When I think of Ireland, I will always think of each and every one of them and remember how we all progressed through this journey together. So Arnela, Katie, Sean, Tyler, Holden, Danny, and Mike, I want to thank you for some of the best few months of my life. I hope that our group hug in the streets of Galway was not our last. We must remember, “Every goodbye makes the next hello closer.”

The group the day before we went our separate ways.
Picture was taken on Innismore, Aran Islands in front
of a fort built in 2nd century BC

Monday, May 6, 2013

Bridge Across the Divide

Again, I have been horrible at blogging over these past few weeks, but I’m sure you can understand that the end of the semester is always a whirlwind. Especially when you are writing a 45-page paper in one week!

After spending three weeks in Derry~Londonderry, and one week in Dublin to write, I have officially completed my Independent Study Project. As I said in my last post, I researched the Peace Bridge in Derry~Londonderry. I was skeptical of the bridge at first because it has been advertised as a physical facilitator of peace within the city. I didn’t believe that a bridge could unite a city divided by decades of political turmoil. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the bridge has indeed helped to increase interactions between members of both groups within the city.

Peace Bridge

I’ll leave you with a small excerpt from my conclusion:

With the weight of history and memory upon the city that has lasted for generations, it may be difficult to understand how a bridge could help a community overcome an inherited historical memory. The success of the Peace Bridge in overcoming the hindrance of history rests with the creation of a new historical narrative for the city and the introduction of shared space. The new bridge is free of the symbols that so often mark the territory of one group or another throughout the city. The bridge also connects the city center to Ebrington Barracks, a space that had been closed to the public previously. The story of Ebrington as a base for the British Army during the Troubles is quickly fading as the lost history of Ebrington’s role during World War I and World War II, reemerges; this is a history that the city as a whole can share and embrace together.  Because of the creation of this new historical narrative, the city of Derry~Londonderry has been able to redefine its identity and project a message of a forward progress that acknowledges a fresh start. At the center of this new identity is the Peace Bridge and its symbolic bridging between not only two groups, but also the past and the present.