Experiencing the history of Ireland

By Chelbi Mims
April 18, 2012

During spring break, 20 students and three faculty members traveled to Ireland to view the historical landmarks of the The Emerald Isle. Dr. Mary Harris, economics and finance department chair and associate professor, and Dr. Erin McLauglin, assistant professor of business administration, have been planning this tour for two years.  They wanted to take students to Ireland and knew that they wanted to focus on the issues of justice, tolerance, and equality.  Out of these goals arose this study abroad course.

“As an Irish Catholic, I had always wanted to visit Ireland to see where my ancestors were from. And as a young person growing up in the U.S. during the troubles, I was very interested in seeing if Northern Ireland was how I envisioned it during that time,” Harris said. “I wanted to go on this particular trip because I thought it was important to teach our students about the discrimination against the Catholics during the Troubles and to give them a different perspective than was sometimes portrayed by the U.S. media,” Harris said.

The students spent eight days in Ireland traveling to Dublin, Londonderry and Belfast.  The trip included a tour of the Guinness Storehouse, Trinity College, tour of the Bogside Artists’ Studio, Giants Causeway and Oil Bushmills Distillery, Stormont Estate and Long Kesh Prison.

“My favorite part of the trip was seing the prison where the hunger strike took place. I was very interested to see where history actually took place,” Jaclyn Rescigna, junior social work major, said.

The days were full of activities and beautiful sites. The first day, the group walked through Dublin with their tour guide, Gearoid O’Caoimh. Dublin is known for its cobbled streets dating back to medieval times. The next day, they took a tour of Kilmainham Goal. They learned about the Easter Rising and the suffering of many political prisoners once housed and executed here. The group also visited the Guiness Storehouse, which is a brewery museum filled with seven floors. Each person was introduced to the brewery process and enjoyed a pint of the Irish classic beer. They also took an excursion through Giant’s Causeway, a stunning volcancic rock formation, built by legendary Finn McCool. They ended the trip with an excursion to Stormont Estate and HM Maze prison located in Long Kesh. The estate hosted peace negoations that led to the Belfast Agreement.

“I love to traveling and I was a little scared but I was definitely more excited than anything,” Alex Saboe, junior commications major, said.

The trip was a part of a ECG 300 class and they will have a speaker coming to campus on March 29 to meet with the class to discuss advocacy options for relatives of former political prisoners.  The speaker is from the Ancient Order of the Hibernians, America’s oldest Irish Catholic Fraternal Organization founded in Pennsylvania in May 1836.

“I had an amazing time in Ireland during spring break,” Amy Quigley, junior education major, said. “I was hesitant at first to attend because I didn’t know many people and had never really been that far away from home, but I am so glad I went on the trip.  I learned a lot and actually experiencing it first hand helped me understand what really happened in Ireland between the Catholics and Protestants in the previous years.”

The students will also be researching and completing a 10-15 page paper, and presenting their PowerPoint slides at the undergraduate research symposium in April on one of four topics:  1916 Rising (Dublin); Irish Culture; Blood Sunday (Derry); and the Hunger Strikes (Belfast).

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Chelbi Mims

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