By Jonathan Whitcomb
During our February trip to Northern Ireland, we spent an afternoon touring Belfast with Peter Maguire and Noel Large, both of whom lived in the city during the worst years of The Troubles. Of all the trips and activities included within our semester programme, this tour is in my opinion the most educational and most memorable. Listening to the stories told by Peter and Noel, you are reminded of the terrible violence which ravaged this island and haunts it still. You see that Ireland is not just a place of romance and beauty, but also a place of real human conflict and struggle.
Spending the day in Belfast is an intense, thought-provoking journey. Each time I walk down the Falls and Shankhill Roads, each time I stare up at the “Peace Walls” separating Nationalist and Unionist neighborhoods, I feel as though I’ve come just a little bit closer to understanding the reality of the people, the cultures, and the emotions all wrapped up in The Troubles. It is this understanding that I believe makes our semesterly trip to Belfast so valuable, as we come to view the whole of Ireland from a completely new perspective.