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Postcard from Northern Ireland


Contact: Emily Williams

Posted Oct. 20, 2010

By Jonathan Duncan, Assistant Director for Outreach, UGA Undergraduate Admissions and MSW Part-Time Student

There is so much that I have learned from this trip professionally, academically, and personally. I came to Northern Ireland with no pre-judgments or expectations because I didn't know much about the culture of Europe. Nevertheless, the experience was one of a kind and I am eternally grateful to the School of Social Work and the country of Northern Ireland.

In terms of professional development, I took away some good ideas from government and non-profit organizations. While visiting Omagh, I had the opportunity to meet the mayor Mr. Patrick McGowan. As we discussed the politics of Northern Ireland, he shared something with me which was very profound. He said, "Even though we may have different political views, we always agree on doing what is needed to help the people." After he made this statement I recall myself thinking how it would be great if we could adopt this same idea in the United States.

In regards to the academic component of the trip, I learned that nothing truly compares to learning something first hand. Reading about The Troubles before visiting Northern Ireland gave me a general idea about the historical conflict there. However, after hearing people's personal stories and walking through the streets of where Bloody Sunday actually occurred put everything into perspective for me.

Lastly, I believe that this trip benefited me more personally than anything. I've always been a free thinker and have considered myself to be an objective person. Needless to say, this trip was edifying. For instance, every time I thought about oppression I thought about it in terms of America. The first thing that would come to my mind would be ethnic minorities and how they were treated in the United States. Furthermore, I always thought of oppression in terms of it happening to people of color. As a result of this trip, I now realize that oppression is oppression and more importantly that it's faceless. Although it sometimes can involve one's ethnic background, it is by far not limited to it. To that end, oppression is a harmful act no matter who it affects for whatever reason. This is probably the greatest lesson that I've learned through this trip and it has made me more culturally competent in every aspect of the word.