January 2006 Reflections

So much has happened since I last wrote that it’s hard to condense it all in a short journal entry. My internship at Banulacht and participation with the Suas student society have been very interesting and rewarding. Banulacht has allowed me the opportunity to attend various workshops and conferences on development, sit in on Dail (Irish Parliament) debates about the WTO meetings in Hong Kong, and meet people in the NGO community who are working on similar issues. Suas gave me the opportunity to speak in a campus debate on trade and development, funded my participation for a workshop on poverty that I attended out in County Clare and provided me with a ticket to hear Mary Robinson speak on the Irish government’s new initiative on combating gender-based violence. This last event had a lasting impact on me. I was so disturbed by the extent and brutality of violence against women that I decided to further research this as a possible thesis topic, which I am in the process of doing right now. In fact, I have been in touch with Development Corporation Ireland (a government agency under the Department of Foreign Affairs) which has invited me to a conference luncheon on the topic tomorrow and sent me some very useful resources on the subject. I will have more to report in my next entry.

My academic coursework with Equality Studies continues to complement my interests outside the classroom and challenge me intellectually. In December I was consumed with take-home final exams, which although difficult, ultimately clarified my thoughts on a lot of questions I had been struggling with. The Equality Studies Centre excels at providing a real interdisciplinary approach to a large and seemingly unconquerable problem: inequality and injustice. By breaking down the problem into smaller components and showing how the smaller pieces are interconnected, the Centre succeeds in showing students that they should not be discouraged by the seemingly insurmountable nature of the problem. Although I do not agree with every theory put forth in my classes (I find myself a bit more conservative than most of my classmates), those instances of disagreement have sparked lively debate and forced me to think about and justify why I believe differently. I think that has been one of the most important ways I have grown this year; not just learning new things, but understanding the theoretical underpinnings that allow me to better articulate WHY I hold the opinions I do, not only to those on the right, but also to those on the left.

These past two months have also given me the opportunity to do some traveling. At the end of my last journal entry I mentioned that Britt and I were off to Spain for fall break in early November. We spent our time in Andalucia exploring Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada, Malaga and Ronda. We explored amazing Islamic architecture, the old Jewish quarter in Cordoba, gothic cathedrals, beautiful landscape and of course….flamenco, bull rings and tapas. In the middle of finals in December, I visited Ben and Carie in Derry for a day before heading to Belfast for the meeting with Senator Mitchell. We attended a traditional Irish “quiz night” (where I was utterly useless besides knowing who sang “Fame,” not something I’m proud of…) and the next day I received a private historical walking tour of Derry from none other than our very own Carie Windham, Irish History and Politics scholar extraordinaire. When we arrived in Belfast later that afternoon we met up with the rest of the Mitchells and proceeded to Queen’s University where Senator Mitchell spoke with us for an hour about everything from Northen Ireland to his position at Walt Disney. It was a true honor to meet him and I wondered several times throughout the day how I had gotten so lucky.

After finishing my finals, my boyfriend Adam came to visit for 3 weeks during winter break and we traveled to Vienna, Prague, Salzburg and London together. Vienna was particularly special as we found the houses where Adam’s grandparents lived before they were forced to flee from the Nazis and talked to the people who lived there now about the history of the area. In Salzburg we did the “Sound of Music” tour where we and a busload of tourists sang the entire soundtrack while touring the sites of the film in the city of Salzburg and the breathtakingly beautiful surrounding Lake District. I am not ashamed to admit that I danced in front of the gazebo where Liesl and Rolf sang “I am 16 going on 17”. When Adam left my friend Rebekah came to visit and we visited Edinburgh for a few days, which was one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen.

Now I’m back here in Dublin and ready to start next semester on Monday. If last semester was any indication, I can’t wait.

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