January 2006

My life has been quite hectic over the last month as I’ve completed the transition to being a real student again as well as hosted a number of guests. I just finished up exams and papers yesterday. I continue to really enjoy my program and am looking forward to my courses next semester in “TheTheory and Politics of Globalization” and “National and Ethnic Conflict Management.”

Belfast continues to fascinate me. While I feel more and more at home here, it is obvious that I still have much more to learn about Northern Ireland. Everything here is significantly more complicated than I initially imagined. I won’t bore you with trying to sort it all out here, but needless to say the old cliche about learning something new everyday is a pretty apt description of my time in Belfast. I’ve been travelling quite a bit with the help of the USIT stipend; so far I’ve been to London, Oxford, Paris, and Berlin. I am headed off for 10 days of travel through the Netherlands, Belgium, and Western Germany next week and am most likely headed to Barcelona in February.

The last three months have contained so many wonderful experiences. One of the other highlights of my trip was a Halloween pilgrimage to Derry with the other northern Mitchells, the self-proclaimed Halloween capital of the world. Unlike many Halloween parties in America, absolutely everyone was in costume. Carie Windham was frightening as Stephen King’s Carrie, but Ben Cote’s Michael Jackson costume truly struck fear into young and old alike. I did my part to improve transatlantic relations by going as “ranch style George W. Bush.” I even received some sage advice from a local dressed as Jesus. “It’s like that movie Maid in Manhattan,” he explained. “It had Jennifer Lopez in it but it didn’t have Jesus.” I’m still not really sure what that meant, but I’m pretty confident that it was profound. At the beginning of the night, it just had the feeling of a really raucous street party and all the bars were packed. By the end of the night, it was nothing short of pure chaos. An experience I will never forget, to say the least.

Another major highlight involved the other Mitchell’s as well. We all met up in Dublin for a belated Thanksgiving meal that rivalled even my grandmother’s traditional feast. We also played in the second annual Mitchell Scholar gridiron classic, by which I mean a game of American football. It was an intense game filled with grit, gusto, plenty of procedural irregularities, and a bit of tragedy (ask Ryan Hanley about his nose). It ultimately and fittingly ended in a draw.

I’ll write more in-depth stories and observations next time, but living and studying in Northern Ireland continues to be an amazing experience. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how lucky I am to be here.

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