November 2006 Reflection

A dear friend from home bade me farewell with the words of Thomas Merton—monk, poet, and tireless social activist—just before I left for Ireland: “In one sense we are always traveling, and traveling as if we did not know where we are going. In another sense we have arrived.”

Such has been the nature of my first month in Ireland, a negotiation between Traveling and Arriving. I’ll be rushing across Trinity’s magnificent courtyard—hallowed cobblestone paths worn smooth by centuries—with my head down, my thoughts tangled up in the paper I’m writing. Traveling.

Until I come upon tourists—droves of them—who have come to the very courtyard I traverse every day to take pictures and admire the architecture, the history, the beauty of the campus. So I look up, too, and marvel with them for a while. Arriving. I study at Trinity College in the International Peace Studies program of the Irish School of Ecumenics. Simply put, it’s the perfect program for me. Holistic and interdisciplinary, the program attracts all kinds of students. They are from all over the world (from Burundi to Sri Lanka to Germany), come from a range of academic backgrounds (from human rights law to molecular biology), and have held widely divergent careers (from humanitarian relief to animal husbandry). Everyone in the program is someone I want to learn from and get to know. The lectures are illuminating, the workload is formidable, and the school itself—located a short distance from Trinity campus in Milltown—is very welcoming. There are couches and lamps all around and we all enjoy frequent tea breaks. I am taking the following courses this term: The Politics of Peace and Conflict; Ethics in International Affairs; Conflict Resolution and Nonviolence; and Human Rights in Theory and Practice. I have begun working as a tutor for the impressive Trinity Access Programmes (TAP), an initiative which represents Trinity College’s commitment to “tackling social exclusion, through a range of innovative, targeted initiatives for individuals who, for socio-economic reasons, have not yet realised their full educational potential.” (TAP website) I work with students on a one-to-one basis each week.

I am reveling in the opportunities afforded to me by this outstanding scholarship program. Here I am, studying exactly what I want to be studying (in Dublin of all places), continually amazed and inspired by the scholars (see you all at Thanksgiving) and overwhelmed already by the opportunities that have emerged for next year. All of this is possible because of the vision and commitment of Trina Vargo and Mary Lou Hartman, the staggering generosity of those who support the Mitchell Scholarship and the US-Ireland Alliance, and, of course, Senator George Mitchell himself. Thank you all; I am endlessly appreciative.

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