When I first arrived in Belfast the climate and the landscape met my expectations—it was cold and drizzling rain with beautiful hills and valleys as far as the eye could see. I thought I would be alone for the first few days, but I ran into Derick, a fellow Mitchell Scholar also studying at the University of Ulster (UU), at London Heathrow airport. Neither of us knew that we would be on the same flight to Belfast, so we were pleasantly surprised. We spent the first few days exploring the city together and preparing for UU’s orientation.
During international student orientation I met people from a diverse group of countries, including Austria, China, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Morocco, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Turkey and the United States. We toured various areas of Belfast with together and learned about the history of the city, particularly during the Troubles and the years since.
I’m studying Human Rights Law and Transitional Justice this year, working toward an LLM. It’s fascinating to be focused on human rights during a time when people all over the world are rising up to demand their rights. The Arab Spring’s democratic awakening, the Occupy movement’s demands for economic justice, and India’s grassroots efforts to end corruption have all captured the imagination of the world. Although many have been working diligently for years on behalf of these and other important causes, the groundswell of support has forced these issues to the forefront of the global agenda in a manner that makes them difficult to ignore.
During the month of October, we (the current Mitchell Scholars) met in Dublin twice—once for a weekend with Ken Feinberg (alternative dispute attorney for the 9/11 compensation fund, the BP oil spill fund, and the US Treasury executive compensation bailout) and then again for our Mitchell Orientation weekend. It was a pleasure getting to know everyone in the Mitchell program a bit better. Some of the highlights included:
A Dublin performance of the play The Wild Bride (see the Guardian review of the original London production)
A concert featuring James Vincent McMorrow and the Staves (highly recommended)
A tour of the W.B. Yeats exhibition at the National Library of Ireland
A human rights conference on Ireland’s Universal Periodic Review process
Breakfast/lunch with Stephen Donnelly, T.D.; Deaglan de Braedun, journalist at the Irish Times; and Marion McKeone, barrister.
I recently started an internship at the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM). This will give me an opportunity to learn what life is like for ethnic minorities who plan to reside on the island of Ireland permanently, and offers the possibility of a meaningful contribution to the excellent work of NICEM. Although academic work takes up most of my time, I hope to continue learning about the island through its people and, wherever appropriate, offer my assistance with some of the many struggles facing the country during these uncertain times.