I’ll never forget the first time I learned about the American civil rights movement. I was in the 5th grade and we were allowed to choose our own topic for a history presentation from an exhaustive list of events. I’m not sure I had any idea what the Montgomery bus boycott was, but a few weeks later, with tri-fold board in hand (fully decorated, I might add), I stood in front of my classmates and told of Montgomery in 1954. From then on, I became obsessed with civil rights history, particularly the years of 1960-1968 in the American South, and I devoured anything I could to learn more.
By the time I had graduated from college, I still had a deep love for American civil rights history, but the excitement of a new subject had long since worn off.
And I’m sure by now you are wondering what this has to do with Ireland. It’s simply that being here in Ireland makes me feel once again like the 5th grader who fell in love with learning. There is the everyday sort of excitement that comes with discovering about a new place: How does this train work? What does that word mean when used in that way? Is this candy bar as good as Hershey’s? The list goes on.
And thanks to my courses at NUI-Maynooth and some dedicated professors, my passion for learning in an academic setting has returned as well. Now, instead of the Montgomery bus boycott, it is the Battle of the Bogside. Instead of leaders like Ella Baker, it is Bernadette Devlin. At times I feel overwhelmed by the vast history of the various social movements in Ireland, but that feeling quickly fades as I dive into a new book or documentary. So now all I need to do is get together my perfect tri-fold board!