As my year in Ireland approaches its end, I am very grateful for having had the opportunity to spend an amazing year on this island. I have met awesome individuals, seen beautiful landscapes, learned a tremendous amount about the history of a feisty people, and made countless memories that will stay with me long after my departure.
My passion for security and conflict resolution brought me to Ireland, and I feel like my year here has given me a more profound appreciation for how important these issues remain. Though I initially became dedicated to working on international security issues out of a desire to make a difference in people’s lives, I came to work on nuclear policy and broad military strategy, which – while critical to global stability – made it difficult to feel connected to the people I sought to help. During this past year, encounters with former terrorists and paramilitaries and conversations with the families of their victims helped me develop a new perspective on the way insecurity touches people’s everyday lives. Such experiences have humbled me, and I hope I can maintain a connection to the human aspects of security as I keep working on these issues after my scholarship.
Delving into the history of the conflict in Northern Ireland furthermore awakened my curiosity in a variety of new areas. I still believe that achieving security remains the most important thing for societies to thrive. Yet learning more about how key economic stability is necessary to maintain peace in Northern Ireland helped me realize that gaining a deeper understanding of economics and development is critical if I ever want to make a significant difference in the realm of international security.
On another note, my year on the Mitchell Scholarship has been marked by fascinating travels throughout Europe, but it is my traveling throughout Ireland itself that has most marked me. On a drive to from Killarney to Galway with my mom, who was visiting for a few days, we found signs pointing towards little-known Portumna Castle, which we gleefully turned towards. We soon discovered a spookily barren yet beautiful building (pictured below), with a rich and painful history – it was owned by members of the Protestant ascendancy and served for years as a hub of repression against the largely landless Catholic population in Connaught. I encountered countless unexpected surprises during my year here, and came to realize that nothing gives me more of a thrill than driving toward a destination only to find hidden treasures along the way.
Though I am now in the United States for my sister’s college graduation, I hope I can cram as many amazing new experiences into my last couple weeks in Ireland, before hopefully moving onto something else as exciting.