When I was planning the trip to Ireland I expected to be thrown into a completely different world where I would be surrounded by people who talked differently, listened to different music, and watched different television shows. Although differences are there, it seems that the similarities that allow me to make friends are just as strong, or stronger than the ocean that once separated me from the people I have met.
Being here has opened my eyes to the role the media plays in people’s perceptions of other nations. The only way to overcome the biases people have developed through the media, is to bring them into contact with the cultures they have seen on television. Since being here I attended a Challenging Racism Seminar. I was curious to see if a racism talk in Northern Ireland would discuss similar topics as a racism talk in the States. Although the victims of racism were different, the discussion had strong similarities.
I have never felt more like a minority than I do now. When planning for the trip, I understood that there would likely be very few African Americans, and mentally I tried to prepare myself. What I could not prepare myself for was the reality of how difficult it would be to find beauty supply products, hair salons, and skin care. The lack of products was shocking, but the response of people when I told them of my struggles was heartwarming. A girl from my class has taken me to every hair and beauty store in Belfast she can think of, and teachers have volunteered their suggestions on places I can look. When one of my professors volunteered to bring my hair products from her trip to London I felt as if I already had built an Irish family. Also Amazon helps in the struggle to find hair and skin care products.
Belfast is a city that feels like a small town. In the first week of school I met people from all over Europe, Asia, and the Americas that I know I will talk to for the rest of my life. In addition to meeting people at the University I have also taken part in a host visit. I did not know what to expect when traveling to Bangor but my host was one of the nicest people I have met. Through card games, a visit to the museum, cooking, and tea we got to know each other very well over the course of the weekend.
When planning to spend a year in Northern Ireland I was nervous about being seen as a loud African American and worried about not being able to meet people and become a part of the community. Through being here and have cooking parties with friends, going to cultural nights, and just being a college student I have learned a lot about myself, made great memories, and taken countless pictures with people I will never forget.