The post below is shared by senior communication major Elizabeth Woods ’21 describing a study abroad experience she took with some support through the Honors Travel Fund.
My trip to Ireland and Northern Ireland with the Communication Department was a once in a lifetime experience. I was able to visit the cities of Galway, Dublin, and Belfast, as well as many famous and historic sites. While seeing these beautiful places was amazing in itself, it was the friendships that I made during the trip that made my experience truly memorable. I now have lifelong friends that have been through so many similar experiences with me. Having to find our way through the cities, eating together, and finding cool excursions to do on our own forced us to really take in our new surroundings and depend on one another for help and support.
One thing that I loved about this trip is that outside of class we, as students, were on our own. While it was our responsibility to get to our classroom and meet in time for class excursions, we also had to find our own food, get groceries, find our way around the cities, and of course get our work done. We had a few free days where we had the time to go to other museums and sites not on the class schedule. While a couple of those days were spent shopping around the cities of Galway and Dublin, we were able to find cool places to go. My favorite outing was touring the Jameson Distillery. We did have a class trip to the Guinness Brewery, but the Jameson Distillery was an extremely different experience. The distillery had many options for the type of experience that was wanted and because of this we were all able to have a great time and learn about some of Dublin’s history. Other people in our group went to the Titanic Museum in Belfast, took a trip to the beach in Galway, and even found a silent disco where everyone listens to music on their headphones.
Through the traveling and exploring of the cities people were able to form some close friendships. I know I did. After you get lost in the streets of Dublin or get turned around looking for your hotel, it’s easy to get irritated at the people around you. However, we really got to know each other through these troubles. I know my friends’ life stories now and love them to death. After awhile of not really knowing what direction we needed to walk, it became funny that we were “lost” in a foreign country. I think these times of walking through the streets became some of my favorite moments simply because we got to truly experience the cities and learn about each other as well.
Another thing I learned was how troubled Ireland’s past has been. I never realized before traveling to Ireland that they had had a civil war or that some of them held animosity toward the UK. The current border between Ireland and Northern Ireland was basically put into place as a peace treaty. This “border” is permeable and goes straight through towns and even some houses. It is not a hard border with customs to go through. Most people in Ireland hold Nationalistic ideals of a united Ireland. However, there is a split between this Nationalist view and a Unionist view in Northern Ireland. The Unionists see themselves as British, while the Nationalists in Northern Ireland see themselves as Irish. One can see how this can be a problem. Now, with the current debate of Brexit, the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland must be discussed. The UK, which Northern Ireland is a part of, has voted to leave the European Union. Ireland, which is separate from the UK, is a part of the European Union. If the UK does end up leaving the European Union, for the purpose of being able to secure and control their borders, there will need to be a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, effectively stomping on the peace treaty between the two countries. Sound confusing? Trust me, it is. However, when you are immersed in the culture of Ireland, it becomes easier to understand. I will definitely be keeping track of international news to see where this decision takes Ireland. This political discourse has taught me that not everything is as it seems. Ireland is an incredibly beautiful country, but it is not without its political problems to solve.
I am so thankful to the Honors Travel Fund for allowing me to study abroad and learn about new cultures. One of the main focuses of our trip was to learn about political communication. With Ireland’s troubled history and with the current political decisions concerning Brexit, this was the perfect atmosphere in which to learn about this topic. Once again, I am so thankful to my professor Dr. Crick and my fellow students for making this trip one that I will never forget.
To learn more about the Honors Travel Fund, visit http://tx.ag/HonorsTravelFund.