Student studies at Queen’s University in Ireland
It was more than just a trip to Ireland—it was a chance to study at Queen’s University in Belfast, to plan parades among locals, and to learn a new history. Psychology major Julianne Dunlap was one of 12 students chosen to spend a semester studying abroad.
The Southeastern Conference Academic Consortium, known as SECAC, created a study abroad program, which invites one student from each SEC school to the Global Leadership Program in Northern Ireland. SECAC was awarded a $94,000 grant from the Institute for Study Abroad to help the selected students make the trip overseas. This year was the first year for the program, which has already planned to continue in 2010.
The students stayed in Belfast, a city in Northern Ireland, and attended Queens University. There, Dunlap earned 15 credit hours as she studied in classrooms with local students taking two sociology classes. The SEC students also took an Irish Studies course, which covered the history, politics, and society of Northern Ireland.
Dunlap said Belfast is a divided community among Catholics and Protestants. She said the city is divided with a wall and doesn’t participate in many things together, not even sporting events. However, the community is making an effort to change that by hosting inclusive events.
As part of the program abroad, visiting students were required to give 30 hours of community service. Dunlap worked with a carnival arts company called Beat Initiative. Beat Initiative makes an effort to bring the community together through parades and parties that are promised to be safe, fun environments for everyone.
Dunlap helped plan the Carnival and the St. Patrick’s Day parade, something that couldn’t happen before in Belfast because of religious differences. Since Belfast has a population of 250,000, the production was not as big as Mardi Gras, but Dunlap said she was excited to help with the events nonetheless.
“It was cool because they made costumes, floats, and puppets,” Dunlap said. “On the day of the parade, I got to go on the route with them. It was an event that both sides could agree on.”
The SEC students were put in Elms Village, student housing for Queen’s. About 1,600 students live in Elms Village, which Dunlap said provided a good opportunity to meet people.
“The people in Northern Ireland are unbelievably friendly,” she said. “Their history conditioned me to think these people don’t get along, but they were all curious about us.”
Dunlap said the SEC students grew close during the semester, too.
“We all became best friends and were sad to see each other go,” she said. “We are all keeping in touch with each other and making plans to visit. Now everyone has a place to stay at all the SEC football games.”
The students stayed in Northern Ireland for most of the trip, but were given time off for Easter. During the break, Dunlap said she visited some famous archeological sites and went to Holland and the English sea shore. Dunlap enjoyed her time at Queen’s so much, she is considering going back to earn a master’s degree after she graduates from LSU in December 2010.
“Queen’s is so pretty and the professors are so cool,” she said. “It’s got everything it needs to be sophisticated, but not overwhelming.”
This was not Dunlap’s first trip away from home. Last summer, she backpacked from Dublin to the Greek islands and back. Her experience there made her decision to apply for the program a little easier.
Applications for the SECAC Global Leadership Program are taken through the Honors College and are due September 1, 2009, for the trip back to Northern Ireland in Spring 2010. Applicants must write essays and go through an interviewing process.
Holly A. Phillips | Editor | Office of Communications & University Relations