The Division of the Island of Ireland

My name is Noelle Annonen and my Beyond the Classroom Experience was interning in Dublin, Ireland, with a content production company called Maxmedia. This dry description doesn’t do any justice to the experience that I had when I lived in Dublin. Yes, I did gain skills in writing, social media content creation, and even website development. But more than that, I learned about a surprisingly completely different culture from my own. My global theme and challenge is Inequality and Human Rights. While I lived in Ireland, I learned about a country that is still dealing with prolonged historic oppression and religious segregation and violence from the perspective of Irish people.

 

My experience taught me that even western cultures that I assumed could be similar to my own are actually incredibly different. Superficially, the island of Ireland is more socialistic than the United States. The people I met seemed more connected with each other and their communities than with career and individualistic goals. This difference seemed extraordinary to me, and prompted me to analyse my values and the values of my country. The experience and questions that were raised weighed heavily on my mind as I continued to learn and grow in Ireland. More importantly, I learned that the island of Ireland is divided, by religious differences and a past of violence between the two countries on it; the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The time period that best illustrates the extent of this conflict is known as the Troubles, and while it occurred in the 1970s and 80s, the unresolved issues are still at play. Within the discussions of the people I encountered, I learned about the love and pain that stems from this division in the lives of people on the island today. The interconnectedness of the culture, as I witnessed it, gives conflict and division an impact that stands the test of time.

The Troubles were ended by what was essentially a call for a cease fire. But while I lived in Dublin, I learned how the religious discrimination and oppression is still felt throughout a society that, only recently, threw off their British overlords and began creating their own country. This experience gave me a fresh drive to better understand conflicts like the one on the island of Ireland and to fight for the rights of people who are discriminated against and oppressed. My end goal is to lead in advocating for and helping create a more equal world and society.

Thanks to COVID-19, my 6 month experience was shaved down to only a 3 month experience. I am left with a strong desire to learn more about the culture and all the intricate details and impacts that the Troubles have and continue to have there. I would like to know how the Good Friday Agreement fell short and what moves are being made to amend past mistakes. More importantly, I keep asking myself, ‘When can I go back to Ireland?’