Resident Director’s Journal: The First Belfast Semester

The following is a guest post from ISA Belfast Resident Director, Paul Pelan.

ISA Resident Director Paul Pelan with students. Spring 2012.

It seems a long time ago now, when Arturo Artaza, Executive Vice President of University Relations & Marketing, and I welcomed the first ISA students to Belfast last January. During orientation in a city considered by many to one of Western Europe’s major up-and-coming destinations, we couldn’t have anticipated the incredible experiences that lay ahead.

Certainly, though, our students fell in love with Belfast. The culture, people and outstanding beauty that characterizes the island of Ireland. During that first semester, I attempted to introduce our students to a host of excursions, cultural activities and events, both at Queen’s University and in the wider community of Belfast. It’s safe to say that we all stayed very busy!

This past semester was filled with so many great experiences for our students, and there are a few that stand out in my mind:

  • Exploring the famous and eclectic neighborhoods of Belfast, such as the Titanic Quarter, Queen’s Quarter and more
  • Seeing the famous Belfast Murals that dot the city. Dating back to 1908, the murals portray historical events, political points of interest and more
  • Being part of live TV studio audience for Spotlight, a weekly current affairs program on the BBC
  • Taking an excursion to County Antrim and visiting the famed Giant’s Causeway, a geological phenomenon and UNESCO World Heritage Site located on the Northern Ireland’s northeast coast
  • Remembering the 100 anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic in Belfast, where the doomed ship was built
  • Traveling to Londonderry, a walled and historically significant city that is the second-largest in Northern Ireland
  • Seeing The Ballymurphy Massacre, a play about the shooting of Catholic civilians by the British Army in 1971
  • Hiking the Divis Mountains overlooking Belfast.

Back on campus at QUB, our students flourished. They quickly immersed themselves and became integrated in university life here, making friends with both Irish and international students alike.

Without a doubt, this first semester in Belfast was a memorable one, and I hope the first of many. I can confidently say that ISA chose an excellent time to open a study abroad program in Belfast. It’s a dynamic city that at once is known for both constant reinvention and resilience. Belfast has emerged with an incredible vitality that I can honestly say is evidenced in its art, culture, and perhaps most of all, its resilient people.