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Please note: The HECUA ‘Democracy and Social Change in Northern Ireland’ Programme has now relocated from the UNESCO Centre at the Coleraine campus to INCORE at the Magee campus. These pages are now archived (September 2013).

Student Profile

Raymond Wilson

University: Denison University
Cohort: Spring 2011

Tell me a bit about your back‑story: Where did you grow up? How would you define your formative years?

I grow up on the West side of Chicago in an area known as K‑Town, it got that name because all of the streets start with a K. My block and community was not the safest place. There were gangs in my high school and drug dealers on my block. Often, to avoid all of the trouble of the gangs and drug dealers, I would wake up extra early to go to school and wait to leave school extra late to avoid getting into trouble. What most people don’t understand is when you cannot see that what waits for you in the world, is more than what you can see right in front of you, you become a non‑believer in education and in people. This is something that the young people on my block dealt with. I tried my best to keep active in after school programs and running track to get away from that type of thinking to open up my vision to the possibility that I can do anything I set my mind too.

Tell me a bit about an issue you care passionately about.

An issue that I care passionately about is education. The reason why is because for me it was the school house that largely saved my life and allowed me to find my purpose. I think that a teacher has the power to allow a student to see hope within themself and channel it to help him/her find their way in life. For me I was privileged to be taught by teachers who were willing to help me see the hope in myself. This is the reason why I want to teach because I want to pass on this gift of hope to other students showing them that they too can do whatever they put their mind to doing.

Why did you choose to do the course?

The reason why I chose this course was because I was interested in understanding the history of Northern Ireland and that of ‘The troubles’. Before I came over here my knowledge about this country or region of the United Kingdom was very limited.

Where did you intern while participating in the programme? What did you like most about your internship and in what area did you grow the most?

I interned at St. Columbs Park House in the city Derry/Londonderry. The thing that I liked the most about this internship was engaging with the young people and getting to understand Northern Ireland through their lens. The young people that I met provided the balance between the academic perspectives I was getting from the articles, books and guest speakers by putting faces to the theories of how the society has changed.

What were/are your impressions of your HECUA program director?

I think Nigel Glenny is a great man. He really understands the complexities of the conflict here in Northern Ireland. He pushes you to think critically and openly about the issues affecting the people of Northern Ireland. I can say that I have gained a deeper understanding of the complexity of the history and present issues of Northern Ireland thanks to Nigel’s consistent pushing.

What were the most challenging aspects of this programme?

For me the most challenging aspects of the program would be trying new things and moving out of my comfort zone.

What advice would you give to others considering this programme?

I would say allow the experience to take you where it will go; be slow to judge but quick to analyze and reflect on your thoughts and the experiences you have and the people you meet.

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