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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

Arianna Williams

University: Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
Cohort: Spring 2012

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

I grew up in Spring Valley Minnesota. It is a very small town of about 1,300 people. My graduating class was 49 kids including myself, which defiantly had its pros and cons. I moved around a lot while I was growing up, 13 times to be exact (always in the same area).

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

I am very passionate about extra‑curricular activities for youth, especially 4–H. I am very passionate about 4–H because it has shaped me into the person that I am today and feel that I would not be where I am in life today without it. I am also very passionate about this topic because I strongly believe that all kids need something to do outside of school that can keep them actively involved in their communities all year round and can give them opportunities to meet new people from all over their local area, as well as state.

Why did you choose to do the course?

I chose this course because I knew that I always wanted to study abroad somewhere, thinking that Ireland would be ideal because it is a beautiful country. Looking further into study abroad programs I thought that this one would be the best for me because it suited my major best (Political Science). I also chose the program because I wanted an experience that was not in the classroom every day and that would allow for me to explore the culture and conflict on my own.

Was the course what you expected?

The course was defiantly what I expected and more. I have learned so much about a conflicted society in a short amount of time, that I could never learn anywhere else, especially in a textbook. The field experiences were amazing and helped me to deepen my thoughts, as well as immerse me into the culture and conflict better.

What was the most memorable field speaker or class activity on your programme and why?

The most memorable class activity for me was the field‑trip to Belfast. This was extremely memorable to me because I was able to understand ‘The Troubles’ better, and at a different level then before through the speakers that we heard. This field‑trip was also memorable because I was able to understand the real reason that I came here, and what I was going to do with that.

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 the Belfast City Council Good Relations department. The thing that I liked most about my internship was being able to go to all types of meetings that ranged from bonfires, interfaces, summer interventions, and ethnic minorities. Doing this helped me to gain a better perspective on Northern Ireland and the steps that they are taking towards reconciliation. The area that I grew the most in was self‑understanding. The internship helped me to understand myself better and what I really want to do with my life, all in all it helped me to confirm my goal of one day becoming a lawyer.

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

Nigel is probably one of the most amazing and influential people I have met. He always has words of encouragement and words of wisdom, which is great because sometimes you just need to hear those types of things to get you through the day and also to realize why you really came here. Nigel dedicates an incredible amount of time to the program and us to make sure that everything goes as smoothly as possible and this defiantly pays off.

What were the most challenging aspects of this programme?

The most challenging aspect of the program for me was understanding why combatants did the things they did and why some feel no remorse. This was challenging for me because I struggle to understand how a person can kill other people.

What advice would you give to others considering this programme?

This is an AMAZING opportunity for you, and one that is a once in a lifetime. You will forever be changed in ways that you can’t even imagine – but they are all good! Once you get to Northern Ireland start a blog or a journal so that you can remember everything you did and how you felt about it.

How did this programme make an impact on your life and how you think about your future?

This program has changed my way of thinking about life and how I do things. I now take more time in life to think about things and what they really mean, I also take more time to reflect on life and events so that I can remember them better, as well as understand them more thoroughly. This program has also made me realize that I want to travel the world more and see what else is out there.

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Arianna Williams Arianna Williams perched on a rock