Archived Page

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

Jackson Zoellner

University: Gustavus Adolphus College
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 Sioux Falls, SD. I have two older sisters and my mother and father raised us to realize the importance of learning through experience. From a young age I was more concerned with sport and social connections than with academics. Only recently have I started to foster an appreciation for the effect a book can have.

Why did you choose to do the course?

I knew that I wanted to study abroad and experience the culture of a place and not simply to do a direct enrollment at a university abroad. I don’t speak any other languages besides English and a bit of broken German so I knew that I wanted to go somewhere that spoke English. A HECUA representative came to a class session of mine and I was hooked on this program immediately.

Was the course what you expected?

No – It was so much more. I didn’t know coming in how much living and working in a society would allow me to connect with the place. Overall the program has surpassed my expectations.

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

A former prisoner and loyalist paramilitary member was the most impactful field speaker for me. The thoughts going through his mind when he got involved with the conflict struck me as being similar to my thoughts and feelings during my teenage years.

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 Corrymeela center in Ballycastle. I loved being able to work with the groups that came on residential and to help foster some sort of reconciliation. I think I grew the most in my understanding of how I can affect a society and how I can now shape my career path in order to make the most effective use of my efforts.

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

I think this course is as effective as it is at changing the people that take place in it because of Nigel. I know that the course work, course materials, and society in which we are studying are all very important and impactful but I think it would have had much less of an impact on me if it wasn’t for Nigel. I don’t think I can put into words the positive effect he had on me and the way he shaped my experience for the better.

What advice would you give to others considering this programme?

Take it with abandon. Be willing to make new friends and connections and give it your all from start to finish as every experience you will have has the ability to change the way you view the world you are surrounded by.

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

This program has made me re‑think my plans for future employment and for a possible career. It also showed me how much I don’t know about the world and has fostered a love for travel and learning about a place the way I did here.

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Jackson Zoellner Jackson Zoellner and friends at Mussenden Temple