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

Olivia Cox

University: Denison University
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 Chapel Hill, North Carolina with my parents and twin brother. I had a very happy childhood and early life. My parents put a huge emphasis on working as hard as I could at school, so from the very beginning I was invested in academics.

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

I’m passionate about education and reforming the education system in the United States. I think it is one of the biggest injustices of our time that so many young people are being denied the education they deserve. As a result, the cycles of poverty are being perpetuated and the potential of thousands of children is being lost. I think that my generation is in a unique position to do something about this, to make it right, and I hope to make any contribution I can.

Why did you choose to do the course?

I chose this course because I wanted the chance to pair in‑class learning with out of class experience. The internship component of the program seemed to offer the chance to discover things about the conflict in Northern Ireland in a new way, in a way that would complement my classroom studies. I was attracted to the themes of the course – conflict resolution and peace – but the real reason I chose it was the opportunity it presented for “real-world learning”.

Was the course what you expected?

The course turned out to be better than I expected. I expected to be intellectually stimulated, but I did not expect that I would become so invested in what I am studying here and the place I am studying. I did not expect what I learned on this program to change the way I view my world, my future and my goals, but it has.

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 Ballynafeigh Community Development Association. My favorite thing about my internship was how flexible it was and how my supervisors allowed me to take ownership of my experience and tailor it to my interests. I think I grew by developing a better understanding of the relationship between grassroots, local‑level community work and the larger, governmental/political structure that supports (or fails to support) it.

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

Nigel is amazing! It is so obvious in everything he does how much he cares about this field and our learning. As somebody who wants to go into the business of teaching and learning I am really inspired by his passion and his commitment.

What advice would you give to others considering this programme?

If you want to have a fulfilling, meaningful study abroad experience, this is the program for you!

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

The program has definitely confirmed my interest in teaching and education. I think it has provided me with greater insight into how social injustice can be reinforced, but it also has shown me that it is possible to make a difference. When I’m back home at my university, reading about how racism, sexism, classism, homophobia and so many other prejudices are engrained into our very institutions, it seems impossible that things could ever change. By being on this program though and meeting with the people at my internship, I’ve learned that change is not just possible, but that I can (and will) have a hand in bringing it about.

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Olivia Cox Olivia Cox in the countryside