Environmental Sciences major Nick Loschin completed a semester abroad in Ireland. This experience inspired him to continue pursuing his passion for sustainability and climate change.
When I was accepted to study abroad in Ireland, I made it a personal goal to make sure that I spent as much of my time exploring the small country and immersing myself in the culture. Unlike the other International students that were with me, I only left the island once for a quick Spring Break trip. With Ireland being such a small country, five months over there allowed me enough time to understand what it was like to be Irish and the main foundations of the culture.
As an Environmental Science major, I spent a lot of my weekends exploring the national parks and engaging with people in small pubs. These solo journeys allowed me to connect with countless people, each with their own story to tell. All it takes is a pint and an interesting story to get people to engage with you. While each of these journeys allowed me to transcend as an individual and I learned a lot about the culture and environment of Ireland, it was my trip to Northern Ireland that really stuck with me.
Although the border is soft crossing into Northern Ireland, it doesn’t take long to start to notice the major influence being part of the United Kingdom has on the country. What appears to be subtle differences between the two countries actually leads to fascinating history lesson of the conflict between the two countries. Most notably for me was the cab ride tour I took with an individual around Belfast, where he explained his life growing up during the Troubles. While America was battling the Civil Rights Movement, Ireland was having a similar conflict between Protestants and Catholics. The driver took us to several spots of major importance and was even able to talk about his own friends and family that were killed during the time. Growing up Catholic, this experience was the one that resonated with me the most, especially understanding that the tensions are still high in certain parts of Northern Ireland.
My tours took me to the Belfast Peace Wall that was once a border between Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods. Now artists use the wall to educate people about issues across the globe including things such as climate change. I had spent several months in Ireland before I traveled to Northern Ireland, but the impact of The Troubles was evident and something that was fresh on the minds of the older generations. However, through a strong sense of community and a quick conversation over a pint, the problems in Ireland seem to be improving every day.
Just a short trip into Northern Ireland strengthened my passion for unity on global issues. Two countries that were heavily divided have begun mending fences to tackles these larger issues. The murals on the Peace Wall inspired me to continue to pursue my passion for sustainability and climate change. Sometimes all it takes is one brief moment to rekindle the spark inside of you.