By: Lasley Cash, Staff Writer
Over spring break, Furman University’s Cothran Center sent twelve sophomores and two faculty members on a vocational journey to Northern Ireland. The trip was oriented around service and learning, specifically in faith and social action, social and economic justice, and international humanitarian efforts. The primary goal of the experience was to place students in an enriching setting where they could absorb the culture of Northern Ireland and be immersed within the country’s history.
Throughout Northern Ireland’s past, the country has suffered generations of conflict between Catholics and the Protestants. The discrepancies between Catholics and the Protestants, tensions still prominent within the culture today, reflect a solemn, but also insightful part of the country’s history. A primary objective for the trip was to not only allow students to witness the conflict’s vast impact and influence, but also to learn ways in which they can deal with conflict within their own lives.
As this was the second year that the Cothran Center brought a group to Northern Ireland, the group returned to the Corrymeela Community retreat center. The Corrymeela center is a Christian community located on the coast of Northern Ireland that has devoted itself to skill development within conflict resolution for the past 50 years. The staff at Corrymeela came from all across the world, including Pakistan, Switzerland, and Colombia, but each took a special interest in teaching about issues of peace, understanding, respect, and cooperation.
Many of the activities throughout the trip revolved around resolving group conflicts and demonstrating how to see something from another’s viewpoint. One activity in particular had every student design his or her own individual work of art, based off whatever he or she wanted to create. Given the design, students were then grouped with others based on similar characteristics within their artwork. Working in small groups, students had to come up with a new design as a team to incorporate all of individual’s artwork into one. Overall, what students were able to take away from the experience was how to incorporate many thoughts and idea into one, and to work collaboratively to decide on a specific course of action.
Whether facing a large conflict or a smaller conflict such as roommate troubles, the trip provided participants with a broader understanding of conflict resolution.
John Harris, professor of mathematics and assistant director in the Cothran Center, stated, “our students showed great insight and thoughtfulness throughout the experience, and really do make Furman University proud.” Harris, alongside Rolyn Rollins, assistant in the Cothran Center, had the pleasure of leading the twelve sophomores to Northern Ireland. They look forward to pursuing another enriching experience in years to come.