Finding home in Northern Ireland

In collaboration with Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University, Chevening’s ‘Best of British presents…’ series took 44 scholars on a two-day tour of Northern Ireland’s politics, culture and sights. Social Media Ambassador Sherika Whitelocke-Ballingsingh tells us about the experience.

On day one, scholars excitedly gathered at Northern Ireland’s Parliament Buildings, also known as Stormont, which houses the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Assembly is the devolved legislature, responsible for making laws in Northern Ireland.  The tour was informative and interactive thanks to our enthusiastic tour guide, Mickey Mc Coy, who gave us a briefing on politics and culture in Northern Ireland.

We then left for Queen’s University Belfast to participate in discussions about community relations and development after conflict. The discussion opened with the EU Referendum and Northern Ireland’s stance to remain. The forum then route its way into the importance of symbolism and identity through the conglomeration of three flags—England, Scotland and St. Patricks—and what each flag represents to Unionists and Nationalists. Dr. Duncan Morrow, Lecturer and Director of Community Engagement at Ulster University, then demonstrated the importance of the peace relationship through three concepts: religion, politics and economy. The afternoon ended with a networking reception.

On day two, we woke refreshed and revitalized for our sightseeing adventure at Giant’s Causeway, the UK’s fourth greatest natural wonder, which formed as a result of a volcanic eruption. As we walked the causeway, the playful breeze tickling our faces and the scenic view embedded in a heavenly ambience, I could only reflect on my home, Jamaica. I was in my comfort zone as I took in the interlocking colour of the blue and green waters, like the Caribbean Sea staring me in the face. The experience was a magnificent one that restored my energy and brought my mind in tune with the nature all around.

Holding onto the sea breeze and mountainside view, I unwillingly left to my next destination—the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, meaning ‘rock of the casting’. While I was awed by this place, I was also timid to take my first step across the bridge. Keeping focused, I crossed looking ahead and never below. At last I reached the other side and it was at that moment that I welcomed my current location. The Caribbean feeling in the air put me in the mood to sing ‘this is the land of my birth’—almost Jamaica but not Jamaica.

This was one of my most memorable Chevening experiences, which engaged all of my faculties, bringing me closer to home. If you are in the UK and want to find a Caribbean experience, let Northern Ireland be your choice, with its friendly people and stunning view of nature in all its glory.


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