Good Evening, my name is Kirsten Quinn and I am a senior Human Rights and Conflict Studies
major from Birmingham-Southern College.
My choice of study and my career aspirations were a direct result of my transformative experience with Study Abroad Ireland. As a native of the Southern United States, I’ve grown up knowing the struggle for equality within my own backyard and the ongoing fight for civil rights in America. However, exploration of study in Ireland allowed me to make my abstract understanding of the fight for civil rights around the world more concrete.
This recognition was the opening of the door to what Seamus Heaney would call the “Republic of Conscience”. I believe my experience is a result of John and Niamh’s unique program. This program gives students the opportunity to grow and learn in an environment of emerging equality and with a culture of acceptance. The course began with lectures and field trips about the Irish troubles but soon expanded to encompass the stories of women, the LGBT community, and the transformative power of art.
My time in Ireland is without a doubt the best outcome of my collegiate experience. It transformed me as a student and as a person.
Washington DC Feb 20 2019 - Ambassador of Ireland to the US, Daniel Mulhall hosted students, faculty and guests from Community Colleges, Universities and Irish Organisations at the Irish Embassy in Washington DC. to launch ‘The Wishing Chair Foundation’. The Wishing Chair Foundation takes its name from a scenic spot on the Donegal Coastline, and it was the brainchild of Donegal natives Dr. Niamh Hamill, who has been running study abroad programs in Ireland’s Northwest since 2001, and her business partner Mr. John O’Connell.
The Wishing Chair Foundation aims to raise funds to provide scholarships for US Community Colleges who do not have the means to access study abroad programs to Ireland. Ambassador Mulhall spoke about his admiration for Ireland’s diaspora in and his determination to develop and diversify Ireland’s links in the US, including in the education sphere. In addition, he regards the Wishing Chair Foundation as adding a new dimension to this relationship. After a long tradition of Irish emigration to the United States, he said, it was time to ensure that there was a warm welcome for those who wanted to return.
The question came bluntly and succinctly from an African-American Professor I met at a NAFSA conference. She was teaching in a University in the Southern United States, and seeking out study abroad options for her students. Ireland was not top of her list. ‘Why in the world would our students want to go to Ireland?’ she asked incredulously.
I explained to this Professor the profound impact I witnessed, every time African-American students discovered that the civil rights movement in Ireland in 1968 was modelled on the American civil rights movement led by Dr. King, and the shared narrative of discrimination, segregation and persecution. I told her about our Hawaiian, Native American and Hispanic students who identified with the narrative of cultural subjugation and revival. Ireland, I explained, with its cultural history of the grim, the grevious and the grand, provides a template for all American students, wherever their origin.
Irish Tourism focuses much of its resources on catching the 'Irish-American' customer. But studies and forecasts show that less Americans are describing themselves as 'Irish', an increase in non-white U.S. tourists travelling outside the U.S., and that emerging nations are becoming more increasingly appealing to the U.S. tourist. This raises the question; is there longevity for Irish Tourism in the targeted demographic, and can Ireland deliver what they seek?