Admissions Blog Posts

Furman In Northern Ireland, UK

Last updated June 17, 2024

By Charles Frempong


During spring break, my fellow Furman University students and I embarked on a culturally enriching trip, sponsored by the university through the Cothran Center, to explore the deep-seated conflict between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. Our journey took us through Belfast, Ballycastle, and Derry/Londonderry, delving into the 20th-century horrors, the transformative Good Friday Agreement of 1998, and the vital role of Corrymeela – oh my goodness! I loved this place – in fostering peace and reconciliation. This experience turned out to be nothing short of life-changing, providing valuable insights into navigating the complexities of conflict in a safe and supportive space. 


Our adventure kicked off on a crisp Friday afternoon when we concluded our classes and headed for the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport at 1:15 pm, where we first flew to the Charlotte Douglas Airport, then to Heathrow, London, and finally to the George Best Belfast Airport. We reached our destination in Belfast at around 3 pm GMT, after which we immediately checked into our hotel, which again, had been provided for by Furman University, and wasted no time immersing ourselves in the city’s rich history and culture. We explored the city’s mall, the Titanic Museum, The Leaning Tower of Belfast, some mural paintings, and many more. The lively streets set the stage for a week of exploration and discovery, and we had the time of our lives walking through the city and taking several photographs. 


We began our trip on Sunday with a formal exploration of the Black Taxi Cab tour. Led by Jonny, a friendly and knowledgeable local, and guided by the taxi cab drivers, we explored the segregated neighborhoods and schools, witnessing firsthand the divisions between the Protestant and Catholic communities. We visited the “Peace Walls” that served the ironical function of dividing the communities. We then proceeded with a tour of Belfast’s street art, which showcased the city’s resilience and hope for a brighter future. Jonny’s nightly reflections provided us with a space to process the emotional weight of the information we were absorbing and also fostered meaningful discussions among our group. 


On Monday, we took an unexpected turn as we joined “Circusful”, a circus organization, for a day of tricks and team-building. The laughter and camaraderie during the circus activities added a light-hearted touch to our trip. We also visited the Parliament, gaining insights into the political landscape that shapes the region. Later that day, we headed to Ballycastle, home to Corrymeela, a place that would play a pivotal role in our journey. Upon reaching Corrymeela, we dropped our bags and immediately set out to explore the serene surroundings. The breathtaking views, the sea, with Scotland visible in the distance, added a layer of tranquility to our experience. 


Tuesday’s official tour of Ballycastle included visiting some of the world’s oldest preserved graves, and we concluded the day with a delightful treat of locally renowned ice creams. Wednesday took us to Derry/Londonderry, a city marked by a tragic shooting massacre that halted progress for nearly four decades. We listened to witness and tour guide John share his harrowing experiences, providing a deeply emotional and educational insight into the historical event. “It took the British Government 38 years and 120 million pounds worth of investigation to admit that what had happened here was a massacre. I know what I saw that day, and I didn’t need 120 million pounds for that”, John. That statement shook me. Later that day in Derry/Londonderry, we went souvenir shopping. The evening reflection, led by Ms Rollins of the Cothran Center, Dr Liz Smith of the Politics and International Affairs department, and Jonny were, again, great avenues to process and organize our thoughts.



Thursday brought us to Ballintoy Harbor, a picturesque setting where we explored famous Game of Thrones settings and later marveled at the Giant’s Causeway. Amidst the cold and windy weather, we explored the bridge, the hills, and the beachy scene, and enjoyed the long walk down to the Causeway. As we approached Friday, the last day of our journey, the feeling of melancholy set in. We began with an early morning reflection, sing-songs, and a profound sense of camaraderie among our group. Finally, we stood outside to look over the seas for the last time in a long while – at least we sensed that! As we departed Belfast that day, the collective sentiment among us was one of gratitude for the opportunity to navigate the nuances of conflict in a safe space. Finally, we arrived in Belfast again to prepare for our return trip to Furman University. 



The Furman University-sponsored trip to Northern Ireland was undeniably life-changing. We [the students] unanimously agreed that something had changed in us, and I for one, knew that I was no longer scared of having difficult conversations anymore. We had delved into the complicated history of the nation, confronted the nuances of the conflict, and emerged with a heightened awareness of the power of dialogue, reflection, and understanding in the face of adversity. Our week-long exploration left an indelible mark on each participant, and although it feels like a short-lived dream, it has also fostered a commitment to fostering peace and reconciliation in a world often divided by its own histories.

Kobby, ’26