About The Program

The Northern Ireland Semester focuses upon ongoing and productive efforts to foster peace and reconciliation in local communities in Northern Ireland. For students who attend the program, the centerpiece of the semester is working in participation with local community groups who are dedicated to and heavily involved in the day to day, on the ground facilitiation of processes which aim to foster peace in Northern Ireland.

The NI Semester is based in two geographic locations, Derry /Londonderry or Belfast, but student involvement with community groups may take place elsewhere in Northern Ireland. Swarthmore students do the program under the College's Semester/Year Abroad Program and will register and take classes with the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin, at their Belfast Campus. Students may register for one semester or two and there will be possibilities for summer research and/or service work in Northern Ireland arising from participation in the program.

The establishment of this program is grounded in exploratory work that has been under way for several years, involving a number of Swarthmore faculty members, partners and colleagues in Northern Ireland, colleagues from other American schools, and Swarthmore's Foreign Study Office. This exploration has been undertaken with the encouragement of the Swarthmore College administration. Since 2008, 11 Swarthmore students have participated in the Swarthmore College NI Semester.

Tragically, many parts of the world provide us with opportunities to study, and perhaps be involved in, peace and reconciliation processes. Those of us who have been involved in the Northern Ireland Semester experience believe that Northern Ireland is a particularly felicitous location for a foreign study program which focuses upon same for a number of reasons (in no order of priority):

  • It is a small place and, socially, it is an intimate place. Sometimes, in Northern Ireland, it seems as if everybody knows everybody.
  • So also is it an informal place, overflowing with personal warmth and hospitality and friendliness. This enables easy (and pleasurable!) accessibility to individuals and groups. Students participating in this program will know informally and work and socialize with numerous key figures and groups - outside of the government, and sometimes inside as well - involved in peace work.
  • English is the lingua franca: no language learning involved (but socially proper use of our shared language will have to be worked on. This occurs any time any one goes to another English speaking cultural, or sub cultural, setting).
  • Program students will be registered as visiting students at the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin, at their Belfast Campus, with access to the full range of student services and student life afforded by the University.
  • Northern Ireland has been engaged in its peace and reconciliation process since the early 1990's. Whilst the peace process is ongoing, overall Northern Ireland is a safe place and there are no unusual safety concerns for foreign studies students.
  • If you like to learn more, contact Rosa Bernard, Off Campus Studies Office, or Dr. Denise Crossan, Regional Director for the NI Semester.