Enchanting Education on the Emerald Isle: Pilot Program Kicks Off

an ocean view of rocky cliffs

Our view.

Picture this: A Davidson College professor, students and a stuffed toy cat perched on a stack of hexagonal rocks overlooking the Irish Sea. 

To understand how we ended up here, let’s rewind to the morning of May 25, in the Dublin Airport. Sixteen students arrived excited, albeit jetlagged, and ready to jump into a summer abroad. From school visits to paddle boarding, conversations with politicians, and tours of city hall, Davidson in Northern Ireland covered it all, making for some photogenic moments along the way.

Student photographer Sydney Schertz ’24 documented the trip. Here are some highlights, selected by Schertz.

a large library with vaulted ceilings and people staring up around them

We kicked things off in Dublin, touring the Book of Kells and the Old Library, two historical landmarks of Trinity College’s campus. We also explored the city via scavenger hunt, walking tours, and an essential (culturally-relevant) stop into the Guinness Storehouse at St. James’ Gate.

a group of students on a boat smiling and holding beverages

After a few days in Dublin, we headed to Belfast, our home for the next five weeks. We got acquainted with the town, local restaurants, and our Ulster University hosts. Through an Ulster  and Davidson partnership, we would soon dive into discussions on Northern Ireland’s intricate history and its influence on contemporary educational systems.

a small city with green trees and old brick buildings
a dark and cozy pub filled with wooden floors and benches
a group of scholars and adults sit around an ovular conference table in a large conference room

As our studies began, we toured Belfast City Hall and Northern Ireland’s Parliamentary Building, or Stormont. Each visit brought additional nuance to our conversations.

a large state building with columns and a domed roof
a group of students stand in front of a large white structure with a sprawling green lawn in front

We filled the next few weeks with lively discussions, incredible views, and great company. After a week of class and school visits, we drove up to the northern coast, stopping to paddleboard and kayak in the Irish Sea. Yes, it was as cold as you might imagine. 

a rocky coastline with blue skies and green grass
a group of students in wetsuits standing in front of a beach with their paddleboards

This takes us to the Giant’s Causeway. After a morning of ocean activities, we trekked down to the landmark that gets its name from a folktale. Mountain on one side, ocean on the other, the Giant’s Causeway was a trip highlight.  

a large conical green mountain surrounded by rocks

We visited local primary and secondary schools, engaging with teachers and students  to gain valuable insight into educational policy and practice in Northern Ireland.

a group of college aged and middle school students sit around a table eating and talking
a group of college and middle school students standing in front of a brick building
a group of students standing in front of a brick building school with large statues

We also played Gaelic Football, a popular sport in Ireland. It essentially combines rules from soccer and rugby–with a few curve balls thrown in.

a student wearing a Davidson shirt kicks a soccer ball in an indoor field
a male wearing athletics throws a soccer ball while in an indoor field

Nature offered a true green theme. We explored beautiful hills, sandy beaches, and colorful towns. The craggy rock beaches and lush colored grasses will forever stand out to me.

a group of three women sit on a bench overlooking the sea
a green plot of land surrounded by hedges and a old cottage

As our program came to a close, we soaked in as much of the city and culture as possible. Small groups took the renowned Black Cab Tours led by locals who were experts on the history of the violent sectarian conflict known as “The Troubles”. This period, which spanned the 1960s to 1990s, has left a tangible impact on Northern Ireland society. 

Our time in Northern Ireland was academically and personally enriching. We experienced new cultures, gained invaluable knowledge, and forged new friendships.


  • November 30, 2023