US vice president Kamala Harris has commended future US participants of a prestigious exchange program to Ireland and spoken of the benefits of creating friendships around the globe that come with study abroad opportunities.
Almost 8,000 Irish citizens go to the US annually on private and government funded exchange opportunities
The Council on International Educational Exchange 2021 Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship gives diverse student leaders the chance to attend a four-week summer study abroad program in Ireland.
The program will focus on leadership, intercultural communication, and social justice, and participants will also be able to explore the life stories and legacies of abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Daniel O’Connell.
“This fellowship program, led by the CIEE, gives students in the United States, students of colour, the opportunity to study abroad,” Harris said. “This year’s fellowship program is very special.”
Ireland’s department of Foreign Affairs will co-sponsor the 2021 Frederick Douglass Global Fellows in Dublin, Ireland, to honour the 175th anniversary of the meeting between 27-year-old abolitionist Douglass and the Irish reformer O’Connell in Dublin in 1845.
“You will create friendships around the globe”
The 14 participants will be joined by the 2020 fellows who were unable to travel to Cape Town, South Africa, last summer due to Covid-19.
“You will create friendships around the globe as an extension of the work we do as a country to inspire and to work on and to build on the friendships we have around the world,” Harris added.
One of the 2021 fellows, Brielle Smith – who attends Harris’s alma mater Howard University – said the experience in Ireland will add to her aspirations of working in government affairs.
“I need to know how to communicate with people from all walks of life, how to understand any and everybody that comes across my path for their unique differences and for the things that we share similarly,” she told The PIE.
“Frederick Douglass has a vital and valued legacy on either side of the Atlantic and my government is delighted to mark the 175th anniversary of his historic tour of Ireland by welcoming 20 brilliant American students from minority backgrounds to follow in the great abolitionist’s footsteps and learn of the influential relationship between Daniel O’Connell and Frederick Douglass,” Irish taoiseach Micheál Martin explained at the launch event.
University of Miami criminology student Paul Douillon added that studying overseas will provide new perspectives, highlighting an example of a past experience in London, where he noticed the majority of police officers do not carry guns.
“[I look] at our own criminal justice system here in the US and just found it to be such a huge contrast. And so I think it’s important that we travel, we see things that work and what doesn’t work in other places.
“Personally, I want to go into legislation someday and actually correct some of these wrongs that have been done, especially to minority groups. And so travelling out there and seeing these differences, it really helps me to be able to know what we should implement and [what] change [we need] to create here in the US.”
According to the White House, prior to the pandemic, per capita Ireland host the largest number of American study abroad students in the world, totalling 12,000 each year.
Almost 8,000 Irish citizens go to the US annually on private and government funded exchange opportunities, and it is committed to preserving and strengthening that bond through educational, cultural, and professional exchange and development opportunities.
The Biden administration looks forward to “restarting and growing” programs such as the Exchange Visitor Program and the Ireland Intern Work and Travel program.
“We know this group of exceptional students will have a similar transformative experience in Ireland”
“Frederick Douglass was transformed by his time in Ireland and returned to America in 1847 as a free man, spending the next 50 years of his life agitating for positive change in our world,” said James P. Pellow, president and CEO of CIEE.
“We know this group of exceptional students will have a similar transformative experience in Ireland and return home with enhanced skills and passion to change our world for the better.”
“You learn a lot in the classroom, but upon personal experience, when I reflect on what I’ve learnt throughout my entire life, the most important lessons have come outside of the classroom,” concluded Harvard University student Carolina Jimenez.
“You really have to live the experience yourself, meet new people, challenge yourself, put yourself in uncomfortable situations, and even sometimes break down some misconceptions and preconceptions that we have.
“I think [that] is really only possible by immersing yourself in another culture that is not familiar to our own and really challenging yourself and putting yourself in these different positions. [I am] extremely thankful that CIEE is allowing us to do so this upcoming summer in Ireland.”
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