Now that I am settled into the work side of my internship, I am finally getting to know the people at both my organization and my housemates. I started the week working on interview questions for Michelle to be used for evaluation of her projects. I learned that the process started backwards with the aims of the project and then created questions that would help decide if those aims were met. For example: The Aim- Decrease in stereotyping and negative attitudes toward difference. The Question- Have you noticed any change in student attitudes towards other cultures? I enjoyed the process of creating questions and selecting teachers for interviews because it gave me a chance to understand the project and will allow me to talk one-on-one with the participants of the projects.
I also started to feel more comfortable in the office and around my co-workers. I started asking questions about their families and a whole range of topics. The office has a very casual environment and casual conversations are encouraged throughout the day. At first all the conversation centered on my experiences in Spain and traveling, but then I asked about their children and where they were from and how they came to Co-operation Ireland. This week we also started to discuss more sensitive topics such as the politics behind cross community and cross border work. Many of my co-workers expressed their frustrations with the extreme oversight of some of the funding bodies and their belief that their work was a long and slow process. I asked a lot of questions about the peace process and about their own opinions of the change in Northern Ireland over the last decade. Towards the end of the week I got a chance to talk to Anthony, the office manager, about what I wanted from my internship and how I felt about the projects I was working on currently. I expressed my interest in working on project development and delivery. He was very open to me exploring new opportunities and offering me possible contacts to find ways to get more involvement. We both acknowledged that this would be a very tough time to find that direct contact simply because most of the projects are coming to an end.
After work I spent most of my time with my housemates. I am living in a great apartment with three girls who are all studying at Queen’s University in Pharmacy. They all identify themselves as Irish and come from a small town about two hours from Belfast. We talked a lot about the division between the two communities. In many ways the girls I live with are very much accepting of sharing society with Protestants, but to a certain extent they live separate lives from many Protestants. To them, the conflict is in the past and they believe that it is the older generation that must give up what has happened and move on. However, there are still elements of their lives that follow the patterns of society to keep people of different religions separated. For example, all of the girls went to catholic high school and university. They also still feel very uncomfortable with many of the Protestant holidays and traditions and joke about Protestant stereotypes. They made it clear to me that they have nothing against Protestants; in fact two of the girls are dating Protestants, but that it is still common to make jokes and somewhat inappropriate comments about the opposite community. These talks have helped me understand the community a lot better.