In our home we occasionally take students who have been from all over Europe & the Carribean (once); they come to work and study for between a month to three months. I have found it as interesting for us as it has hopefully been for them.
You learn interesting things like the noise a dog barking varies between cultures, that Austrians learn about Bantry Bay in secondary school and that people from Martinique send great presents of sweets and unusual jams. They get to socialise with other people their age and buy clothes in Penny’s. It gives people a face and name to a distant culture What you really learn living with people from different cultures is that we’re all very similar.
On a separate note, I managed to get to Northern Ireland for my first time two years ago, I’ve honestly travelled all over the world but couldn’t convince people to go for a trip North. Last time we were very lucky to get to go to the opening weekend of the Titanic Experience. Great time, great city and great people – it was surreal that it was almost like the republic but with a twist and understandably an edge. Watching the protests of the Union Jack on Belfast City Hall made me think – What are we doing to cement the peace process and get to know each other?
Old dogs do learn new tricks, but young minds find it easier and starting the task of creating understanding by starting with young people avoids a life spent ignorant of others and their outlook. I’m unsure from the bit of online searching I’ve done if there is an equivalent student exchange scheme for teenagers to spend maybe four weeks trading places North & South up on and running but I believe It would bea beneficial and positive development.
Living with families, going to different schools and gaining familiarity with the few differences between our communities so that the similarities become obvious.
If anyone has any ideas if such a scheme exists or maybe an interest in looking into developing the idea further let me know as I think there is merit in it. The best way is to either tweet me @brianstokes2 or leave a comment below.
The next chapter in the story of creating peace on this island is for communities to be brought together and get to know each other, moving from politicians to people.