A different kind of spring break

For many students, spring break means an escape from the pressures of academia, a few free days when there is little need to do more than eat, sleep, and indulge in other pleasurable pursuits. It’s an ideal that has been pedaled by every cultural outlet from Hollywood to MTV.

But for a select group of Furman students, the break will undoubtedly prove to be something completely different from the images of idleness splashed across television screens. In a trip led by the university’s Cothran Center for Vocational Reflection, some students are in Northern Ireland this week to explore issues at the crossroads of social conflict, politics, and faith. It’s a part of the world that has been marked by intense social upheaval in recent decades.

“Northern Ireland is a natural connection for our program,” says Eric Cain, the Cothran Center’s program director. “When we think of a place, we want to think of justice issues, international humanitarian efforts, and faith and social action.”

The trip, a part of the center’s annual FOCUS program will be led by both Cothran Center staff and Furman faculty. The group is lodging in Belfast and visiting the Corrymeela Community, a group dedicated to promoting unity in Ireland through inter-faith dialogue.

For Susan D’Amato, Ph.D, a professor of physics and one of the faculty members leading the trip, the journey will hopefully give the students insight into not only the history and culture of a new place, but an idea of their lives beyond Furman.

“The point of the trip is to provide an opportunity for students who are thinking about their vocation, their calling in life, and to immerse them in a new experience that will enable them to learn about the particular place where they’re visiting and also reflect on some of the bigger issues like humanitarian service and social justice,” she says.

(Ireland image courtesy of Shutterstock)