The North Star Project, Summer Report Number Nine, Northern Ireland — Culture Shock, By Megan Hennen Northern Ireland Report #2


The North Star Project, Summer Report Number Nine, Northern Ireland — Culture Shock, By Megan Hennen Northern Ireland Report #2

Having been abroad for about a week and a half, I still hadn’t encountered much culture shock due to our intensive learning on the history and politics of Northern Ireland. It wasn’t until we got out of the classroom for two ‘orientation’ field trips. These field trips were taken in the last week of classes before our group was to split in half and divide between two major cities of the tiny country for the internship segment of the program. It was during these field trips that the culture shock had finally arrived.

Our first field trip was to the city of Derry/Londonderry, home to a significant event of the Troubles, Bloody Sunday. Derry (as the Irish Catholics would refer to the city) is home to a predominantly Catholic Republican population, however, there are certain parts of town that are especially Catholic Republican, one of them being the Bogside (the part of town where Bloody Sunday took place). In the Bog you would find a plethora of Irish Tricolor flags, Irish Republican Army (a revolutionary military organization commonly called the IRA) graffiti and more importantly some of the infamous political murals. Then we went to another side of town called the Fountain Estate.

The Fountain is the miniscule Protestant neighborhood on the city side of the town they’d call Londonderry. Here you’d find the red, white, and blue of the Union Jack on all corners of the wall surrounding this Protestant community. This wall was the most shocking thing I had seen. We had learned about them in class, but there’s nothing like seeing it for yourself. These walls (called ‘peace lines’) had been constructed as a means of protection. Because there’s such a small Protestant population, they have been the targets of Republican violence (paint bombs, petrol bombs, shootings, etc.). Although the Fountain doesn’t see nearly as much violence today, the Protestant community does not yet feel safe enough to have them torn down. How’s that for culture shock?

[Images] TOP LEFT: Peace line with the Fountain to the left of wall BOTTOM LEFT: Union Jack painted on garage signifying British pride MIDDLE: Bloody Sunday mural in the Bogside RIGHT: Tricolor on top of a light post and IRA graffiti in the Bog
For all of the North Star Project 2013-2014 Reports, see
For all of the North Star Project 2013 Summer Reports, see

The North Star Project 2013-2014 School Year Reports: The Middle Ground Journal’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our K-12 outreach program. We also welcome Duluth East High School, Dodge Middle School and other schools around the world to the North Star Project. The North Star Project has flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see recent articles in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. We have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches here, and report on their interactions with the North Star Project students and teachers.

Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA

(c) 2013-present The Middle Ground Journal. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.


Filed under Megan Hennen, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

10 responses to “The North Star Project, Summer Report Number Nine, Northern Ireland — Culture Shock, By Megan Hennen Northern Ireland Report #2

  1. Austin

    It amazes me how different sects of Christendom clash even to this day. These borders still exist in America today in many small towns where the town will be split in a similar fashion between the two denominations. Does Ireland have a Church Tax similar to Germany? Thank you for sharing the culture shock experience in relation to religion! Its not something I would even think of when picturing modern day Ireland.

  2. Morgan Schmitz

    I think what is more interesting is that it took you so long to have culture shock. It goes to show that although you are in a different country, things are still very similar to what we are used to.

  3. Bri Curtis

    It is so true that hearing about something is completely detached from seeing it in real life! I also find it interesting the idea of murals. In my home town we had several, and it seemed to always express a prominent idea such as diversity, community, and it tries to reflect something off of the place it is put and onto the people it attracts! I have always wanted to travel abroad to Ireland!

  4. Zhiyu Yang

    It is very interesting when referring to culture shock. The author points out in this report that the culture shock is more powerful when we see it indeed than only learn it from classes. Before I came to America, I have already learned English for 12 years and learned American culture in classroom, through movies and music, etc. However, when I finally began my study here, I realized that what I learned before was just the tip of the iceberg.Back to the report, the author noticed the influence of religion and politics in the Fountain Estate. I also had a better understanding of those two areas after I lived in America for several months. Culture shock is a thing that deserves a long time to adjust it. And only touch or see it indeed can let us see its power.

  5. Mitch VanTatenhove

    This is a interesting read! I have always been interested in culture shock, and Ireland is one of those places id love to visit. The only culture shock I have experienced was during a trip to southern Mexico where we visited rural areas. Definitely an eye opener!

  6. Steffanie

    Being that I have a lot of irish heritage I really would to travel to Ireland some day. This information is really interesting to know because of that reason, and it would be great to do some more research know that I have a base to go from.

  7. If you think about Ireland most would say it’s relatively similar to USA. We are both largely christian and have a large AG community as well. This is why at first the idea of culture shock while there baffled me, but once I finished the article and thought about it, it really wasn’t surprising at all. I can go to some other place of the USA and still get culture shock, so of course traveling to a different country is going to bring about a lot of new discoveries.

  8. Katy Goerke

    In the US it is easy for people to draw culture along racial lines, Little Somalia is a distinct part of Mineapolis, looking like a third world country complete with derelict buildings and people with darker skin. However comunities like this show that it is not the skin color alone that makes the difference rather the values of the community that make the difference.

  9. Miranda King

    This difference in cultures shows just how different the parts of the world can be. I can’t imagine the different religious backgrounds causing such an uproar to the point of people not feeling safe it today’s time. I’m sure these lines exist all over. I would be shocked to see it for myself.

  10. Becca

    I think this article gives an interesting perspective on culture shock. It’s amazing how much different sects of religion can clash and cause harm. I generally don’t think about having much of a culture shock happening in Ireland or the rest of the U.K., but I think this article is a great example of how different other places in the world can be.

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