During the month of July, junior softball player Bailey Sims went to Northern Ireland with Belmont's Study Abroad Program. With her group, she took classes at Queen's College, established new friendships, and explored many areas of the British Isles. Recently, Bailey spoke with BelmontBruins.com about her experiences this past summer.
Where did you study abroad this summer?
Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland
What classes did you take?
We were enrolled in Queen's Conflict Transformation Summer School Programme which is a part of the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security, and Justice. It equates to a six hour block that will be accredited to my upper level humanities/history class as well as Junior Cornerstone/3rd year religion.
What was your favorite memory?
Our first weekend in Belfast, a group of us went to a church that we found online—because, how else would you find a church halfway across the world? As soon as we got out of the taxi we were welcomed by a family who were so happy to bring us into their church. They immediately made us feel welcomed and were so interested in what we were studying at Queen's. Throughout the morning, conversations continued and eventually they invited us to visit their farm out in the countryside to allow us to have another perspective of the country.
Fast-forward to our last week in Northern Ireland—we had the opportunity to go visit the farm. They picked us up from the train station and took us for a drive down the Irish Sea. We made a pit stop at a local beach where they bought us fish and chips. We continued the journey back across land, over to the Strangford Lough, and then walked up to the top of a hill that had views of the Irish Sea, the Lough, pasture land, and Belfast way off in the distance. Our final stop was a visit to their cows and sheep.
On our walk back to the car, Iain, the father, started talking about how much he has learned since acquiring sheep in the past three years. He shared that working with his "stupid sheep" has given him a whole new perspective of God's love and faithfulness. As we approached a swing gate, Iain explained if he were to open once side of the gate for the sheep to go through, they would try to go under the closed side of the gate instead of taking the clear path he had made for them. He laughed at just how hard-headed and stupid sheep can be, just like us. Yet, His love never fails.
As amazing as our whole trip was, I continuously find myself thinking back to this day and that conversation with Iain. His sweet family was beyond gracious and little do they know just how much their hospitality meant to a group of girls from Belmont University.
Is there a specific place that you would go back and visit? If so, where and why?
I would love to go back to Scotland! We flew to Edinburgh for our last weekend abroad and we all absolutely fell in love with the place. It was a completely different feel than what we had grown accustomed to on the Irish island. Being that we only had two days in Edinburgh, we didn't have the opportunity to venture out much. I would love to go to the Highlands and other parts of the country, and definitely make a stop back in Edinburgh.
What was the thing that surprised you the most about the culture and surroundings?
Probably the thing I expected the least was that I would forget I wasn't in America. The first couple weeks, a few of us would laugh about how much it felt like we were still in the States. If it weren't for the accents and verbiage, it wouldn't have really felt like we were "abroad."
How was the food? What was your favorite meal?
The food was much better than I expected. You don't really hear anything too great about British or Irish food. But, it was a pleasant surprise to have access to any food you could imagine within a mile walk from our stay. My favorite meal was on our last night, we went to a café in City Centre that was recommended by the family we met at church. I had some sort of spiced honey chicken skewers and sweetcorn and black pepper soup. It was absolutely amazing. Of course, you have to finish it off with a caramel brownie. It's probably best that we did not find this place until the last night because it was the best brownie I have ever had.
Would you recommend other Belmont student-athletes (or students) go on this trip?
Absolutely! If you're looking for a trip with access to an abundance of brilliant people, this is the trip to be on. We had lectures every day from 9:30-4, which included three lectures, each of which being a different lecturer. We heard from some of the most well-renown people about their area of expertise as well as took plenty of field trips to different parts of the country. Our field trips included a trip to Galway, Dublin, the Cliffs of Moher, The Giant's Causeway, the Titanic, Game of Thrones, a peace walls tour, and more. The sights were absolutely unreal and the people were amazing. I would highly recommend this trip!