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Student from Northern Ireland Works to Promote a Shared Future
06.18.14 |
The term “mixed marriage” can have different meanings in the United States. However, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the term generally means a marriage between a Catholic and Protestant. Scott Kelly, a child of such a marriage, spent the spring 2014 semester at The Valley on an exchange program supported by The British Council to promote a shared future for Northern Ireland.

The British Council delivers a wide range of programs with the goal of creating global partnerships, including 75 full scholarships for Catholic and Protestant students to spend a year studying business in the U.S. About 300 U.S. colleges and universities compete to host these high-achieving Irish students.

Students are selected from a wide pool of candidates based on interviews with government officials, academic requirements, and other stringent criteria. Kelly was a beneficiary of one of these prestigious scholarships and in fall 2013 was initially placed through a random process at a college in Louisiana. “I was able to play and coach soccer, have my own radio show, and get involved in some other opportunities there,” said Kelly. “However, I wasn’t prepared for the culture shock. It wasn’t the U.S. that is depicted in the media back home.”

Kelly sought a new adventure and found out on December 15 that The British Council was sending him to Lebanon Valley College, the first Council student to attend LVC. If Kelly has his way, he will have been the first of many. “I can’t thank Jill Russell [LVC’s director of study abroad], the friends I made at LVC, and my professors, enough,” said Kelly. “Jill helped me in so many ways, including taking me around campus and setting me up with a friend and guide, Adam Fuehrer ’17. I know we will remain friends for life.”

Through Fuehrer and other new friends, Kelly was able to become involved in ValleyFest, LVC’s annual spring arts festival, and Vale, the College’s student-run record label. “I think it is really interesting that LVC offers such a unique opportunity for its students through Vale.”

Kelly, who attends the University of Ulster back home, is studying geography with the intention of doing urban planning. First, he will pursue a master’s degree in environmental planning at Queen’s University in Belfast. Kelly noted that though the educational systems differ extensively between the two countries, with students much more independent in the UK [no residence halls, no real student-faculty relationships], both systems have their strengths.

“At LVC, Professor [Treva] Clark, who was also my advisor, was great, as were all my professors” said Kelly. “They were wonderful at including me in classroom discussions, asking my opinions and perspectives as a native of Ireland. They made it humorous and comfortable, and the LVC staff and faculty were always available to me if I needed any help.”

Kelly wants to share his outstanding LVC experience with future British Council selectees and also hopes to “turn the tables” and help LVC students study in his country through the American Scholars Program. “I hope that LVC students will soon be studying at Queen’s University in Belfast, receiving an international education and cultural experience, while still finding time to surf in Port Stewart Strand and play world-class golf in Port Rush,” said Kelly with pride.

“Studying abroad doesn’t only teach you about other cultures; it teaches you about your own culture,” added Kelly. “I hope I’m the turning point to get more Irish students to LVC and to get LVC students to study in Ireland. I would love to come back to the College in 5 to 10 years and see an established partnership.” 

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