Boston College students studying abroad in Ireland and the United Kingdom were alerted last month by the administration to the subpoenas of the Belfast Project, an oral history project undertaken by the University in the early 2000s that has ignited much discussion both abroad and in the United States. Students abroad have stated that they have not felt in danger since arriving in Ireland, and many were unaware of the legal case until receiving the letter.
“I was a little surprised by the letter because I hadn’t heard anything about it before and that was the first time our coordinator had contacted us since we arrived in Ireland,” said Julia Krakow, A&S ’13, who is studying abroad in Cork, Ireland. “So I would say [the letter] was definitely more discomforting than comforting. I thought the e-mail was a little over the top. Maybe the situation is more serious in Northern Ireland, but from what I’ve seen in Cork, no one even knows anything about it.”
Other students abroad in Ireland made similar comments, saying that they had not experienced any sort of controversy due to the project.
“I am currently studying abroad in Cork in the south of Ireland and, despite the area’s historic involvement with the IRA, I cannot even say the whole Belfast e-mail has changed anything at all,” said Molly Moltzen, A&S ’13.
At the time the letter was sent, University Spokesman Jack Dunn pointed out that the letter was not intended to scare students or make them nervous about being abroad as BC students.
“The letter was our way of reminding students to follow common sense guidelines for an issue that is likely never to materialize,” Dunn said.
The letter made specific suggestions to students, which included avoiding wearing BC apparel when visiting cities like Belfast and avoiding discussing the politics of Northern Ireland in public.
“I was a bit taken aback that the e-mail advised against wearing BC clothing, so I asked a few of my Irish friends about the issue and for the most part, none of them had heard about it,” Krakow said. “One friend said he heard something on the news about it, but no one really thinks it’s as big of an issue as the e-mail made it out to be.”
Though the letter was disconcerting to some, it was also informative for students who had not heard of the situation previously.
“At the very worst, it felt a bit disconcerting, but that’s how a warning or a safety precaution is supposed to feel,” said Peter Tasca, A&S ’13. “Apart from some friends talking to me about it in private, no one’s approached me.”
The letter also stated a firm belief that students abroad were not in danger.
“Please know that we do not believe that you are at risk in any way, and that we fully expect that your semester abroad will be an exciting and rewarding experience,” the letter read. “Our intention in writing is to alert you to an ongoing issue so that you will continue to use good judgment in all of your dealings overseas.”
Students studying abroad stated that they have not felt threatened, and many have joked about the letter with the Irish friends they’ve made since arriving.