group of students seated in a circle on a hill with northern Ireland in the distance

Study Abroad Fair is first step for students to learn about experiential learning

For Ellen Shupe, professor of psychology, seeing how students are changed and impacted by study abroad trips keeps her coming back as a faculty leader for the Northern Ireland study abroad program.

After going on dozens of trips in Northern Ireland, and also Nicaragua, Shupe said she still finds every journey to be “so enriching, so valuable, and very, very rewarding.”

Northern Ireland is one of many study abroad programs offered at Grand Valley. Students can learn more about these programs by visiting the Study Abroad Fair, hosted by the Padnos International Center, on October 17 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. in the Kirkhof Center's Grand River Room.

Ellen Shupe pictured outside near a rock wall
Ellen Shupe, professor of psychology, has led study abroad trips to Ireland and Nicaragua. Shupe and other faculty directors will be available to answer questions Tuesday during the Study Abroad Fair.

Working in Northern Ireland, Shupe and her students learn about the psychology of conflict, studying the late 20th-century conflict known as the Troubles. During this trip, Shupe said she and students will meet with people who work with trauma victims and talk to leaders who are a part of the reconciliation process. 

Many schools in Ireland are segregated by the conflict, either Catholic or Protestant. Shupe’s group will work with one of the few integrated schools in the region. Shupe said the group will visit these institutions and see how reconciliation can unfold at the grassroots level. 

While Shupe is a huge advocate for independent travel, she said there is something inherently different about traveling as an educational group. 

“The discussion and the self-reflection that is built into the course make it qualitatively different,” said Shupe. “It is kind of magical when everything comes together. It sparks their interest in travel, and in learning about people with different experiences and backgrounds."

Thomas Garrett is a student writer for University Communications. Garrett, a native of Stevensville, is a senior who is majoring in writing.

group of students standing on top of a rock formation
In Northern Ireland, students will learn about the culture and history of the area.


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