Niall O’Shaughnessy is an undergraduate Law student in UCD, with a minor in Social Justice. In June 2018, Niall travelled to the University of South Carolina to partake in the Study of U.S. Institutes (SUSI) program examining Civic Engagement in the U.S. Niall has a background in volunteering and activism, focusing predominantly on the rights of asylum seekers. He has been to Greece with this work and is a project leader with the ‘Tour the City’ social inclusion project in Dublin.
“Attempting to sum up the 5 weeks I spent in the States as part of the SUSI program is particularly difficult due to the sheer breadth of memorable experiences. The topic of focus, civic engagement, is inherently broad and encompasses issues such as race, democracy and migration.
The group consisted of over 20 European students, with an incredibly diverse range of backgrounds, opinions and experiences. On top of that, having the opportunity to immerse oneself into life in the US during a time of great transition was really exciting. The culmination of all these factors- a wide range of issues, a diverse body of students and the current cultural and political climate of the US- meant that no day looked like the previous. Each week included group discussions and exercises, talks from expert academics, field trips, cultural excursions and first hand volunteering with local community groups.
Having finally had the chance the process such an intensive period of time, I can point to some changes I’ve underwent and the potential future benefits of the SUSI program. First of all, regularly engaging with individuals and opinions I’m unaccustomed to made me question my own levels of tolerance, and also allowed me to question and reaffirm some of my own views. As well as that, the consistent onus on verbal communication has greatly raised my confidence in this area. Finally, I have made so many invaluable connections, both in a personal and professional sense, which I cannot wait to avail of in the future.”