What Ulster Means To Me...

Teen Comments about their Experiences

Emma 2006The UP changed me in many ways.  It helped me to gain confidence and trust in myself.

Simon 2000Favorite event UP_  Definitely Independence Day. – having never been to America before, it was just a wonderful and quite magical experience – the parade, the parties, the fireworks, and the patriotism – unforgettable.

Simon 2000Being a teen and  counselor on the project has helped me gain significant insight into what teens want from their lives – and how their faith, values and family/friends shape that.  In many ways when I was 16 and came back that summer, I was more of a man, that period of time had changed me – changed how I saw people, not as a label but as individuals who are actually more like you than you think – and I at least hope I was able to encourage others to think similarly, to engage with their faith and God, and to see how treating others fairly, treating others and loving others like Jesus did, unconditionally, can make a difference. …the bonds and friendships that you made in that summer/those summers are for life.

Tyler 2004More conscientious of the world?   Very much so.  We are rather sheltered from the problems in the world in America and the project gave us a glimpse second hand at a real world issue.  

Tyler  2004The UP was probably one of the most fun and memorable experiences that I have ever had.  It was one of the best summers of my life and I gained friends from home, and overseas.  I would recommend this project to anyone who is interested in world culture and making a difference.  Not only will it be the most fun month of your life, but it will be an experience you take with you the rest of your life. 

Debra 2001I would say that the project changed me more as a person, which probably plays into my career choices and other decisions in life, maybe without me even knowing it.  I learned that people of all backgrounds, and in our case religious backgrounds, could be friends.  At the time I did the project I was still pretty shy, but the experience helped my break out of that a little bit and now after my college experience, I am much more outgoing.

Debra 2001The UP remains one of the best things I ever did with my summer.  I honestly can’t believe it’s been 8 years already since I participated in it.  It’s really one of my fondest memories.  I remember feeling hesitant about giving up a month of my time or giving up what I thought would be my freedom, but ultimately I’m so glad I chose to do it because I gained so much more.  Those four weeks are forever shared between 24 teenagers and four counselors, but it’s even cooler that we share the experience with an even bigger Ulster community around the nation.  I really made great friendships during the project and felt supported by this group of people.  The night we had to say goodbye was just so sad, and my eyes were red from crying so much.  I’ve had the chance to see some of my group from time to time.  I was lucky enough to have visited Ireland last year and saw Nicola for the first time since the project as well as two other people from my year and one of the counselors and his family.  It was great.  I would highly encourage anyone who’s thinking about participating to do so.  It was such a fun time!

Emma 2008 - UP has taught me to not be afraid.

Emma 2008It's weird how a month can change your life, but it does.  You make life long friends, and ultimately learn that barriers put in place by the culture you live in, don’t matter.  I learnt that diversity isn’t a dirty word, it’s something to be celebrated…. What’s great about Ulster, is that I now have new friends in tow continents, and it is their friendship that keeps Ulster alive.  Always…

Susan 2007The UP opened my eyes to another world, and I am eternally grateful.  I don’t regret anything about the project and I will carry lessons and experiences from it for the rest of my life!   

Paul 2005 (Counselor)I think more about how my decisions will affect others, and whether or not my choices are Christ centered.   I was moved from a self-centered way of thinking to a way of thinking centered around others and finally to more of a Christ-centered way of thinking…

Rachel 2003I may not be going back to a country divided by religion, but I live in a place where stereotypes and divisions remain.  It takes small steps to make the world better, but through the Ulster Project I will now be able to take those steps more firmly.   Overall, our group has come to realize that what ultimately matters is what a person has to offer spiritually, emotionally and mentally, and that what has been given to us is not for us to judge, but rather to be used as a guide for life.   I leave you with a quote by Mario, a Catholic organizer of the UP, to hopefully help you understand what this month has meant:  “Peace begins with me”.  

Annie, NI counselor 2000-2004The main reason the project is based in America, because they can experience mutual respect and the freedom to be who they are.  They have lived it for a month.  It’s a reality, not an image they see on TV…. 

Belfast Mom  2000It is my belief that Anna grew in maturity; she is now a few years older and has a respect for all types of people.  She is proud of her own faith while at the same time respects diversity… 

From a poem by Matthew  2006
…Soon we were a group; individuals no more,
With a vital agenda to settle the score;
To attempt to bring peace to our violent nation
With no more hatred, division or segregation.

Keith 1975 - Having been on the first ever UP to Manchester Conn. In 1975 as a teen and now working alongside my friend Mario as joint co-coordinators (Mario was on that same first Project) the mission and purpose of the UP still burns as bright now as it did 32 years ago.  … I owe so much in my life to the vision, sacrifice and determination of the people and my American family 32 years ago who helped take a teenager with fears and helped in the process of shaping me into the person God intended me to be.  Many, many young people and adults now have that same story to tell.  The mission and focus for us in Portadown….and across Northern Ireland is still as strong.