Pro­moting reli­gious tol­er­ance among Catholics and Protes­tants in Northern Ire­land has encour­aged North­eastern Uni­ver­sity junior Tess McCarthy to con­sider a career in con­flict res­o­lu­tion among Israelis and Pales­tinians in the Middle East.

I’m drawn to the poten­tial of changing someone’s life,” said McCarthy, an inter­na­tional affairs major with a minor in Middle Eastern studies.

As much as I realize how incred­ibly dif­fi­cult and unre­al­istic peace is at this cur­rent moment, con­flict res­o­lu­tion is not simply some­thing that will happen today, tomorrow, or even a year from now, but rather some­thing that we all have to pro­gres­sively work toward.”

During a co-​​op last fall, McCarthy wrote newslet­ters, edited reports and orga­nized events for the Northern Ire­land Council for Inte­grated Edu­ca­tion. The Belfast-​​based vol­un­tary orga­ni­za­tion sup­ports a learning envi­ron­ment in which roughly equal num­bers of Catholic and Protes­tant chil­dren, par­ents and teachers can thrive.

McCarthy, who vis­ited some 20 inte­grated schools in Northern Ire­land, found that solving con­flicts starts with edu­cating children.

We have to start from the ground up and work with the youngest gen­er­a­tion,” said McCarthy, who com­pleted a Dia­logue of Civ­i­liza­tions pro­gram in Israel in prepa­ra­tion for her expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­nity in Belfast.

Most of the reli­gious hos­tility in Northern Ire­land is rooted in the older gen­er­a­tion,” she said. “The younger gen­er­a­tion only cares about it because that men­tality is instilled at a young age.”

Chil­dren often defined an inte­grated school as one in which kids with blond, brown and red hair sat side by side. As McCarthy put it, “Their last answer was that it was a reli­gious thing.”

McCarthy, who lived in Belfast with friends of her man­ager, loved her inter­na­tional expe­ri­ence so much that she con­sid­ered pur­suing a study-​​abroad pro­gram at Queen’s Uni­ver­sity in Belfast before ulti­mately deciding to return to Northeastern.

Her co-​​op in Northern Ire­land was “a great oppor­tu­nity,” she said. “I took a leap and it all worked out.”