FARMINGTON – Lots of folks might be worried now about taking a mid-September flight to London, right on the heels of England’s just-foiled terror plot.

Not Ben Bachelder. In a few weeks, he’ll be doing just that.

The 20-year-old University of Maine at Farmington junior will be leaving for Cork, Ireland – by way of London and Dublin – on Sept. 14. He said Friday that he thinks this is one of the safest times to travel.

“I’m actually rather relieved,” he said. “That means it would be extraordinarily unlikely that it would happen again.”

Along with a University of Maine senior, Bachelder was honored this year as one of only two University of Maine system students chosen every year for the George Mitchell Peace Scholarship.

Former U.S. Sen. George J. Mitchell chaired the committee that eventually brokered the Belfast Peace Agreement signed on Good Friday in 1998. The award sends the students to study in Ireland for one semester at either the Cork Institute of Technology or University College Cork. Bachelder competed against students from all University of Maine system schools for the scholarship.

Although it is not specifically a peace studies program, the scholarship brings Maine students to Cork both to act as ambassadors for Maine and the United States, and to learn about another culture.

“They will be representing their schools and their families and their state and their country,” UMF Academic Dean Rob Lively said Friday. “There will be lots of discussions (with Irish peers) about the U.S and it’s role in the world.”

With a major in secondary education social science, Bachelder has a deep interest in history and political science, and said Friday he expects to learn a great deal about the conflict in Northern Ireland when in Cork.

“The Ireland case is certainly notable,” he said. “They actually came up with a peace accord that works pretty well.”

But, like any good college student, Bachelder said his trip is about more than just academics. He has wanted the see the medieval illuminated Book of Kells for ages, he said. And he’s wanted to visit the Giant’s Causeway, on the northwest coast, since second grade.

Lively said in his experience, peace scholars tend to learn a lot about history, culture, and themselves, whatever they’re doing in Ireland. “(They learn) whether they’re sitting in the classroom or sitting in the pub,” he said.



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