Signs pointing to Belfast?

I don’t consider myself a particularly superstitious person, but I do look for signs in my life that sometimes help guide me in one direction or another when making decisions. Of course I don’t feel compelled to take a particular path, but I have noticed that when I see these signs and ignore them, I later wish that I had paid them more attention. I’m faced with the decision of choosing the school that I will attend to pursue a Ph.d., and have made a commitment make a choice by the end of this semester.

As I have mentioned (more than a few times) here, the most likely candidates are University of Otago in New Zealand and Queen’s University-Belfast. Today, a small sign appeared…

I was at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai’i, attending to our college’s display and preparing to explain to representatives of the visitor industry (today’s invited guests) about our college’s participation in the establishment of the center. The exhibition hall was empty as most of the crowd was still in the outer reception area, when a lone gentleman walked in and approached our display. I greeted him, and when he returned my greeting I detected a strong Irish accent. I asked him if he was from Ireland, and he smiled and replied “Yes.” I introduced myself in Irish “Is mise Keola, cad é mar atá tú?” (I suspected that the accent was from the north, but wasn’t sure) He seemed a bit surprised, but smiled, and replied that he was from the north, and they didn’t use much Irish there. I asked what area he was from, and he replied “Belfast.” I mentioned that I was considering going to Queen’s for doctoral study; he smiled broadly and said that he received his BA at Queen’s. I was about to ask him about the school and living in the area, and before I could get it out he expressed how wonderful the school was, and that the area around the University was a great place to live. He offered his phone number and let me know he’d be happy to talk further about the University and the area if I decided to enroll there. (He works for the US Department of Agriculture and lives on the island now).

A sign, or a coincidence? I had posted here just last week, soliciting people’s opinions on living in Belfast. Of course, I’m not going to base my decision simply on this chance encounter, but having met someone from Belfast who was able to address some of my concerns in person makes feel less apprehensive about the possibility of relocating there for studies.

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