With over 16,000 students, each with 4 months of freedom at their disposal, it is no surprise that some of Trinity’s very own have some very interesting stories to tell about their time away from Front Square. Trinity News spoke to three students about their extraordinary summers away from home.
Sam McMahon – the Pyrenees
James had approached me in the beginning of the year (only a month after we’d met) – and asked if I’d be interested in a summer adventure. I naively thought he might have suggested a roadtrip across Ireland, maybe even a trip to Magaluf? Nothing could have prepared me for what he had really planned.
A hike across the GR1? In the Pyrenees? Where? Easy sham. Apparently he’d been through a list of his friends, and lucky me. I’d made the cut. Oh and James’ twin. Who I’d never met before.
My initial reaction was – let me think about it. I’d my heart set on the infamous J1. I gave it thought. Three months of thought to be precise.
In February we had walked a week of the Camino de Santiago with Trinity Vincent de Paul. It was during this trip that I’d decided – the Pyrenees was happening.
During the exams we had booked the flights. There was no backing out now. We had arranged to go in August. We would come back to Ireland two days before the repeats. The thought of failing an exam and having to go home early from the Pyrenees terrified me. And so I studied. Hard.
It paid off. I passed everything – now the reality had hit. I was going on a hike across the Pyrenees for over three weeks. I had never done anything like this before, I had none of the equipment, could barely read a map, not to mention my complete lack of fitness. Yep things looked promising.
We arrive in the Pyrenees. Day One: What had I done? Only twenty three more days of sweltering heat, sixteen kilogram rucksacks and blistering feet. Day four: The soles of my boots came off. Spending a small fortune on a new pair of boots – it was a great way to spend my twenty first birthday. Day eight: Thunder and Lightning. We had pitched our tents on the only flat piece of ground on top of the mountain. 2,770 m above sea level to be precise. During the night we were woken up by a deafening roar. A clash of thunder rumbled through the air. And so, the most nerve wracking forty seven minutes of my life began. Only a plastic tent was separating us from what felt at the time – certain death. A pack of wild boar and herd of horses had gathered in the nearby trees – undeterred by the elements surrounding us.
And so as we continued our trek across this unknown land, each new day brought with it, an incredible adventure. The landscape was nothing like we had every experienced before. We’d slowly gotten into the rhythm of walking in excess of 15km a day, and by now my new boots were truly broken in. Stopping off by waterfalls and lakes to swim, a much needed and refreshing break from the scorching sun. Wandering through remote mountain villages – we soon became accustom to the warm Spanish hospitality. Pitching our tents each night amidst vast and spectacular surroundings was one of the highlights of our trip. As you could have imagined, cooking posed a challenge on a daily basis. With limited access to shops we had to ration our food to three main ingredients: pasta, chorizo and more pasta.
Late nights were followed by early mornings – waking up before the crack of dawn, taking down our tents before setting off on the next leg of our journey.
283km and we had come to the end of the GR11. The Mediterranean Sea had come into view, and so had our final destination. 23 days, seven bottles of sun-cream, two pairs of boots, and many many blister plasters later we had completed what was once only a figment of our imaginations.
How did I spend my summer? I may not have experienced the #A1J1 – but I certainly had the time of my life experiencing the #A1GR1(1)
Jessica Murray – Disneyland
As a French TSM student it was compulsory for me to complete my time abroad before I could finish my degree. While studying French you must spend at least two months in a French speaking country so when I got offered a three month contract to work in Disneyland Paris, naturally I jumped at the opportunity. At first I was apprehensive about living in a new country, meeting new people and adapting to a lifestyle in a language different to my native tongue. However, quickly these problems faded and I began to take huge enjoyment in my new place of work.
As I settled I became more and more comfortable with my new colleagues and the surroundings I worked in. I learned just how to converse with both native and foreign French speakers, and could work with ease alongside them. I realised new aspects of colloquial French never seen from behind a computer screen or sitting in a lecture hall. Phrases and quips such as “c’est pas grave” which loosely translates to “it’s grand” became littered throughout my day to day life and I now see myself as a confident French speaker.
Working in Disneyland was an adventure I know I will never experience again. All Disney workers are known as Cast Members. Disneyland is, in essence, a show for the thirty thousand guests it attracts each day, and while we were working we were “on scene”. If I went to buy a baguette for my lunch or change my costume, which was our work uniform, I went “backstage” to do this. At the beginning this was so exciting as it was like no other job I had had before. Disney provided accommodation just a ten minute bus journey from Disneyland for any international workers they hired. This made making new friends a lot easier and much to my delight a lot of other Irish workers lived there too. We bonded by visiting the theme park for free (considering guests pay ninety euro a day it seemed like a waste not to!) or going out to Disney Village together to the bar or nightclub. It soon became a home away from home.
I had read online that most people who work in Disneyland find themselves in a so called “Disney Bubble” and it didn’t take long for me to realise this. Like most cast members, I do feel that the magic of Disney we all experience as a child is somewhat evaporated when you hear the “Magic Everywhere” parade song every day or when you see Tigger with his head off having a smoke on his break. However, being a Cast Member in Disneyland sparked a new magic inside me as no other job will have the same enchanting atmosphere or the chance to work with such amazing people on a day to day basis. It was definitely a summer I won’t forget!
Niamh Corcoran – Berlin
This summer was a summer I would never forget as my experience as an Au-Pair in Berlin was possible the most hilarious but difficult experience of my life.
Coming to the end of Second Year, I had no concrete plans for the summer but luckily a friend of mine convinced me to take a job as an Au-Pair in Berlin, where she had found a family looking for assistance. At first I was a bit reluctant but after a lot of convincing I decided that it really couldn’t hurt me or my German to spend some time in a city like Berlin. The experience did in fact end up hurting me- not only with all the times the 2 year old would kick me or the 5 month old baby would pinch me. The worst pain came when I had saying goodbye to my little international family and of course, the amazing city that is Berlin.
My international family consisted of a young mother originally from Hannover, a tall handsome father who, unfortunately for me, spent more time in the office than at home, a 5 month old baby Max and 2 year old Tallie, or Carl to be correct. First of all I learned that Carl’s nickname is Carly but unfortunately Carl cannot pronounce his C’s or his R’s so therefore he referred to himself as Tallie. He did in fact call himself Tallie as he would often speak about himself in the third person.
I always feel the best way to someone’s heart is through their stomachs so therefore my method of assisting Tallie to adjust to my arrival was to buy him whatever sweets he wanted. Unfortunately a week into my stay the child had developed a tummy as well as a double chin and the mother insisted that we must put him on a diet. To make matters worse, I didn’t only have to mind Tallie but Max also became my responsibility most days and I have never witnessed a baby that cries as much as he did. I can’t count the amount of times that I looked up flights to return to Ireland but as I was so stubborn, I was determined not to give up.
Instead I decided to change my ways. It did help that we were in Berlin, easily the best city in Europe I’ve been to, and many a day I would tie Tallie into his pram and we would set off on the S-Bahn for a day of adventures in the city. We went to everything from the Aquarium to historical sites, where I would eagerly take in everything that was around me whilst Tallie would sit there whining and repeatedly asking me when he would be able to get an ice-cream. It definitely helped that I had two pals with me who would generously help mind the little demon and listen to my whining about all the work I had to do. However, no matter how many hard days I had, the good days definitely made up for it. The weekends were spent exploring every inch of the German capital and seeing the most captivating historical sites, some, in particular Sachsenhaus Concentration Camp, leaving you in tears.
My Au-Pair family were also the most welcoming family and I can never thank Donata, my Au-Pair mother, enough for her patience with my broken German. As well as helping me with my language they also ensured that I experienced every aspect of German life possible by bringing me to a typical German Christening and even driving me all the way to Dortmund in West Germany for a family wedding. My summer experience in Berlin was tiring and exciting, gruelling yet exhilarating but most of all it was unforgettable.