Anna Keely

St. Patricks Comprehensive school, Shannon, County Clare

My name is Anna Keely, I am a student at St. Patricks Comprehensive school in Shannon, County Clare and I won the quiz in November 2022. I got into these quizzes as a routine in my European studies class when I first started TY. I found some of the quizzes interesting as I learned more about statistics in life in the European union. I did not know much about the European parliament or anything to do with politics before my trip away, but I came back with a much better understanding of that line of work and of course fantastic memories. 

My trip began at 1:30am on March 1st when I left my nana’s house in Kildare where I stayed the previous night to make the journey shorter. We arrived at Dublin airport where I met two boys, Kaelin and Turlough, which I had been talking to a few days before hand after we were added to our WhatsApp group. After chatting to them for a while two more girls, Sophie and Doireann, had arrived and it’s safe to say we were the best of friends before we even got through security. 

Our flight took off at around 7:00am and we arrived in Frankfurt airport at around 9:30. I am glad I slept the whole flight because we had lots of walking ahead of us. We took a bus to the lovely town of Baden-Baden where we went shopping, got food and explored the local area. I got my first chance to use my knowledge of the German language when in shops and cafes and I really enjoyed doing so as I had never had a proper encounter where I had to use is before. At around 2pm we met back on the bus to go to the hotel in Strasbourg where we were given our rooms and who we were sharing with. It was decided that myself, Sophie and Doireann would be sharing a room and we ended up in a four-person room with a girl named Roisin from Arranmore Island. We were delighted she had come with us as we all got along so quickly and had the best laugh together. Soon after checking in and getting settled we left to get a guided walking tour of Strasbourg which was filled with lots of interesting information about the history of the city. What I found most interesting was the way the houses were built, and the well-placed towers and bridges used for attacks. After this tour the three girls and I went out for dinner at around 6:30pm to a lovely restaurant just down the street from our hotel. We got to chatting about our lives at home and school and compared how different life is in different parts of Ireland. We didn’t stay out for long as we were all shattered from a very long day of travelling and had a very early start the next morning. 

Our second day, March 2nd, was the day of so many opportunities. We had woken up at 5:30 to get ready to be at the European parliament for 7:00am. It was a short enough journey on the bus to get to the parliament and I had never been so awake and excited that early in the morning!! Upon arrival we had to go through a security check which was very quick going through. We went in and took photos and were seated to have our breakfast which was kindly provided by the parliament. We were asked to mingle with the different groups of students from all over Europe and we did just that. A group of German girls came over and introduced themselves and we were shocked at how fluent their English was. We came to find out that a lot of the students were all from the same school or classes and knew each other, which I think is unfortunate as we got the opportunity to get out of our comfort zone and speak with people we’ve never met. Talking with them about their school life was very interesting but cut short as after we got photos with them and exchanged social medias to keep in touch, we were called in to begin the conference. We were seated accordingly to the color wristbands we received at breakfast which were to come into use at the end of the conference. We were greeted by Vice-President of the European Parliament and member of the group of Socialists and Democrats, Evelyn Regner, and she spoke about the ins and outs of the work done inside the parliament. Our topic on the day was “A Europe of equal opportunities? The European Parliament’s defense of Women’s Rights and Gender Equality” as it was coming up to national women’s day. We got in to the routine of how a session in the parliament would go and many of the different countries and schools participated. Holding up your hand and waiting for your seat number to be called out was when you were given your chance to speak. Coming to our lunch break at around 12pm we got to mingle some more and talk to the people we had already met. Coming to the final few hours of the seminar was our chance for out voices to be heard. The colored wristbands we received determined where we stood in the debate on different topic questions such as equal pay and free menstruation sanitary products in Europe. At the end of our visit we got our photos in the parliament and headed back to the hotel to freshen up and go for dinner. As it was our last night there we all decided to go to a restaurant together and spend our last night getting to know each other more and make the most of out trip and this would have to be the most fun we all got to have together!! 

March 3rd , our final day in Strasbourg we had gotten up at around 7:30 to have breakfast and pack up before we headed for our boat tour of the beautiful city at around 10am. Upon boarding the boat we were given headphones which plugged in and changed to different languages according to the station you chose and it gave a full run through of the history and the buildings we were passing in this time. I loved this part of the trip because it went into depth on the different buildings and why they were there and that they were used for. The canals were interesting as when we came to going through different places the gates opened and the water levels rose to bring us right through. When we finished up this tour we were brought back to the hotel where we collected our bags and belongings to head to the bus to take us the Heidelburg castle. When we got to the castle we had to walk up a very steep hill but it was all worth it in the end once we could overlook the city of Heidelburg and just take it all in. WE met our tour guide and she was the loveliest tour guide I have ever met as she spoke about the history of the castle with such passion and told the story of the king and his soon to be queens so beautifully. This had to be the highlight of my trip. 

As our trip was coming to an end we departed for Frankfurt airport and made our journey home. This final bus journey all together flew by as we sang songs and chatted the whole way. Although it was only a short trip it was and emotional one leaving everyone. I am forever going to be grateful for the opportunity to experience this trip as it was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity!!  and of course making such great friendships and memories I will cherish forever. We still all keep in touch and are making plans to meet up again in the summer.