Rachel McCloskey

St Olivers Community School, Drogheda, Co Louth

My name is Rachel McCloskey, and late in 2022 I got confirmed a place in Graduate.ie trip to the European Parliament in Germany. Naturally, I was delighted to be given the opportunity.

On a pitch-black morning at 2:30 am on the first of March, I found myself pulling myself out of bed in and into the car. I was on my way to Dublin airport, lugging my wheelie bag behind me for my flight to Germany. I had to admit that I was a little nervous for this trip ahead, but I was mostly overcome with the excitement I had about meeting some of the friends I had been texting online on a groupchat that I’d made for the students to get to know each other on prior to the trip.

Passport in hand and schoolbag slung over my back, I found myself chatting to people from all over the country as we walked through terminals- Finally matching names I’d known online with faces and obsessing over how anxious we were to land in Germany.

We landed in a sunny Frankfurt airport and piled onto a bus, chatting amongst ourselves through jetlag about a lovely little village we were on our way to visiting, Baden-Baden. We strolled through the bright town, eating macarons and ice-creams and enjoying the warmth in the sunlight that us Irish people find ourselves desperately to. I found myself thinking that if when I’m older and I have the freedom, I’d be wasting my time if I didn’t spend more time travelling through Europe and discovering more of the beauty it holds. Baden-Baden was a really beautiful town in Germany, and I’d really suggest any person reading this to try and see it with their own eyes one day.

Speaking of European places to visit, we were lucky enough to get to spend the evening on a walking tour around the beautiful city of Strasburg where our lovely hotel was. I learned that the town was richer in history and in beautiful architecture than I could have imagined- and that they sell pretty good churros too if you know where to look!

At the hotel we split into rooms, enjoying some time together over games of Uno or watching French dramas on the TV that we couldn’t quite understand. Something about this trip made me want to know more than the two European languages I already study in school (Spanish and Irish) and made me wish I knew how to speak German and French too.

I think that was something that really stood out to me in the beautiful European parliament when we went for our visit the next day- the number of languages spoken there. It was stunning- listening to peoples opinions and questions and suggestions about resolving gender-based inequalities in Europe, all in their own languages. There were headsets with translators for people like me who only spoke their own language, but honestly I often found myself just focusing on listening to the beauty in the languages that were spoken, the Greek and Spanish and French.

It was really interesting meeting and seeing people my age from all around Europe, and honestly, I could only wish that I had more time to get to know more of them. I spent a lot of time at the lunches with a few people I met from the Netherlands- very quickly and firmly letting them know that Ireland was in fact not a place in England, thank you very much.

Along with the people we met, I learned a lot about politics from this trip. Before this trip, I thought that politics could be sometimes boring or monotonous, like they’d be taught in a normal school setting- When really, I found it was something I really, really enjoyed. I have a huge interest in people, and I plan to pursue studies in psychology and counselling in my future- but I hadn’t realized before how much that’s what politics is about- the people.

I really enjoyed hearing peoples opinions on gender equality, how the education system in our countries might affect it. Learning the standpoints and views of all the people my age around Europe was something I found really interesting, and I often found myself wishing that I’d be able to share the experience with some of my friends back at home in Louth.

I’m forever grateful that I was given the opportunity to go on this amazing trip. It was honestly one of the best times of my life and I’ve experienced so much. I feel like this trip really changed my perception on things and made me realise that I have so much interest in things I hadn’t realised I had. I hope that many more lucky people my age will have the same opportunity I had to go on a trip as amazing as this one.

I want to say a huge thank you to Graduate.ie who helped me and my new friends around the country get to experience this amazing trip. It was an opportunity of a lifetime.