Realtin McHugh

Colaiste Pobail Acla, Achill Island, Co Mayo

I went to Strasbourg from the 1st until the 3rd of March. It was one of the best things I have done in my life, and I got to experience new things and meet amazing new people. I had never been to Strasbourg before, and it was even better than I thought it was going to be. On the first day on our way to Strasbourg we stopped at Baden Baden a charming town in southwest Germany. It was a gorgeous day and we got to stroll around and take in the wonderful scenery and amazing architecture. It was a brilliant start to the trip and the food there was wonderful. We headed off again to Strasbourg and arrived at our hotel in the evening. It was a lovely hotel, and the staff were wonderful. We then went on a walking tour of Strasbourg and learned all about how it used to be called Alsace some of the population still spoke Alsatian and even some of the signs were in French, English, and Alsatian! After the educational tour we had free time to taste the local cuisine, survey the market stalls and visit some of the wonderful tourist attractions (The cathedral was my favourite!)

The next morning, we had a wonderful French breakfast including lots of fresh pastries and hot chocolate. Then we went to the Parliament. It was much bigger in person than I expected. We got some group photos and made our way to the canteen for a second breakfast! We then went to the Hemicycle a large oval like room where the MP’s vote on different legislation. When we were there, we took part in different workshops learning about how the MPs decide on legislation, vote for it and then pass it into law. The topic we were looking at was “Gender equality in the European Union” I find this topic interesting, and it was cool to see other people’s thoughts on the topic and their ideas on how we should change things to battle inequality in the European Union. We then broke up for lunch and went to the canteen to have some food. After lunch we went back to the Hemicycle and were put in groups, I was for the motion. We had a debate and then we voted just like the MPs would from their desks by pressing different buttons depending on our opinion on the given legislation. It was very educational to learn how laws and legislation are passed as it affects everyone in the European Union, so it is nice to know legislation is researched, evaluated, debated on, and voted for fairly before being passed. The Parliament was the highlight of my trip and I’d recommend visiting to anyone. After the Parliament we travelled back to our hotel and then spent the evening sightseeing in Strasbourg. My friends and I went to a gorgeous Alsatian restaurant before getting ice cream macaroons from a quaint ice cream shop in the heart of Strasbourg. That day was my favourite day and I miss Strasbourg just thinking about it.

The next morning me and my friend Lauren went for an early morning stroll in Strasbourg visiting some of the wonderful patisseries picking up pastries for our friends for breakfast. I found it great French conversational practice and was surprised at how much French I knew! It definitely motivated me to focus more on French upon arriving back in Ireland as I realised how amazing it was to be able to communicate to other people in their own language. Then we checked out of our hotel and made for a canal as we were going on a boat trip before visiting Heidlberg. The boat trip was lovely, and we got another chance to enjoy the gorgeous scenery from a new angle while learning about the history of the canals and the importance they hold. We then made our way to Heidelberg to see the castle. I was not sure what to expect but I was blown away by the sheer size and beauty of the castle. We had a lovely old woman who brought us for the tour who was positively overflowing with knowledge and love for the castle. After the tour we got to stand on the largest wine barrel in the world (something I thought I would never say!) We then had a quick bite to eat before driving to the airport and flying home.

I found this trip to be fun, educational, and beautiful. I had never considered a job in Europe, but this trip has given me much to consider. I found it fascinating to see other people’s lives outside of Ireland as I am busy with studies this year and sometimes find I forget how big the world truly is. I have made amazing friends and we are hoping to meet up this summer. This experience has truly been wonderful, and I would like to thank Martin, Marie and Ivana for minding us and allowing us to enjoy this opportunity to the fullest.