Rainbow Scholar | Ireland 2022/23 | school program

Hello, I'm Ronia. I am 16 years old and on August 23rd my trip to Ireland started. About a year and a half ago I decided to do a year abroad. I wanted to get to know another culture, speak better English and just be somewhere completely different for a year. I chose Ireland because I definitely wanted to go to an English-speaking country and I heard about the hospitality of the Irish, which I can only confirm in retrospect. Despite my anticipation of the year abroad, I naturally also had a few fears and anxieties. Since I'm openly queer and wasn't sure how people would deal with it during my year abroad, I spoke to the QueerSwap. It was good to share with them and, on their advice, I mentioned my identity in the letter to my host family. In retrospect, I can only say that nothing negative has happened to me in Ireland in relation to this and that everyone is very tolerant.

A few days before departure I was very excited and had a brief moment on the plane where I thought: "What am I doing here?" But the feeling is quite normal and was immediately lost in all the excitement. I flew with a friend of mine who I had met before at the preparatory seminars in Germany. At the airport we were picked up by InterStudies with other exchange students. With a bus we were then ours Welcome Camp driven at Carlingford. Located north of Dublin on the east coast, Carlingford is beautiful. Here I had my first impression of Ireland with the many meadows, the small hilly streets and the colorful houses. The camp helped me a lot because I had the opportunity to meet other guest students and mine local support coordinater get to know. We were able to share our expectations and fears, which gave me the feeling of not being alone in a foreign country. I also met my host sister there for the first time. She is my age and comes from Italy.

A few days later I met my host mother. She is super warm and open. The three of us live in a town in County Meath. This is about 1.5 hours west of Dublin by bus. The house is on a street where two other exchange students live. I share a room with my host sister, which is very nice because you never feel alone and always have someone to talk to. I got on very well with my host family right from the start and it's fun to live with them. All three of us come from different countries and have different expectations and ways of doing things. So communication is always very important. With a friend of mine, for example, things didn't go so well with her host family. In this case, however, there is always the possibility of changing host families without too much difficulty.

My school is 12 kilometers away from me, so I take the school bus in the morning. It is an all girls school and like almost all schools in Ireland, there is a school uniform. I had to get used to the school uniform at first, but now I actually find it very convenient not to have to think about my clothes. I go to Transition Year, which is practically the 10th grade in Germany. This year, a lot is about career orientation. Therefore, there are many different subjects such as woodwork, cooking, sewing, journalism or even car maintenance. Many trips are planned. For example, we went to a feminist festival in Dublin. In addition, our school has Transition Year a musical we're working on for the first half year. My school day is always from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., except on Friday, when I finish at 1 p.m. I think the year is ideal because I can try out a lot and have almost no school stress. I made friends quickly because a few Irish students accepted me and my host sister into their group. Above all, I also spend time with other exchange students from different countries. It's especially fun to learn words in different languages like Spanish and Italian. My host sister and I do everything together and I spend most of the time with her.

I get along well with the English language at home and at school. Of course, at first I was still a bit unsure and had to think a lot, but you get used to it super quickly and become more and more confident. And if you don't understand something, you can always ask. The people in Ireland are generally really nice, helpful and you always feel very welcome. There is always a lot of smiles on the street and everyone is friendly to each other. So the simplest things like saying thank you are the most important in Ireland.

In my free time, I usually go out with my friends. After school we drive to a small town called Navan and go to the cinema or play bowling there. They often come to our house and we cook together, listen to music or play games.

The place where I live has a relatively good bus service. The buses don't come very often, but you can actually go everywhere. So my friends and I often take the bus to Dublin at the weekend. Dublin has many small shops and pubs and is very lively. With the small bridges and the colorful facades, it is simply a super beautiful city. There is a lot of street music and small stalls. Dublin is also a great place to learn about Irish art, history and culture. For example, I have visited Trinity College and the National Gallery of Ireland. There are also many museums about the Irish War of Independence.

AFS plans a trip with us every month. We've been to Galway, Derry and the Falls at Wicklow. It's nice to see so much of Ireland and to get away from your own region. Every place in Ireland has its own traditions and history like the Christmas market in Galway or the city walls in Derry. In addition, you always have contact with other exchange students and can see your friends again.

But what I like best is my everyday life. The simplest things like going to school, eating out together or going to the local gas station with my host sister have helped me to feel comfortable in Ireland. I now feel at home in Ireland and see my host mother and sister as a second family. My host mother often cooks for us, so I was able to experience traditional Irish cooking (with lots of potatoes). In the evening we always eat together and usually we talk afterwards. I talk a lot with my host mother about a wide variety of topics. Sometimes she tells me stories and sometimes we talk about politics. In the beginning you should perhaps be a bit careful with some topics, but you can certainly express your opinion, because that is an important part of the exchange. The most important thing is to be open and understanding. My host mother is very open and we mostly have the same views.

I am very happy about my decision to do a year abroad. Even if I had doubts and homesickness in between, I have never regretted it, because I would never trade the experiences I gained here. It's normal to feel homesick at times, but you have to remember the great things you've already experienced and what's still to come. And most importantly, it always goes away. It helped me a lot to go back to Germany for two weeks over Christmas. You could just load something up again and have the security that your family and friends are still there at home and waiting for you. After the two weeks I was happy to go back to Ireland. Half of my year abroad is now over, I've met a lot of great people, gained experience and improved my language skills.

Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank the people from the Rainbow Scholarship who helped make my year abroad possible. It is so important that people from the LGBTQIA+ community are represented and given the opportunity to have a safe gap year. QueerTausch gave me a lot of tips and assured me from the start that I can always contact them. This helped me a lot as it gave me security on my journey.

In summary, I can only recommend a year abroad in Ireland and with the rainbow scholarship.

Greetings from Ireland!

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