I the first of this two part series, Meadhbh Sinclair speaks about her time working in an Irish college on Inis Oírr.
I have just returned home from a three week stint in the smallest of the three Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland - Inis Oírr. But this wasn’t just a summer break, I was working in the Irish college that they have there.
This was my first time to work with any Irish college, so it is fair to say that I was extremely apprehensive, not least because of how ill-prepared I felt.
I was going off to a place that I was not even remotely familiar with, to do a job with which I was even less familiar once again.
Although I sort of had a vague idea in my mind about the sort of things I would be doing, I was still very unsure about it all.
As the 1st of June got ever closer, I felt increasingly as though I had just signed myself up for a 10k run, having never ran before in my life.
But I am now glad to say that I have past the finishing line, albeit absolutely exhausted and completely hoarse, and I’ve most certainly won the race.
Before I proceed any further, perhaps it is necessary to explain about why I applied for the job in the first place. There were numerous reasons really. I will admit that it was partly a spur of the moment thing that I initially gave very little thought to.
One of the reasons why I dismissed the idea was because I didn’t think for a second that my application would actually be remotely successful. You can imagine my surprise when I actually found out I got the job.
However, anyone who knows me will also know that I am a passionate gaeilgóir and a summer spent trying to encourage our young people to embrace our native language (and just maybe come to fall in love with it in just the same way as I have) is a summer well spent in my books. In fact, I can’t imagine anything better.
My final reason may not sound quite as romantic and idealistic as what is described above, but one of the other reasons as to why I decided to do this was down to finances.
I am facing into 3,000 euro of college fees in September and that’s just me, not to mention roughly the same amount, if not more, for my sister’s college fees.
So when you have those sort of expenses coming down the road, it is inevitable that they will weigh on your mind. Subsequently they did weigh in on my decision to get a job so that I might actually have some sort of hope of actually being able to pay those fees.
So, what was it like when I actually got there? Well, it was quite literally a rocky start as the weather on our way down on the first day was an absolute disaster from start to finish. It was windier than I had ever seen before and it was lashing rain as well.
As you can imagine, this made for rather an uncomfortable boat trip, that I’m praying I never have to endure again. It's fair to say that I was more than a little relieved when the boat stopped and I was once again able to put my two feet on dry, steady land.
The days were long and busy. You were constantly on your feet and although you had a list of set tasks that you had to complete, you didn’t really know what you would be doing from day to day.
It was extremely varied and that was one of the things that I loved most about the job. I loved the fact that you were constantly so busy and so active. Looking back on it now, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The students were all fantastic to deal with. Admittedly, at the beginning I found it very difficult to get them to settle down and listen to me when I needed them to. However, once I plucked up the courage to be a bit stricter with them, it was not a huge problem and they really were fantastic kids that I thoroughly enjoyed working with.
It was genuinely refreshing to see so many energetic people that were all so enthusiastic about the Irish language. I can confidently say that the future of our national language is most certainly safe in their hands.
I sincerely hope I have helped to make even just one student a little more confident in speaking Irish (and hopefully using it more regularly outside of school as well as inside it.)
If I have managed to achieve even something as small as that, I am happy to say I have achieved one of my main objectives of going there in the first place.