Come Live With Me…If You Want To Get To Know Me…
As we all know, the best way to get to know a place, its people, traditions, culture and language is to go and visit – this is what the European Exchange Programme in Balbriggan Community College is all about.
The school community of Balbriggan Community College joined together for the week of the 12th to the 16th October to welcome another group from St. Wendel, Saarland in Germany on their annual Exchange visit. Ten grateful German students aged 15/16, hosted by local families, expressed delight with the tremendous hospitality they received during their five day stay. Our local Bracken Court Hotel catered to their two teachers’, Susanne Rabus and Patrick Welsch, every whim as is tradition.
The Exchange Programme, the brain child of Balbriggan Town Council and stemming from its successful partnership arrangement with St. Wendel, began in 2009 and receives much appreciated support from Fingal County Council. It is considered a very important event in Balbriggan Community College’s school calendar. Over the years friendships which began through the Exchange have developed, with students travelling, back and forth between Ireland and Germany. A German Debs has even been attended! In addition, arising from the Balbriggan/Saarland connection German student teachers of English have in recent years volunteered their services in the community college. As they improve their English language skills and teaching experiences, they share their Mother tongue and native know how. It’s a win win situation. The families of our visitors have also been to visit the area ensuring Balbriggan is firmly on the tourist map.
We were fortunate with the no charge extra pleasant weather during the week. Upon arrival, the group addressed the adornment of the school’s courtyard Wishing Tree. Coloured strips of material representing the flags of the two countries were tied to the branches as students and teachers visibly set intentions for their week together. On Tuesday the group travelled to Dublin by train and visited Trinity College, the Book of Kells, the Library and Long Room before going on to the National Gallery and the Natural History Museum as well as sightseeing, shopping and Jimmy Chung’s emporium. The Viking Splash was the highlight of the day for many.
Wednesday was a full day in school and after Thursday morning classes the group travelled on the No. 33 bus to Ardgillan Castle, via the Lady’s Stairs. The guided tour of the castle was impressive, particularly as one was encouraged to touch the displays and imagine how life was for the Taylor family. Students enjoyed exploring the demesne before walking back to Balbriggan.
During their stay the German Teachers viewed and participated in teaching classes, as well and being fed and entertained. Their experiences included the local cinema, a local theatrical production and authentic Balbriggan beach and harbour walking. The staff of the community college ensured the guests were considerately and adequately hospitalityised!
Their last evening was an uplifting celebration in the school’s John Bailey Hall. German guests, BCC student hosts, their parents and siblings, friends, staff, former pupils including great friend, Brian Murray, former Town Council Clerk, representing Fingal County Council, musician (Big John) Seán Mac Thighearnain and local DJ (DJ Carroll) Jamie Carroll were joined by Councillor and parent Gráinne Maguire who was representing Mayor David O’Connor of Fingal County Council. A scrumptuous feast was supplied by Kevin Craven from Glanmore Foods and served by the gracious Mammy and Daughter team, Lorraine and Michelle Walsh and followed by a wonderful traditional Irish/country sing and dance along with local sensations The Tulips and past pupil Seán Mac Thighearnain. The night ended with a long goodbye protracted disco dance session conducted with aplomb by Jamie Carroll.
Principal, Emmet Sheridan and Deputy Principal, Christine Dunne complimented the hardworking team and extended school community who worked together to ensure an enjoyable and memorable week. They noted the well balanced programme with fun and educational elements, the social connections, the warm invitation extended to visiting guests to participate in classes, the organisation and execution of the final night celebrations, the decoration, layout and tidy up of the John Bailey Hall and the stupendous image capture of the adventure. Most importantly, they complimented the students and their families as they showed once again how truly fabulous they are!
Balbriggan students will pay a return visit to St. Wendel in March, included in their week will be a day trip to France or Luxembourg. The trip is being planned right now! See Ms. O’Brien, in Room 9, for details.