Friederike, ein Term "Irland Classic" in Athlone

Hey lads, how are you?

Having been in Ireland for one term, I'm back home now. I spent four lovely months in that wonderful country, and I had such a great time. I lived in a small town on the river Shannon. This town is called Athlone and is in the west of Dublin. The agency "KulturLife" I had chosen had given me the best host family I could ever had hoped to get. They welcomed me very warm-heartedly, and it didn't take long until we talked to each other a lot, had lovely nights in front of the fireplace and felt like a real family.

My stay in Ireland: My Irish mum and dad, as I call them, have three children. They are grown up though and don't live at home anymore. The two boys live in Cork and Dublin; they visited us quite often as they have a very close relationship to their parents. I also have a lovely host sister; she lives in Athlone as well and came in for dinner nearly every night when she didn't have to work. We got on very well, she's just adorable.

During the time I spent with that family there was always a good atmosphere. It was just amazing how close the relationship between parents and children was. They talked to each other about everything and even went out together and danced in our sitting room... it's never been boring to be with them, that's for sure. They were always there for me, and I always had someone to talk to and hug me, so I never really felt alone.

Of course I know I was very, very lucky to stay with this perfect family, and I know some exchange students who were happy enough with their families, too.

There also lived another student in my Irish family, his name is Paco, he is 14 and from Spain. Right from the start I got on very well with him as well, especially during my last months in Ireland we had many conversations and a lot of fun. Last but not least there was Missy, our dog - she's a little darling. And of course, as a proper Irish dog should do, she loved the rest of the tea my dad usually gave her.

My school was a Catholic one, and everyone had to wear school uniforms. To be honest, I really had to get used to that. At the beginning I just didn't feel comfortable, not wearing my own clothes but a uniform everyone wore. It was just not the same; people didn't see who I am until I talked to them. However, I got used to not wearing individual clothes quite quickly and I even started to really like wearing my uniform. At the beginning I also wasn't very self-confident as girls-schools are often very loud and of course everyone talked in English.

There were also other students from foreign countries, mainly Brazilian or Spanish ones. Obviously all the exchange students were sitting together at the beginning as we all were in the same situation of not knowing anyone. And there also were exchange students who hadn't had any English at all.

Even though the Irish girls didn't welcome me especially at the beginning, they were so friendly when I started a conversation. After a certain time of getting to know everyone I got real friends who I'm still in contact with and I'll hopefully stay in touch with.

The school put me into 5th year, which is part of the course for the leaving certificate and the second-last year. All in all Irish students have to do one year less (12 years) than German students. The obligatory classes were English, Mathematics, Religion, PE and Health Education. The Irish girls also had to study the Irish language. Besides these I had to choose four other classes, I took Art, Music, Business Studies (which is mainly about people in a business and how to set up a new one) and Modern History (here we learned everything about Ireland in the 20th century and the struggle for independence). You could also choose every kind of science and other languages, just everything we have to do in German schools as well, except for Latin and ancient Greek.

The atmosphere in the classes was always pleasant, most of the girls seemed to be motivated and wanted to learn and achieve a good leaving certificate. There were many good teachers who seemed to be skilled and to like their job. There were no young male teachers at girls' schools though; they firstly had to teach at a boys' school up to a certain age.

At the weekends my German friends and I went into town or went for long walks to explore the wonderful Irish landscape... I loved it. My friend and I also went to a riding school to ride horses once a week. Riding horses is just brilliant in Ireland; we went on treks and participated in show jumpings once a week, which are riding competitions.

I also went to town with Irish girls from my school, not so often though. After a while I just found it kind of boring to go into town every day and just hang around in one of the two shopping centers. The Irish students love to just walk around there and meet other people. Actually, it really was fun to go into town on Fridays, because everyone was wearing their school uniform and you would really meet everyone you knew.

If you want to go out at night in Ireland, you would usually go in one of the uncountable pubs. There is always a good atmosphere, many people usually go to their local pub on Friday and Saturday nights to meet their friends and have a few pints. One night I asked my host dad if there are many women in the pubs or mainly guys. And he was like: "Jesus, Freddie, no one would go if there were only guys... "And of course my Irish friends and I partied at Halloween in a pub as well, in another town. Going to another town at nighttime was always a bit annoying, because there wasn't any public transport at all. The guys had to rent a bus for everyone and we had to pay for it.

All together I only can say that I had such a wonderful time, maybe the best of my life and surely the most exciting one. I miss my lovely family and my friends so much, and that marvelous country with all the nice people who always asked me how I was even if they didn't even know me. It wasn't the last time I was there, I actually went over for my Irish dad's 60th birthday one week ago and I'll hopefully be back soon to visit all the people I'll always remember. I wish you a good crack when you go abroad one day, as the Irish would say. I really can recommend Ireland, it's just amazing.