On the 28th of March, I found out that I was lucky enough to be awarded a fully funded travel award to Vermont, America for two weeks during June/July. This award was bestowed upon me by EIL Intercultural Learning. EIL Intercultural Learning is an Irish, not-for-profit organisation which provides intercultural learning opportunities through study abroad, volunteer abroad, language training, travel awards, group educational programmes, and other cultural immersion activities for about 2,000 people each year.
EIL’s Intercultural Learning aimis: “To provide intercultural learning experiences which enrich lives, promote understanding of other cultures and challenge individuals to be more globally aware and responsible.”
I found out about this award through out Waterford Comhairle na nÓg, which is the statutory representative body of young people between the ages of 12 and 18 in County Waterford. I have been an active member of Comhairle na nÓg since October 2012. I feel my membership in Comhairle spurred me to apply for this award, and for that I am forever grateful.
Comhairle also aim to encourage personal development of their members and all the young people we represent. I can honestly say it has utterly changed me. It is an amazing experience where I have gained and improved my skill set, built my confidence and gained experience in project development and developing my leadership skills. Some of the amazing projects Comhairle has done to date are:
Mind matters: A video to raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with Mental Health among young people in response to a string of local young suicides.
The Cyber Code: Cyber Bullying was highlighted as the most important issue affecting young people in County Waterford in 2013. Waterford Comhairle was tasked with combatting this. Over a nine-month period the Comhairle brought the Cyber Code and Cyber Day from an idea to a reality.
The Cyber Code consists of three principles:
Cyber Day 2013 took place on Thursday October 3rd. This involved 19 Comhairle members including myself presenting in the nine secondary schools of Waterford County. It was a great success and we where rewarded for all of our hard work at the highest level when we took home top prize in the all island pride of place award for the category of youth and enterprise. We are now working on our new project body image.
I will most definitely carry this learning experience with me in the future.
Although short, my time in Vermont was nothing short of amazing! This two-week program challenged participants to find solutions to the local and global problems that directly impact young people. My time in Vermont has tested me as a person, tested my morals, ethics, leadership style, cultural knowledge and my ability to deal with the bad as well as the good issues we learned about! I believe this has indeed changed me; it’s really made me think about my life and how much more I can do. How much more I have to do! I honestly do believe it takes one person to make a change and my time in Vermont, I believe, has equipped me and the other students to do so.
Spending a summer at home with your family can be pretty dull - whether you’re on your break from school and you’re suddenly missing your routine, or you’ve returned home from college to find that you’ve outgrown your surroundings. It’s especially tough these days, when so many of us don’t have jobs and lack the extra cash needed to keep our social lives blossoming. Fear not: there are a few things you can do on the cheap to make the most out of the next couple of months.
Now is a great time to get in touch with your artistic side, not only does it keep boredom at bay, but it also has therapeutic effects that can help you to beat the summer blues. There are lots of different ways to unleash your inner creative demons: Ask your parents if you can redecorate your room. Grab some pots of paint and some cheap throws for your bed, and you’re away! You could even make a pinboard collage of photos of you and your friends. Get into arts and crafts. There are plenty of Irish art shops that you can buy materials from online - though all you really need to kick off your doodling is a pencil and a sketchpad. Who cares if you’re not the next Picasso! Write, if that’s your thing. Start that blog you’ve been meaning to set up for ages, or try your hand at poetry, song-writing or even penning your first great novel. The best thing about writing is that the only tool you need is your imagination, so now is the time to try it out. Teach yourself to play an instrument. This can be expensive if you don’t already have an instrument knocking about the house, but you can always buy one second-hand, or borrow one from a friend. Learning an instrument is strangely addictive, so it’s sure to keep you from being bored. Plus, you’ll have something to impress your friends with come September.
Do some volunteer work
Even if it’s not related to what you want to do with your life, it could still be useful. Not only is it a time-filler, but it’ll look great on your CV when you’re applying for paid jobs. Employers will want to see that you’re not just sitting around watching re-runs of The Big Bang Theory. Also, you never know when a potential employer could spot you in action: if you’re working in a charity shop, for example, someone might tell you about a paid job opening for a cashier. If nothing else, you’ll feel great knowing that you’re giving something back. Check out www.volunteer.ie for information on how to get involved in volunteering.
Get outdoors and exercise
Whether you like walking, running or cycling, shake off your worries about what the neighbours will think and just do your thing. Ireland has some fantastic natural resources, so make the most of what you’ve got in your area. Not only will it beat the boredom and keep you physically fit, but getting outdoors and exercising releases endorphins in the brain, giving you the good-mood booster you might need.
Get lost in fiction
Visit your local library, however uncool it might sound. It’s got a whole load of free books! For free! Alternatively, you can buy really cheap second-hand books on www.play.com. The good thing about reading is that you can do it outside while the weather is nice, so make the most of summer and soak up the rays while getting lost in a book (just be sure to slap on the sunscreen). You don’t have to read to enjoy fiction, either - while it’s not a good idea to stay in and watch TV all the time, it can be good to lose yourself in an on-screen universe for a while. There are so many good series out at the moment that could keep you entertained for nights on end, or you could discover a whole new genre of film with the help of Netflix. You’ll have loads to talk about with your friends when you see them next.
Help out around the house
It doesn’t sound too exciting, but it’ll help you feel useful and avoid arguments with the folks. Try and tailor your household duties to your interests. If you’re into DIY, for example, ask your parents if they need a hand with a home improvement project. If you like cooking, offer to make dinner for the family a few nights a week. Feeling like you’re making a difference in your home will play a huge part in your overall happiness.
Stay connected with friends
If you miss your friends from school or college, arrange Skype dates with them, or plan something you can all do together during the summer. Having a stepping stone to look forward to helps make the days go much faster. If you’re home from college for the summer, take the opportunity to reconnect with old friends that you haven’t seen in a while. It doesn’t have to be an expensive night out or anything - just meeting up for a coffee or calling over to their house will be enough to keep the lines of friendship open and get those happy vibes that can only come from a good chat.
Last summer, I spent pretty much the whole time sitting inside my house, bored out of my mind, waiting for a job I had to start (long story, doesn't end well). So, since I had no part time job to go to, I needed to find ways to fill my time. I did arrange to spend time with friends, but when everyone has their own summer plans (Gaeltacht, J1s, work, holidays, etc), sometimes you can find yourself with lots of free time and no one to spend it with.
This is what happened to me, and instead of finding something constructive to do with my time, I spent the 3 months inside, playing Animal Crossing on my 3DS, constantly refreshing social media in the hopes that someone has posted something in the last 30 seconds and flicking through mind numbing tv shows trying to find something worth watching. I actually felt like I was going crazy.
This time round, I made a decision at the beginning of the summer that I would not let the same thing happen. It really is very easy to fall into that tired haze of internet, tv, internet, tv, oh look, it's sunny out....internet, tv. The problem is once you fall into that pit of boredom it can be hard to actually find the motivation to pull yourself back out. The best way to avoid ever falling into it is to not rely on others to be there in order for you to have a good time – you should learn to enjoy your own company.
Now straight away, I want to make the point that you shouldn't cut other people out completely – that's not healthy and it's important to maintain social relationships and keep in touch with friends. However, on those few occasions where there's somewhere you'd like to go or something you'd like to do but no one is available to join you, don't be afraid to just go by yourself!
This summer, although I do have a reliable job this time, I find every week I've got a day or two where I have no plans and lots of time to fill. Instead of moping about the house driving myself insane, I try to make sure I get outside. I go cycling by myself (sometimes even if it's raining!), I go for a walk around the park, I get the bus into town and find somewhere to sit and read my book, even just a walk to the shop can help me feel better.
Of course you don't have to go outside, there's plenty to do at home – reading, baking, music... you could even spend your time writing for SpunOut.ie! The point is, you're not allowing yourself to waste your summer away in complete boredom just because others are busy. You can get up and do things anyway!
In order to make the most of your summer, you don't need other people. Make plans with friends and family and have a good time, but don't forget that it's okay to do things by yourself once in a while!
Constant echoes of those very unglamorous words ‘baby wipes’. That is what we heard from nearly every festival goer we interviewed for our Sea Sessions live blog, as you’ll see in the video below.
Music festivals are an incredible part of summer-a chance to dance to your favourite bands, let your hair down with your friends and maybe even inadvertently learn a few life lessons along the way. There is always so much craic to be had over the three months you have off from college or school whether it’s to head to Thailand, stateside on a J1 or are forced to secretly enjoy a family holiday. Here are five tips that will make sure that whatever you do, you’ll be safe and sound to laugh about it in September.
1. Caution around water is far more important than you’d think. One of the best pieces of practical advice I ever received was from someone who told me that no matter where you are swimming, the sea is always in control rather than vice versa. Swimming is one of the greatest highlights of any summer, but as the considerable spike in water deaths during the heatwave last summer showed, rivers and seas are not always safe to swim in. Be sure to swim in well-established swimming areas, not quiet canals or rivers where the currents and depths aren’t known well. Additionally, don’t swim too far out as it is easy to quickly get out of reach of others if you do run into trouble. Unless you are in a marked pool that tells exact depth, don’t take the risk of diving headfirst as rivers and sea-beds can often look far deeper than they are in reality.
2. Lobster red is a shade that does not look good on Irish skin. Even though we’re always insanely quick to whip out the tropical shorts, flip flops and Ray-Ban wayfarers, us Irish don’t always remember to throw on the sun cream as well. The Health Service Executive recommend using a sun lotion of at least SPF15 and with UVA protection. If you do get burned, be sure to use after sun and hydrate and stay out of the sun at the very least until it heals. You can find out more about avoiding sun burn or damage control if you have forgotten to wear the right SPF here.
3. Don’t lose your friends. No matter what event you’re at, people can end up going off and doing their own thing and remain missing for several hours on end or accidentally dropping their phone in a Mojito. Whatever the possibility, have a meet up time and place (several hours in advance) in case you get separated so that no one ends up having to wander around on their own unsure of where they are going or where you could be waiting for them.
4. Don’t freeze. I’m all for summer glamour and pretending that you live in California through the medium of your wardrobe. However, once the sun goes down in Ireland the goose bumps often prevail and whether you’re drinking or not have at least one piece of clothing that will stop you from shivering in smoking areas and at main stages and barbeques.
5. Don’t let alcohol ruin your night. A cold beer or cocktail can be a nice addition to a summer event but if you do choose to drink, summer events often last the afternoon, evening and night so be sure to pace yourself, eat well and mix in plenty of non-alcoholic drinks. You want to enjoy the night and still be able to say yes to a day at the beach with the lads the next day so don’t fall victim to having too many ciders just because the sun is out. Find out more info on alcohol here.
If you are confident in your ability to remain calm and collected during an interview while still coming across as focused and confident, look away now. You don’t need this advice. However, if like me you attend your first proper interview for an actual full-time job and discover you have no idea what to say, then keep reading. I’ve been there (a good few times, actually), but, inch-by-excruciatingly-painful-inch, I learned how to tackle my nerves and make a good impression.
When I first started going to interviews, I would be so nervous that I would keep drinking the water they offered - glasses and glasses. So often, that one interviewer asked if I would like them to open a window, I obviously needed to cool down. Most of the time I would be lightly shaking, and my voice would always come out weird when answering the first question.
I was so caught up in what they were going to ask, and how to give a perfect answer, that I failed to relax into it, be myself and appear in anyway competent. Obviously this was a major hurdle in landing a job. My eureka moment came when I was interviewed for a marketing internship. On the day, I couldn’t find the office due to a slight mix up in my mind between the word “road” and “street”. This led to me racing at top speed up and down Dublin’s cobbles, in heels, four times. Luckily I was in plenty of time (Tip #1!) so I made it with a minute to spare, complete with sweaty red face and out of breath (at least this time I felt the water was warranted).
I wouldn’t recommend doing this, at all in any way, but exercise is a great way to calm nerves. I was interviewed by two people at the same time, good cop and bad cop. Bad cop did most of the talking and got me so far out of my comfort zone I forgot to be nervous. I couldn’t possibly have prepared for his questions if I had tried. They seemed so ridiculously hard in comparison to any other interview I’d been to that I thought, pretty much from the moment he started talking, that there was no way I would get the job. This was an a-ha! moment, because it meant I relaxed. I stopped caring about perfectly rehearsed answers and just went with the flow.
I walked out 99% sure I would never hear from them again, but I was wrong. They offered me a job. This was a fantastic learning curve for me, and it gave me great experience that I carried into later interviews. I had found my rhythm and what worked for me.
So without further ado, here are my top tips to help you not be your own worst enemy on interview day:
While volunteering recently with a children’s charity, I spoke to a child about her favourite books. She liked books about adventures, books that made her laugh and books about girls just like her. Our conversation got me thinking that there’s so much overlap between the lessons we learn as children and our values as we grow up. As National Volunteering Week is coming up I decided to use some quotes from children’s books to highlight the benefits of volunteering.
Volunteering can help to shape your future. Often volunteering in an organisation can lead to increased opportunities and sometimes even career progression. For example, if you’re interested in becoming a photographer you might volunteer to take photos for a charity event which you could then add to your portfolio of work.
Volunteering can expand your horizons. Volunteering can expose you to a wide range of people from different walks of life. Volunteering might even enable you to travel if you seek opportunities overseas. Have you ever imagined what it would be like to work in the slums of Mumbai, a hospital in Tanzania or the rainforest in Peru?
Volunteering can enable you to discover new talents within yourself. When you volunteer you get to try new things and push yourself out of your comfort zone which can result in increased feelings of pride and accomplishment. For example, you might never have thought that you were a people person but you volunteer with a local helpline which changes your mind.
Volunteering can be lots of fun. Giving your time to a cause you’re passionate about can provide an escape from the commitments of school, work and family. Choosing to volunteer with an organisation that aligns with one of your hobbies can also be really energising. For example, if you’re a creative person with little opportunities to express your creativity, volunteering with an arts and crafts group could be extremely fulfilling.
Volunteering can help you make connections. When you volunteer you become part of a community of like-minded people who can provide a valuable support system throughout life. Finding a mentor within an organisation can also be very helpful. For example, you aspire to work as a vet and you spend some time volunteering with an animal charity. During that time you work with the CEO who sees how fantastic you are and can then act as a guide and referee for you throughout your career.
Volunteering can make you happier. There are many studies showing that volunteering results in increased happiness and some studies even claim that volunteering can help you live longer. By volunteering you become part of something bigger than yourself and develop an active social and community life. For example, volunteering with your local youth group may enable you to reconnect with your community resulting in increased feelings of happiness.
When I first got the Internet, it could only be accessed in my Dad's office. Then we got it in our house and in truth, it was neither practical nor fit for purpose. The amount of time it took Google to load a search equated to how long it took me to pick up an encyclopedia and find what I needed.
Now, it’s totally different. My constant questioning as a kid could now be satisfied in 0.24 seconds a question. Anything I wonder can be immediately Googled and found out. Yet, the thing is – who says if it’s true. There’s a lot of rubbish online.
Only when I started writing academic essays at college did I start questioning the vague “facts” and “experts” online. For once, I had to read something and internally say ‘prove it’. Suddenly, I found that most of what I read and believed to be true couldn’t be proved. I couldn’t stick it in an essay even if it seemed true because I had no proof that it was. Now, let’s take this back to me when I was younger. Back then I had an encyclopedia, it was years of quality research and just by it being in the book was enough to say that it was probably true.
If I went online now as a kid with questions, or to do some research for an essay – once you start questioning, you realise that a lot of what you read is hearsay. Like basing news on gossip or facts or legend. There’s nothing stopping me starting a blog and saying I have a well-earned doctorate in Astrology and expect people to listen. And funnily enough, they probably would. It was only when I needed to prove to my lecturer that what I was saying was true that I began to realise the importance of fact-checks.
Online is of course only going to become more and more used for information, and I hate how it’s killing centuries of books and well-researched information. I probably wouldn’t have an encyclopedia or dictionary in my house if I were growing up in Ireland today. Yet, that's not to say that I don’t need facts. To reiterate the old adage: quality not quantity. Ours is supposedly the age of Information but without citations it’s just nonsense.
In my head, creating a better Internet for young people looks like a platform where they can ask questions, but are answered with actual facts. With the internet becoming the go to for information, we need it more than ever before.
Clothes reflect personality and look well funky, but they can also be so much more than that. What you wear can make a difference to the environment and to the lives of garment workers all around the world. So, when you are thinking of buying a beautiful Debs dress, bear the following in mind.
The Debs is probably the most important social event in the life of all secondary school students. It is definitely the deciding factor for many as to whether to leave school or not, prior to the Leaving Cert!
With all the panic and hype around the situation it becomes easy to forget things.
So here is a simple checklist to keep you on track for that important night:
Finishing school is a time for some serious thinking (and dreaming) about your future: Cue deep breath! In Leaving Cert or A Levels/GCSE year, you need to decide what’s best for YOU and whether you want to continue studying in college or university, take some time out, get a job or apprenticeship or do something totally different. Cue another deep breath!
A glance at the huge number of options out there:
Travel and volunteering:
Not everyone wants to jump straight into more study after school and even more people don’t want to get a job right after school or university!
Start a band, join a monastery, try to make it on Broadway, open a gallery, join the circus, start a blog, be a busker, write a book, open a community garden, spend some quality time with your gran ...
Remember, this life is a blank canvas. Splash the colour and take the path that feels right to you, no matter what naysayers grunt and groan about. It is your life. The sky, your imagination, and your determination are the limit!
Picnics and barbecues
You don't have to mourn the end of enjoyable summer barbecues or picnics if you're trying to eat healthy or if you are diabetic. With a little planning, you can dine outside and enjoy all the wonderful flavours summer has to offer, just the same as everyone else. Barbecuing is a great way to cook and can make healthy food even tastier. With some creative thinking you can pack your picnic basket with delicious healthy options too. Revamp your barbecues and picnic for more flavour and nutrition. Break old habits and start new ones with healthy eating. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Tasty meat, fish and poultry
Use oil-vinegar based marinates for meat, fish and poultry. Fruit purees, diluted fruit juice and low sugar preserves can also be used for tasty marinades. For example, marinate slices of beef in orange juice before barbequing. Then, put them in a plastic freezer bag for less mess and quicker clean up. Use a brush to lightly apply the marinade during barbecuing. Herbs can also be added to meat, fish and poultry before placing on the barbecue also (see below).
Experiment with fruit and vegetables
Add colour to your barbecue or picnic with fruit and vegetables. The wide variety available in summer makes it is easy to eat the recommended five portions daily. Perk up traditional dishes by using strawberries, pears, pineapple, and kiwi. Add them to salads and salsa or puree them in smoothies. Jazz up fruit salad by adding seasonal fruits. Buying fruit in season also means you will get them at the best price. Look out for special offers on exotic fruit, like kumquats, mangoes or star fruit in your local supermarket. Try barbecued fruit kebabs or banana parcels.
Vegetables like peppers, corn, aubergine or onions can be seasoned with herbs and placed directly on the barbecue until tender and brown. Vegetables like courgette, tomatoes, mushroom or carrot can be sliced, seasoned and wrapped in foil before placing on the barbecue and cooking until tender.
Salads don’t have to be boring. Use different varieties of lettuce to form the bases of your salad. Spinach leaves, watercress, celery tops, basil, parsley and chicory are also great in salads. Experiment with ingredients i.e. cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, cucumber, onion, different varieties of cheese, olives, chickpeas, etc. Add milk, fruit juice, or low fat yoghurt or low fat mayo for a tasty dressing. Serve with low fat salad dressings (watch out for sugar in these), balsamic vinegar and low fat yoghurt etc on the side.
Rice, couscous and pasta also provides an excellent basis for salad. Spice them up by adding flaked almonds, raisins, sun-dried tomatoes, different varieties of beans (e.g. kidney beans, black eyed beans), peas or lentils etc. Remember fruit and vegetables can be eaten alone, added to salads or used as garnish.
Get physically active
Barbecues and picnics provide great opportunity for some exercise. Throwing around a frisbee or playing football can make you work up an appetite. Walking also helps burn up unwanted calories so take that forest trail or walk along the beach.
This information was provided by the Community Nutrition & Dietetic Service of the Health Promotion Department, HSE Dublin North East.