By Chiara-Michelle Bencek and Linda Hösele
Our journey to Ireland started on the 24th of June. The plane took off in Vienna at 12 o’ clock. Everything went well and we arrived at Dublin Airport around 2 p.m. We stayed in an Airbnb accommodation for the night. On that day we rediscovered the city because we had already been there with our classmates. We enjoyed our short city trip and had a pleasant evening in the center of Dublin. The next day we took the bus to Letterkenny, where we were staying for almost six weeks.
Letterkenny is the largest town in County Donegal in the province of Ulster. The population is approximately 20 000. Although Letterkenny is small it’s incredible how well developed the town is. For instance the cultural offers are way better than in some towns here in Austria. In the middle of the town you can find the Grianán Theatre and behind there is the Regional Cultural Centre (R.C.C) where a great deal of concerts and performances are taking place. There are also many stores and in general you can find everything your heart might desire.
On the 26th of June we started our first workday at the Earagail Arts Festival office. The staff members at the office welcomed us in a very friendly way and they were totally thrilled to have helping hands from Austria. They gave us an insight into several work areas like: Marketing, Web Design, Office Management, Artist Support and Volunteer & Outreach Co-ordination. We started to promote the festival in Letterkenny and in Derry two weeks before the opening of the festival.
Derry officially “Londonderry” (as the Brits call the city) is the second-largest city in Northern Ireland. We got a mountain of posters and flyers to distribute and we got the possibility to discover the hotspots of our village and of Derry. We met wonderful people and amazing natural destinations during the festival time around Donegal. In those 6 weeks we visited various places like the Island Arranmore, Malin, the Glenveagh National Park, the Wildflower Reserve Inch etc. Most of the time we worked at the box office and we did audience surveys. We got in touch with many other volunteers. At the office we put the audience survey cards into Excel files and sorted them out. Working for that festival and being surrounded by so many open-minded people brought us so much joy and filled our hearts with positive energy.
Living in Letterkenny:
To be precise the Irish are really frank and open-minded. They always ask you “What’s the craic? (How you’re doing?)” and they care a lot about you even if you don’t know each other that much. When they notice that you need something they will always offer you help.
In Letterkenny you will spot several nationalities living in the same little town. Our neighbors for instance were Malaysian and we became really good friends with them and we spent a lot of time together. Occasionally we had a “culture shock” because of their eating habits, their manners or their behavior.
Nevertheless that’s normal when two different nationalities clash together. In addition we also made friends with a lot of Irish people and that’s grand because we learned a great deal of Irish words and phrases and we used them frequently.
In a nutshell the Irish people are open-minded however we have to admit that the Irish are known to be a little bit quirky and crazy especially regarding the Irish nightlife. In general you can have a lot of fun with them because they’re very talkative and that’s class.
When we didn’t work we always had a lot on our time schedule. Usually we did a lot of sports. We went playing tennis with our neighbors at the Tennis Court, played badminton or went to the Town Park for a run or just for a walk. However it was also relaxing to just sit in the park and enjoy the sunny Irish weather. In addition we also went to the beach to Rathmullan, Portsalon and many more places. In our point of view “Ballymastocker Beach” is just breathtaking.
When we arrived in Ireland we didn’t expect such nice weather. It was really warm and sunny most of the time. We also got sunburned and that’s totally unusual for Ireland. A few days it was so hot that we wanted to go swimming. At least we tried it once and we’re totally proud to say that we had a great swim in the Atlantic Ocean. The atmosphere at those sandy beaches is just indescribable.
Often we also went to pubs and clubs and enjoyed the Irish nighlife. It’s just cozy when you’re sitting with your friends and are having a pint of Guinness or Irish cider and talk. Moreover we went to a lot of concerts besides all the others where we worked. We always got free tickets for the shows.
In summary we had an amazing time during our stay in Letterkenny. We got used to the Irish life, we met lovely people, made really good friends and we came around a lot. It was an amazing part of our summer holidays and all the beautiful memories will remain forever in our hearts. Letterkenny is a lively town and we’re really looking forward to coming back again one day.