Dear Shannon Rotarians,

I am writing to you to thank you for giving me the fantastic opportunity to represent Shannon Rotary Club at the recent Euroscola trip to the European Parliament in Strasburg. The experience was a huge success and I benefited greatly from the competition in terms of leadership and confidence going forward in life.

I would recommend any student to seriously consider entering the Youth Leadership Development Competition as it is worth every minute of the work you put into it. Of course, the support I received from the Shannon Rotarians ensured that I was extremely well prepared walking into each and every interview,

The trip began in Belfast, where twenty-four nervous teenagers gathered for the first time, each a stranger to one another. I remember feeling particularly anxious walking into the hotel lobby. However, within minutes I had settled down with a lovely group of like-minded people from all different parts of Ireland. The contrast in our accents was noticeable to say the least! I was so immersed in conversation that my poor mother barely got the chance to say goodbye!

That evening, we were put into our groups for the Euroscola topics. The topic which my group was assigned was ‘Young People and Addiction.’

The following morning, excitement was building at breakfast as we prepared for our visit to the Titanic Museum and Stormont. The day in Belfast was fantastic and we had the opportunity to meet with several MPs in Stormont Government Buildings, such as Claire Hanna (SLDP), Roy Beggs (Ulster Unionist Party), Jonathan Buckley (DUP) and Cathal Boylan (Sinn Féin). I found it fascinating to hear the differing views of each politician and to witness first hand the conflicting politics in the North of Ireland. Once the tour concluded, we set off for Dublin.

The next morning in Dublin, we visited the EU Offices, where we were presented with our certificates. We also had the chance to have a question and answer session with James Temple Smithson, Head of Office. This helped our preparation for the Euroscola topics immensely. We then visited Dublin Castle and returned to the hotel for an early night.

At 3.30am we left the hotel for the airport. Everyone was beyond themselves with anticipation for the journey ahead. The tiredness had clearly not hit us yet! However, once we reached Strasburg, we knew that the early start was well worth it. The city and its heritage was absolutely beautiful. I was speechless.

The experience at the European Parliament was by far the highlight of the trip. We had the opportunity to participate and engage in a variety of topical debates around subjects such as the environment, security and human rights, the future of Europe, migration and addiction. Our group from Rotary Ireland certainly stood out from every other country represented in Parliament. At the end of the session, out of a crowd of over five-hundred students from across Europe, each of the six speakers that took to the floor were Irish. I felt so proud to be representing my school, my Rotary Club and my country.

By the end of the trip, each student felt the same sense of pride and honour as I did. We each made memories and friends which we will carry with us through every walkway in life. It was an unforgettable week and I will be forever grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity. Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Elaine Treacy

Gaelcholáiste Luimnigh