My name is Darragh. I am a 17 year old cis male from Cork. In July 2019, I got the opportunity to travel to Denmark to take part in the International Summer-School Ranum Efterskole. This was the first time anyone has travelled to Denmark as part of Explore, so every part of this was new.

In my life, I have for a long time felt very under-challenged. In the past, I’ve had issues with mental health that I had to battle; last year I took back control of my life. Since then, I’ve been bored senseless.  I have travelled, I’ve gone above and beyond in engagement with my local and broader community. Despite this, I still didn’t feel challenged. I knew what I was doing and where I was going. Then I heard about EIL Explore. I had no idea what was in store for me. I didn’t entirely know where I was going, what I was doing or whether or not I would even enjoy it – but that was the fun in it. It was brand-new. I wanted a challenge.

There is nothing more exciting to me than the unknown. Travelling to a new place, to meet young people from countries I may have not even heard of and live in the home of a foreign mother tongue. I had to take the opportunity.

Come late June, 2019, and I’m boarding a plane to leave my home. I’ve never gone anywhere alone, my parents have always taken care of me. Yet here we were, just Michael and I. Michael is a close friend of mine, we’ve known each other for well over two years. It may not sound like much, but I spent a long time alone. We sent a joint-application to EIL to go to Denmark. Michael is one of my closest friends, I wouldn’t have gone without him.

We reached Denmark and got a bus to Ranum, the place we’d be living for the next month. We travelled there with 26 Italians. Needless to say, we stood out. There was something terrifying about entering our new home and hearing a multitude of different languages being spoken over each-other; none of which was English. It was exhilarating. 

I made friends with people from over a dozen different countries. Every person spoke a different language, shared a different culture, had varying powerful opinions and lived a life of experiences unbeknown to me. I learned about the protests in Hong Kong, the discord in Syria, farming in Estonia, poverty in Lebanon and more, and more, and more. I also learned about Ireland. Things that were part of my culture that I didn’t know weren’t commonplace. Simple things, such as the way we pronounce the letter ‘r’, and large things, like how interpersonal the Irish can be. Do you know the extent to which the Irish are adored internationally? It’s bizarre.

Being with so many people that lived such different lives came with challenges. Some trivial, some difficult. I had to force myself to change for the better, and quick. So I did. Everyone did. It was a mutual challenge, with equal benefits for everyone. The most interesting thing to me was seeing not how many differences we have, but how many things we had in common. Despite immense differences in our lives, we all enjoyed the same media, had similar hobbies, and we all faced the same challenges. When traveling, my friends tend to say their favorite part of it is the people. No matter what country anyone goes to, their favorite thing is the people. I learned that the reason for that is because we’re all the same. We’re the same, but we grew up differently.

Every person I met I questioned. I wanted to learn about where they came from, and what their plans were. I wanted to understand their culture and their quirks. They wanted the same. Everyone just wants to see what life is like from another perspective – and nobody wants to be alone. That realisation never left me. I could talk for hours about being in Denmark, the places I visited and the things I saw, but nothing will be as fascinating as what I learned from the people.

After I returned home, I had a whole new perspective on my daily life. I felt a necessity to be more independent, my interactions with close friends are vastly different and I have a whole new outlook on the smallest experiences but most importantly, I’ve introduced a multitude of new cultures into my life. These are the friends I made in Denmark, we represent Ireland, England, Denmark, Italy, China, Hong Kong, Morocco, Spain, Estonia, Lebanon, Singapore, Germany, Wales, Taiwan, Australia, Ukraine and more. Thank you for the memories, I can’t wait to meet you all again soon.

Darragh- International Summer School – 2019