Rocking up to Letterkenny at 2am I had no real idea what my journey would include or what different types of people I’d meet along the way. I was kinda nervous as I was going to a different country where I only knew four other people, I would be sharing with an unknown roommate and didn’t know how these people would like me. Flying from Dublin to Reykjavik and then to Boston was where the excitement started building.
Those 12 days in Vermont were honestly incredible start to finish. From icebreakers, berry picking, cheese tasting, ultimate frisbee playing, farmers markets , sing songs, dreamy smores, campfires and the famous maple creamies what else could make a girls true Vermont Experience unforgettable.
Every day held something different with different things to learn and uncover. We had talks and workshops everyday ranging from women in Global leadership, toxic masculinity, citizen journalism, identifying goals and strategies. We also had the opportunity to talk to Vermont legislators, Lieutenant Governor of Vermont and Bernie Sanders’ secretary. The most touching talk was from an Sudanese former slave who shared his story with us .
I chose Politics with Michael Krasner as my issue group and learnt the differences between the US political system and the Irish one. The class was based a lot on discussion where no question was a stupid question. By the end I knew about the political spectrum, the 3 realms of power, spread of right wing groups in Europe, the electoral college, how Trump got elected and how to successfully lobby.
While we did do a lot of work we also had a huge amount of fun. Between forum theatre groups, barn dances, mock congress, African hand drumming, open mic night, singing “I Want It That Way”, meeting Iraqi students and making posters. Participating in the parade on the 4th of July was definitely a highlight of mine. From berry picking, swimming in crystal lakes, floating down streams, learning how to play ultimate frisbee, having a barbecue, dancing to music in a park and watching the fireworks was breathtaking, it’s a memory that always makes me smile.
Vermont itself is beautiful and I only have compliments towards Landmark college and their staff. The food was incredible and the desserts will always have a special place in my heart. All GICIYA staff were the friendliest most helpful adults I’ve ever met who were always so encouraging and believed in every single one of us which was a big contributing factor to the incredible atmosphere during my time there.
The level of open mindedness and acceptance amongst everyone was inspiring you were treated as an equal regardless of your sexuality, race or religion. Not only was everyone I met some if not the nicest people I’ve ever met but they were all passionate about wanting to make a change and speak up about issues that are worrying and pressing. Not only did we learn from the programme but most importantly we learnt from each other. Meeting people from all over Vermont and the World was an eye opening experience that I was so lucky to have and one I’ll never forget. Like the song goes ‘This land is my land,This land is your land’ and most importantly ‘This land was made for you and me’
This programme was a once in a lifetime opportunity that introduced me to strangers who I now hope will be lifelong friends.We laughed, we cried but more importantly we bonded. I can proudly say I gained tolerance, have a greater understanding of what a global citizen should be, went out of my comfort zone, and did things I never dreamed of doing.
My experience of the EIL Youth Activist Award is one that will stay with me forever. It made me feel so empowered to make a change and made me even more passionate to encourage and help others in any way I can. I plan on sharing what I learned with as many people as possible and I’m excited for what the future holds.