Ah, the Gaeltacht.
An alternate universe where the cool kids are the ones who went to an Irish speaking primary, and the losers are the ones who don’t put in any effort.
A rite of passage for kids growing up in Ireland, Irish College is truly an experience like no other. Here are 18 little details you’ll remember if you were lucky enough to experience it…
1. The look of sheer jealousy from fellow young ones when you shifted the hot lad/girl
Gaeltacht time goes faster than normal time. Three weeks feels like three years and finding the love of your life within the first 20 minutes is pretty standard and often encouraged.
This – paired with your first real experience of hormones, your first steps out of puberty and your first time away from home – is a recipe for life-altering love triangles.
2. Absolutely loads of bloody donkeys
Out in the wilderness that is Connemara, you forget all about the modern gadgets and city life you’ve left behind and embrace the countryside in which you currently reside.
Donkeys become your new best mates, trusted and are akin to the cats, dogs and rabbits you left at home.
3. The mortification when you see your name on the ‘Balla an Grá’ after one shift
While being 15 and surrounded by 300 of your peers is basically asking for mortification in itself, having your name written, and paired with someone else’s, inside a heart on an out-of-reach poster is enough to make you wish you were dead.
Also it basically ruled you out of getting the shift from said person again because they’re petrified to be seen with you, and anyone else because now you’re considered out of bounds. Bollocks.
4. Your first experience with sweat patches
300+ pubescent tweens swinging each other around for three hours at céilis, and then having to share one shower between 12. Illegal behaviour.
5. Actually looking forward to seeing your family
Until you realise that your little brother is wearing the jumper you specifically told him not to and wouldn’t look out of place at a fucking swamp.
6. Sick beats
Due to the fact that every song on the radio is sung through English, such luxuries were considered contraband in the confined hub that is Irish college.
Therefore, unless you wanted three weeks of awkward silences, you had to get used to the music of the Gaeltacht. Including The Walls Of Limerick, Niamh Chinn Óir (Tír na nÓg) and this absolute banger.
7. Thinking Spiddal was akin to NYC
When you’re out in the sticks for what seems like eternity, anywhere with a shop, a post office or indeed a pub seems like the city that never sleeps.
What seems like a hub of fast cars and fast women is actually a small seaside village filled with American tourists trying to find their relatives.
8. Being fucking delighted when you made the ‘liosta te’
Yes, that’s ‘the hot list’ for those of you who’ve forgotten (although, how could you really). And, yes, it is indeed a list of the hottest boys, girls and mythical creatures that you find out in Connemara.
On the outside you thought this was barbaric, chauvinistic and downright wrong – but inside you were walking on bloody air, like the beautiful angel you were.
9. Being ruined by your mates with care packages
Whether they write Jimmy ‘Big Dick’ Murphy on the front of the package so that when it’s called in front of the whole college you lose your life, or else they send you a package filled with bad photos of you along with your ratty Bosco pyjamas, they’re out to embarrass you.
Never forget that.
10. Finding real love
As aforementioned, those three weeks seem to span over three years and relationships are maybe the most intense you’ll ever have in your life.
Gaeltacht love is real love and that intensity you two had will live forever, especially when you meet at the reunion a month later and shift the face off each other.
11. Real fear lives in the form of Mná Tí
They Bean and Tí is generally a huge women who will make you eat shite and bark at you in an incomprehensible language. She will, in turn, change your life in showing you that every scrape, wound or illness can be cured with getting over yourself.
Second only to the fear an tí who, quite honestly, has just made up his own language.
12. Writing sonnets on your mates’ copies on the last day
The relationships you have struck up from living in each others’ pockets for the past three weeks have been so intense that a simple ‘goodbye’ would surely not suffice.
Instead, a three-page love note, with descriptive details is scrawled all over your Aisling copy, with your number and, then MSN username, scribbled at the end.
13. The realisation that when you’re hungry, you’ll eat anything
Even the fussiest, gluten free, dairy free, paleo eater would be asking for more corned beef and rice pudding to satisfy their wailing bellies.
Marmite sandwiches? Slick. Watery tea? Deadly.
14. Vehicles are a luxury that you neither warrant nor deserve
Legs are for walking, and that’s just what they did. You’d want to be sure that you pack comfortable shoes for your trip to Connemara as you find that you are indeed your own transport system.
It would bring nothing but blisters and sadness – but this, you’d tell yourself, is your life now.
15. Sharing is caring
During your stay in houses built for five but hosting 18, you learn that a problem shared is a problem halved and that these kids had your back when you ran out of stuff like shampoo or jocks.
Thanks to this, you become a less of an insufferable little shit, and more of a human being. You won’t realise this until later life.
16. Sneaking out is always cool even if you only get as far as the bike shed
Even if you got caught, because word spread that you were a legend.
17. The fairest way to settle anything is over a game of rounders
Both a team bonding exercise and a way to worm out the weak. Sure you don’t even need bats, a good big stick will do once you have a ping pong ball handy.
18. And finally, the act of smuggling goods
A handy one for those of you looking to bring some Dairy Milk abroad.
So, Kinder Buenos go into shoes and smokes go into your make up bag, whereas you stuff your phone into your rain mac. Solid.