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TRIP TO IRELAND 2016 (Article currently being translated)

This is my eighteenth trip to Ireland for young people who want to practise their English in a pleasant environment and where optimum opportunities are available for them to meet Irish people.

(If you would like to download all this information in PDF format – Adobe Acrobat or similar software required for viewing – please, click here.)

WHERE DO WE TRAVEL TO?

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On the map (it opens in a new tab/window) you can see County Tipperary. The group is housed in the heart of Tipperary, which is in the south centre of Ireland. Our families live all over the place, stretching from Loughmore, Borrisoleigh, Two Mile Borris and Thurles, Holycross, Clonoulty or Drumbane into Knockavilla and Dundrum. Some of the roads are probably not on the map!

Class and Sports are held in the Canon Hayes Sports Centre in Tipperary Town (continue south-west on the R661).

WHEN? From 27th June to 25th July 2016

Aer Lingus flight EI595 leaves Barajas at 21:05 on 27th June and arrives in Dublin at 22:40.

On 25th July Aer Lingus flight EI592 leaves Dublin airport at 06:15 and arrives in Madrid at 09:55.

OBJECTIVES:

Eighteen years ago I took a small group to the outskirts of Dublin. While the students had a great time, I did not believe that they had all of the opportunities possible to interact with the local people. They met up a lot among themselves, creating small and larger groups of "foreign students" - commonly called "Spaniards" to simplify.

There is little sense in allowing this culture to continue when your main objective is to learn English, if you are looking for a simple holiday, this is not the web page you need to be on. If you do want to learn English, you need to be around the people who speak the language. Our objective is to create a small community of students who are well-integrated in their family setting so that English becomes a natural part of their daily routine. Students will not speak English twenty-four hours a day, that is expecting too much of any human being, however, all of our activities are designed in a way that they will have many opportunities throughout the day to speak. Most of the activities have a high English content, but they also include having fun in a healthy atmosphere. We try to have a little bit of everything to try to please as many as possible.

Who is this trip for?

Generally speaking the group is made up of youth between the ages of twelve and seventeen. We have travelled with younger children, but only after meeting them a couple of times and feeling happy that they would be able to spend four weeks away from their homes. It is also very important to know that the parents and extended family back home will be able to stay strong while their child is abroad. I have also taken students aged 18 and over, but they were previous travellers with the group, so they were well-known to me and willing to obey the rules.

If you or your child is not ready for such a long stay abroad, please wait until a time in the future when you are comfortable with the idea. We will do everything in our power to help people settle into their new situation as quickly as possible, but it is not fair on your child, the host family, or the organisation to expect us to still be dealing with a problem two weeks into the trip.

The first few minutes after arrival can be difficulty for some. Many students arrive the first morning saying that they are happy. I always say that you need at least thrree days to get used to your new surroundings and routine. It is hard to enter a strange house and take it on as your own. New comers aand their parents are often more vulnerable because they are facing the unknown. Here I would like to include those evil parents who have spent months reminding their child how happy they are going to be for four long weeks! Even they will be nervous until they see their child relaxed and happy. There is always a danger of parents projecting their unease onto the child, which could never be a good thing. Check the paragraph about communications for my recommendations on this.

In conclusion, if either parent or child is not ready for this experience, it is not a crime to wait until you are.

 

FAMILIES AND YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM

The majority of our families already have a lot of experience looking after our students over the years. One of the reasons for taking in students is that the experience is good for their own children as it gives them someone to spend time with over the long summer holidays and they get to learn about different cultures. It is an enriching experience for everyone.

This does not mean that anyone should expect it to be a "piece of cake". This meeting of cultures will inevitably lead to comparisons, subjective criticism, sometimes rejection of strange habits, but finally we hope to reach a "happy place" of understanding that as an old Spanish advertising slogan said, "We are all different. We are all the same." In this situation the host families and the repeating students play at an advantage. Their daily routine with their family is their own business and we do not interfere in it. We are, however, constatly vigilant with regard to how the students are settling in and will help them to resolve the minor problems that they encounter on the way. On a very few occasions we have seen the need to change a student to a different family. Should this situation arise, we will do it in the shortest time humanly possible.

The host family should become your Irish family. I meet you as often as I can before we travel so that I can try to find the perfect house for you. I am quite, no very good at selecting families. But sometimes that is not good enough. Sometimes I make a mistake, other times students do not tell me that they are not happy. If you are not happy in your new home, tell me while we are in Ireland. Do not tell me in August or September after we have returned. There is nothing I can do to remedy your "bad" situation once we have returned.

THE EVENINGS AT HOME WITH YOUR FAMILY

Each person in the group is under the obligation to understand their responsibility to their new family. They have to spend time with them and talk to them every day. They have to be respectful. The students, too, have to make a very big effort so that everybody involved has a good time. I say all this for a reason. I have seen cases of students, very nice people, who forget that they are sharing their summer with other people, using the house as if it were a hotel, not a home. Nobody believes it is important for you to meet your friends once the bus has left you home. It is your obligation to spend time with your family and to talk to them. It is not necessary for you to meet up with other people from the group. And, a little information for those who might want to meet up. The families have received strict instructions that this is not necessary, and at most you can maybe go out two evenings a week if it suits the family.

It is also your obligation to always carry my telephone number and a contact number for your family. Your family should know where you are at all times.

THE ACTIVITIES

Every day two minibuses collect the students and take them to wherever our activities are that day.

Depending on the number of free seats available on the buses we are always delighted to have children from our host families accompany us. This trip places special emphasis on sport as a medium to learning English. It offers ideal conditions for teamwork and communication. It also helps to send tired children home most evenings! The teachers, the sports monitors and the Irish children who accompany us do not speak Spanish. This means that it is a question of manners that you should speak English when there is an English speaking person near you. This year, 2016, there are some people from France interested in the AlanSpeak.com trip. The same goes for you! Some people speak French in Ireland. But, you are NOT travelling to teach French. Having said that, it is possible that if someone in your host family speaks French, they might translate something that they have already said to you in English, just to be certain that you have understood. If you have any doubts about this, you can ask me when we meet. I hope to visit you in March, probably April.

Our introduction to horse riding requires a lot of your attention. Any bad behaviour around the horses will mean expulsion from the class. We hope that you will learn the basics, such as posture, and, how to stay in the saddle! Pay special attention to the instructions when trotting, especially boys who hope to have their own children one day! We complement our riding classes with a day out at the horse races, an Irish tradition. Between small bets and laughs, losses and wins it is a very entertaining afternoon/evening.

Surfing is also an attractive sport to learn and students generally have a great day out; even if the weather is almost like winter. In fact, it is better to have bad weather for surfing!

Our cultural visits are guided and we take our time. We very often interrupt the guides to ask questions to ensure that people are learning something about the place we are visiting.

Students are required to take these moments seriously and show absolute respect towards the person who is showing us around. Any person who misbehaves during a visit will be asked to leave the group and go to a quiet corner and write a five hundred-word essay in English. The teachers think that this "punishment" is fantastic and apply the same rules to the classroom.


YOUR SUITCASE AND OTHER PERSONAL THINGS

You only need clothes for a week (maybe nine days). You will get all towels, sheets and other things from your Irish family. Do not put something into your suitcase "just in case you might need it!" The maximum weight for your suitcase is 20 Kg. You will buy things in Ireland. Try to have a suitcase that weighs between 15 and 18 Kg when you are travelling to Ireland. Aer Lingus charges €15 per extra kilo. If your suitcase is overweight, YOU have to pay!

Your hand luggage can weigh seven kilos, but they do not usually check this. 

You are responsible for your luggage and your documents at ALL times. Please do not expect someone else to constantly look after or carry your luggage for you. This is not a problem for going to the toilet at the airport, or if you have a temporary problem with your arm/back! We are nice. We will help. Just not lazy people!

Suitcases are a pain in the neck when you travel, but it is also true that you will not have to pull or push it for long periods of time.

LIST OF CLOTHES AND PERSONAL OBJECTS:

SUITCASE (Max. weight 20 Kg.):

  • 2 tracksuits,
  • 2 short trousers,
  • 2 jeans,
  • 4 shirts,
  • 2 sweatshirts,
  • Plastic Raincoat and Fleece,
  • 2 Pyjamas,
  • Swimwear,
  • Swimming cap and flip flops,
  • Sporst shoes,
  • Underwear,
  • Something nice, in case you have a family celebration,
  • Nail clippers and other objects considered dangerous in your SUITCASE.

HAND LUGGAGE (Max. weight 7 Kg.):

  • One complete change of clothes (1),
  • Toilet bag (NO sharp or dangerous objects. No liquids.),
  • Any medication you require (2),
  • Passport (3),
  • Camera,
  • Any objects of value (4),
  • Money (5),
  • European Health Card or corresponding Health Insurance (6),
  • Pen, pencil, rubber, ruler, notebook.

You are now also allowed to carry a small "hand bag": This allows you to carry a little bit more, and maybe any "fragile" items you need to take. Please remember the rules about taking liquids and gels on board the plane. Any container larger than 100 ml must be in your suitcase. If you bring water to the airport, you must finish it before going through security. Put the empty bottle in the tray. If you cause a delay because you are carrying liquids or gels, you will buy me a bottle of wine to enjoy once the trip is over.

The days we travel are very long and you need to have food with you. You can buy food on the plane, but generally students do not. It is important to remind you however, that it is easier to buy water or a soft drink on the plane.

Any liquids that you believe you must have with you on the flight, or medication (liquid/gel) you might need in case your suitcase does not arrive at the airport when you do, should be in 100 ml bottles. You can carry a maximum of 10 transparent 100 ml bottles. Generally speaking it is NOT necessary to carry any liquids or gels in your hand luggage.

Airport security: Remove all belts, watches, earrings, bracelets before taking your tray. If it is metal take it off. Better still, do not wear metal objects for travelling. Empty your pockets. Put everything into your hand luggage. Watch the other people in front of you. Sometimes it is necessary to remove your shoes for security reasons, especially if you are wearing boots, or big, heavy shoes/runners. Remember our objective is to be fast, unlike 50% of the general population!

  1. Sometimes suitcases do not arrive at the correct airport, and this can cause a lot of consternation. Once a boy who paid no attention to my recommendations had no extra clothes in his hand luggage. He becanme very angry when his suitcase went to Moscow (it arrived at his house in 24 hours). If you want to avoid this uncomfortable situation, have some clean clothes in your hand luggage. A tracksuit is ideal, except for special occasions!
  2. Please, let us know in writing and at least one month before departure of any medical condition your child might have, even if they have not had an episode for a number of years (yes, I've had one in hospital with accute appendicitis, a bed-wetter, two sets of parents who forgot to include their children's medication... so many bottles of wine I should have received!) Please include information on allergies, medication the child is taking so that we can explain everything to the host family. Remember with the European Health Card children will be seen by doctors/hospitals at no expense. Given our current drive on austerity, I am not sure what they consider a child nowadays! There may doctor's fees/hospital charges, which might not be covered by the different insurance policies. For more information on the European Health Card: http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=559&langId=fr 
  3. It is possible to travel between European Countries with just a National ID card, in the case of minors, this MUST be accompanied with a Parental Permission Permit, which can be obtained from the police. On 1st June, 2014 they government changed the law making it necessary for both parents to sign the same form. I had two travellers without a passport. Both with divorced parents. The first had his Permit signed before the law changed. He had no trouble. The other did not even know what the Permit thing was! We suffered absolute chaos, and his family did, too, trying to get everything in order for him to travel on the flight with the rest of the group. We insist on the easy option. All AlanSpeakers MUST travel with their passport. (If you need the child's passport to obtain a visa for a different trip or, in that case, for any other reason, they can travel with National ID and the Police/Parental Permit. It is your responsibility to find out if your country requires it to be signed by both parents. Although in Spain they changed the law again very quickly because it was so stupid and ridiculous. Not only for divorcing/divorced couples. Imagine your family lives in Madrid but your spouse works in Paris from Monday to Friday. You couldn't get the Permit! I love intelligent, well-thought out laws! I recommend you keep a copy of your child's passport, sometimes it is necessary for other things while your child is travelling: schools, scholarships/funding. It is not necessary to carry ID at all times in Ireland, but a photocopy of your Natioinal ID or passport is not a bad idea. If your child has a passport from a country other than the country they are travelling from, please warn us in advance. When you arrive in Dublin, Alan will take your passport until the return journey.
  4. The easiest thing is not to take anything of value with you. A cheap watch is better than the watch your grandmother gave you for your birthday. When we am running around after 50 people, we lose all sentimentality. We will not wait if you leave your watch in the changing rooms at the surf school. Actually, now that I am almost on the subject, the bus will not wait for you in the morning if you are late either. Fifty people cannot miss a day away or their English classes because you are a sleepy head! If you miss the bus, you spend the day at home.
  5. We also offer a wonderful bank service without any hidden charges! It is better if you travel with enough money for the first few days. You can give us the rest of your money in an envelope when we arrive in Ireland. Put your name AND the amount on the SIDE of the envelope. We recommend a total of €200 for personal expenses. Please, remember, if any child needs extra money, all you have to do is send a Whatsapp message indicating the amount and we can settle accounts when the group returns.
  6. We also hold your child's health card. They should have a photo of it on their phone and should pass this photo to their family in Ireland. If they need to see a doctor, they will go straight away. If it is not an extreme emergency, when everybody else is covered. Any extra expenses for medication or necessities must be paid for by the parents on the return journey. Some Spanish civil servants have a different health scheme and are not entitled to the European Health Card per sé. If that is your case, please let us know how your system works.

If your child needs a doctor, they will go to the doctor. The paperwork can wait.

COMMUNICATION

It is more and more important to set out ground rules on communication between children and parents over the month. When this all started we used to recommend a quick phone call once the child had arrived in their new home and then no further communication for a week. This can even be of vital importance when someone is having a hard time settling in. Whatsapp and other communicating tools are making things easier on the one hand, but horribly complicated on the other. Your child should not be contacting you 24/7. If this is happening, we need to know.

More importantly, YOU should not be contacting your child 24/7, or for that matter expect a personalised update every 24 hours. Honestly I do not have the patience to deal with that kind of intensive contact.

I create a Whatsapp group for parents and the other workers. You will receive constant messages and updates throughout the day while we are with the group. Any questions or doubts will be dealt with as quickly as possible. Daily asking "How is Jean Paul/Geneviève?" will eventually be ignored. You obviously did not read the bit that says, "If you are not ready for four weeks without your child..."

Please contact your mobile phone company with regard to roaming charges. In Spain, Vodafone has stopped roaming charges. I am a client. I have not checked out this information. Actually, I find it hard to believe that anyphone company is ahead of Euro politics by a number of years... for free! The EU was supposed to stop roaming charges for 2015. But pressure from phone companies caused them to change that to 2018, which means I wasn't expecting it to happen in our lifetime.

MOBILE PHONES: I HATE THEM. People spend too much time on them. I do not see or understand a child's need to be in constant contact with their friends in France, Spain or Honolulu during their four-week stay in Ireland. I make no apologies. I do not understand parents who send their child to learn English and expect them to spend four hours every evening messaging and having a conversation. If you want your child to learn English, do not waste their precious time with messages. I am organising English courses for adults. You could do one of those and be near your off-spring!

Gone are the days when we could say do not take a mobile to Ireland. Society has changed and all you need to do is look around you to see it is not always for the better. We prefer if students leave their phones at home. At the Sports Centre there is free wifi. When the buses arrive at 10:00, we collect all phones and put them in a plastic box until lunchtime. Students have access from 13:00 to 14:00. They go back into the box (the phones, not the students) until 17:30 when the buses return to take us home. At any time during the day you can send me a message if you are worried or if you haven't heard from "Godot" for a number of days. It might seem hard to believe, but this mostly happens when your child is having fun and is too busy to talk to you. Unless they have broken their phone... But that is another kettle of fish! I have an extra phone with me for emergencies like this one.

“Vices”: No discos. We do not organise discos. We will not organise discos. Students are not allowed to go to discos. Or pubs for that matter. We have a strict no alcohol, no drugs, no stealing and no smoking policy. If anyone breaks these simple rules, they need to buy a ticket on the next plane out of Ireland back home. There will be NO refund under these circumstances. Students are also prohibitted from meeting up in groups in the evenings. You owe yourself to your family and their plans are more important than yours.

PLASTIC BAGS: Please bring one or two with you to protect your things in your rucksack from any accidents with your lunch drink or to carry your wet swimming gear after the swimming pool or surfing.

I am sure you will be missing some information. Please do not hesitate to let me know so that I can update the page and cover any possible doubts you or other parents/students might have. Remember our objective is to have the best possible trip for everybody in the group.

This website has a protected photo album with pictures from the trip. It is updated daily. I will facilitate instructions on how to view the photos before the trip starts.

Best regards for the present,

Alan.

 

 


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