In October 2010, Wilson’s Hospital School Transition Year pupil Sophia won a Euroscola competition organised by the European Studies Programme and funded jointly by the governments of both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. As winner of this competition, Sophia and seven of her class, with their teacher Deputy Principal, Mrs Eager went to the European Parliament in Strasbourg in February 2011. The following is an account of the trip to Strasbourg written by Sophia:
In October 2010, Mrs Eager told the European Studies class in Transition Year about the Euroscola Competition for pupils aged 16 or over. The competition involved designing a leaflet about the Millennium Development Goals set out by the United Nations. My leaflet was one of the winning entries. The prize involved our teacher and eight of the class going on a trip to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. These were myself, Dawn, Avril, Catherine, Tara, Philippa, Lynsey and Niamh.
On the 9th February 2011, the eight pupils from Wilson’s Hospital School with Mrs Eager, travelled to Dublin airport where we met the other two winning schools from the Republic of Ireland and the three schools from Northern Ireland. The whole event was co-ordinated by Delores Stinson. The whole group flew to Frankfurt and then travelled by bus to Strasbourg. It was a long day’s travel. We all settled in to the hotel and prepared for the next day’s activities.
During that day we were at the European Parliament building. Security is tight at the Louis Weiss Building where the Parliament meets. In total, approximately 500 pupils from all of the winning schools from the European member states were present. We were all provided with name badges and information about the day’s activities. Then we were divided into different work groups.
Each school introduced their own school in front of the entire group in the actual Parliament building. Wilson’s had to introduce our school for one minute in a language that was not our mother-tongue. Niamh did an excellent job introducing Wilson’s in Spanish (see photo below).
Representatives of the Parliament explained the workings of the European Parliament. We then had the opportunity to ask these representatives questions. Philippa asked how they saw the European Parliament operating in twenty years time. The voting system used by the Parliament was explained to the group and we ourselves voted on various issues that we debated e.g. did we think that our country had benefited from being part of the European Union.
After lunch, we took part in The Euro Game. For this activity we were divided into groups of four, each from different countries and we had to answer questions about Europe. The questions were all asked in different languages, including Irish.
We then moved into our different committees and began to debate various topics. Each group appointed a Chairperson and a Spokesperson. Within their groups both Niamh and I acted as Chairperson and Spokesperson respectively. At the end of the day, in the main Parliament Room, in front of all the participants, the Chairperson introduced their group and the Spokesperson for each group gave a report back on their topic. People were given the opportunity to ask questions which the Chairperson would answer. (See photo below.) The reports were then voted on and would be passed if more than fifty per cent were in favour. All of the committee’s reports were carried.
The final Euro Game was then played with presentations made to the winners. The European Anthem was played at the end of the day while participants waved the flags of the various countries. We were given a European flag and some posters before we left. (See photo below.) It was a very full day and we worked very hard, but it was really exciting too. That night we got to know some of the other students who were staying in the same hotel as us.
The next day we had a tour of Strasbourg city. We learnt about its history and saw some of its beautiful buildings including the cathedral. (See photo below.) We did some shopping before we started the long journey home on 11th February 2011.
The whole experience was exhausting but really interesting. We learnt a lot about the workings of the European Parliament. Thanks to the organisers of the competition and to Mrs Eager who accompanied us and helped us throughout the experience.