This year our class were told that we would be working with Friends’ school in Lisburn, as part of a Shared Education project. Among the many opportunities planned with 10D from Friends, the first was a residential at the Corrymeela Centre in Ballycastle. While we were really looking forward to the trip and meeting new people, we were all slightly apprehensive about staying overnight with a class we had never met before. We weren’t sure whether we would all get along as easily as we hoped we would.

Rather than focus about all the uncertainties of the trip everyone seemed really excited and began to discuss rooms and all the possibilities of the things we could be doing. We were told we would be learning about many events ranging from World War I to the Easter Rising in 1916 and discussing various sensitive issues including stereotyping, reconciliation and bystanding.

Once the rooms were organised and everyone had discussed what the trip entailed, we all waited patiently for the day to arrive. It seemed to take forever for the 17th of November to come around, but eventually it did and then we were waiting as the bus pulled up outside school.

The bus journey definitely took its time but at long last we arrived at the Corrymeela Centre. Once we unloaded our stuff, we headed to the lounge and waited on the arrival of the class from Friends. They weren’t far behind us. As the news had spread they had arrived, the room seemed to go quiet. I don’t know what we were expecting but everyone seemed slightly on edge.

As they entered I think we had begun to realise we were being somewhat over dramatic. They came in and casually sat in any of the remaining free seats. We decided that sooner or later we were going to have to talk to them and once the ice was broken the conversation began to flow naturally as everyone started to relax.

We were split off into smaller groups, so we could no longer rely on our friends for the social aspects of the trip. If we wanted to start a conversation, then we would have to do it ourselves. We took part in a few ice breakers. By this point no one had any difficulties talking to each other. We laughed at each other when someone messed up a game and cheered when they got it right. Soon, our original concept that everyone from Friends would be difficult to talk to, disappeared.

Throughout the rest of the day we learned about many historical events but the main focus was on challenging stereotypes and questioning why we might have them in the first place. This led to us talking about our identity and what we think makes us who we are.

We had a number of history workshops on US civil rights, the Holocaust, World War One and the Easter Rising.  The most dramatic workshop was the Silent Reflection exercise on the Holocaust.  We got an opportunity to bring our journals with us, go to various stations and read poems, stories, look at images and reflect on what was happening in them.  We had to do this in total silence – in fact the only sound anyone could hear was music from Schindler’s List in the background.  The teachers said we would do this for 10 minutes.  We were shocked when they told us that it lasted 30 minutes.  We were all so engrossed in the material that we did not see the time pass.  Some of the stories and images got a huge reaction from the students as we had a chance to share our reflections when all back together in our main room.

Later on that night we went on a walk in the dark with torches towards Ballycastle along the seafront. We screamed pop songs the whole way there and back and it’s easy to say after the trip most of us had lost our voices.

After we had returned from the night walk, one of the highlights of the trip started. A few people had brought instruments and Emma had brought her ukulele. We are both able to play and soon had to whole hall singing “Riptide” and “I can’t help falling in love with you”. One of the friends boys began to Irish dance to Mr McNeil’s rendition of ‘whiskey in the jar’ - which no one saw coming.

We danced and sang along with the other class until one of the teachers realised the time and sent us all to bed. We had been through so much that day that everyone was overly excited and began to retell the events of the day, even though we had all been present for it.

The morning came quick and we were all up to get dressed, strip the beds and tidy the rooms. Surprisingly, this all ran quite smoothly. We then had breakfast, remade the beds with clean sheets and returned to the lounge for a final lesson before heading home.

Soon all of our goodbyes were being said and everyone filed back onto the buses. Most of us thought we would lose contact within a few days but our joint Facebook group-chat is still going strong and everyone is waiting for the announcement of the next trip.


Orlaith McKnight 10D