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Sveva Ciofani (Form IV) describes her recent visit to KennardPhillipps exhibition ‘Finnegans Woke’ at Rua Red Arts Centre, Tallaght; this was an Arts Week event.

Unique, fun and interesting are the words that I would use to describe our Art trip. It was a sunny Wednesday and my art classmates and I took the bus with Ms Cullen to the Finnegans Woke exhibition in Tallaght. We arrived around 3pm we entered a small building  I wasn’t expecting to see a lot of interesting pieces of art in such a small building! A really pleasant man explained in detail some of the pieces and all of them had a really deep meaning. My favourite piece was the first one that we saw: a skyscraper with a background of polluted soil that represented pollution spreading nowadays. The reason why I highly appreciated this piece is that lately, we heard a lot about global warming, pollution and strikes around the globe. Another reason why I like the piece is because it wasn’t actually a painting but a photoshop, a type of art that I find really interesting because it’s related to technology and not to the typical use of markers, paint and pencils. We also saw other pieces, for example, we saw a piece that played with the shadows and represented multiple things; in all pieces, there were various meanings. In general, I thought that all pieces were really controversial and unique, they all dealt with very important themes: racism, war, pollution. These are all issues of which we need to be aware. In fact, I strongly believe that this exhibition is made for opening people’s eyes, to make people aware and most importantly to actually do something about it, so I invite everyone to go visit it.

The exhibition does not just teach us, but also involves the viewer.  In the middle of the room, there was an enormous raft made up of all the posters that were made by the visitors. I think that the raft brings to the world some hope. The posters represented a good vision and awareness of the issues, and all of us made some posters. The poster that Ana and I made was about the gap between rich and poor and how this expands every year. It was about over consuming items and about bad lifestyles. We decided the divide the paper into two different parts, a colourful one and a dark one, because we thought that gave a strong visual impact.

My other classmates made posters about other important issues: for example body shame, inequality, racism and the acceptance of the LGBT community. All of the pieces expressed creativity and a sense of awareness, that is a positive thing in my opinion, because our generation is going to be next one, and if all of us are tolerant, educated and aware it is going to be positive for our society.

We had a good time and I think it was worth the trip.  Apart from learning a lot of things, it was also a way of changing our normal routine and try something new. We also had the opportunity of spending some time together, to work in pairs and to think about how privileged we are to have access to some things.

Below is a gallery of photos taken all the events during Arts Week, including the visit to Finnegan’s Woke.

Trish Dunlop (parent to pupils in Forms V & III) reports on last weekend’s parents’ trip to Seville.

A group of parents and family emerged from the winter drear last weekend, ably led by the Warden, Cathy and Michael O’Shaughnessy, and burst into Summer. It seems we had all been checking the forecast anxiously, and the sun shone brightly for the Columban cohort.

We stayed at a wonderfully located hotel, always only a walk away from the best that Seville has to offer a visitor. Just as well, since most parents seemed to be brandishing state of the art step-counters and activity tracking devices which we would then compare and contrast at suitable junctures. How many flights was it up to the top of the bell tower?

It was a pleasure to meet members of the St. Columba’s wider community as we all gathered that evening, spirits were high and we embarked on a weekend of chat, laughter and learning about the joys that Andalusia had to offer.

In stunning sunshine, we walked through the winding streets of Seville as we visited the Moorish Palace and Gardens, the stunning Cathedral, up thirty-five ramps to the bell tower giving a wonderful view of the city. The sensual discovery continued relentlessly – the orange dotted trees and brightly coloured produce as we walked the streets, the wafting scents of lavender, orange blossom and jasmine, the mosaic decoration on sandy golden stone and all punctuated by delicious food and drinks (often with a distant strain of flamenco-style music). All the while the chat and laughter continued. The day was a lovely combination of guided and “free” exploration, at times coming together as a group and at other times opting to “do our own thing” which seemed to be just the right approach.

Sunday started with a robust breakfast before taking a bus ride to Cordoba. Cordoba was a true revelation – its grand history announced by the iconic “Roman Bridge” that greeted us as we disembarked. Set up to explore museums of art and history, we were again “free-ranging” on the hilly streets that sloped up away from the River Guadalquivir.

Most remarkable – in its mixed traditional styles – is the “Mosque” or “Cordoba Cathedral”. We found the visit very moving and had the benefit of a very passionate and dedicated guide. We learned about the layers and layers of Cordoba’s history which are carved into the fabric of the “mosque”, together with its continued dedication to its true purpose of sacred worship.

We returned to Seville on the bus, which gave us a much-needed opportunity to count our steps again. A quick turnaround and off out again to a lively last supper together. The Warden kept us on our toes with the tour quiz, with all teams securing excellent marks on our self-corrected answer sheets. Last late drinks at the hotel, before the reality set in: an early return to less sunny climes via Ryanair.

The beauty of Seville and Cordoba extended beyond the architecture, the sensual pleasures, and the history. Their beauty can also be found in how the cities are lived, everywhere its residents can be seen enjoying eating, shopping, strolling and spending time with each other. For a brief interlude, and thanks to the super efforts of Cathy Boobbyer, the Warden and Michael O’Shaughnessy, we parents and family members of the St. Columba’s community were part of the beating heart of Andalusia, and we are all the better for it.

Below is an album of photographs from the trip.

On Friday, December 14th 2018 forty-five pupils, from Forms II to VI, along with six members of staff will head off to Copenhagen for the weekend on a short choir trip. The party consists of 27 girls and 18 boys, singing in a four-part choir.

The highlight of the trip will be a concert performance in St. Ansgar’s Cathedral on Saturday December 15that 6pm. The programme is an entertaining mixture of Irish folk songs, popular songs, spirituals and madrigals. On Sunday morning the choir will sing a Mass by Palestrina at the 10am service in the same cathedral.

The trip will also include a Canal Tour of Copenhagen, a visit and dinner at the famous Tivoli Gardens, and a visit to the renowned National Aquarium. There will also be time to savour the atmosphere of the Christmas Markets in Copenhagen. The choir have been rehearsing very hard since September, and we hope it will be a memorable trip!

Amy Cosgrove, Form V, reports on her experience of the recent trip to South Africa.

On October 26th, eighteen Form IV and V pupils started on a 28 hour journey from the door of St Columba’s College, Dublin to the door of Tiger Kloof, in the north of South Africa. And while, after 28 hours, it seemed like it wasn’t going to be worth it, little did we know the extraordinary trip that lay ahead of us.

We had been travelling in a combie (minibus) with no air conditioning for nearly 6 hours and had not yet reached Tiger Kloof when our first ‘experience’ of South Africa took place. Windows down, wind in our hair, Katherine watching Riverdale, living the dream really. When all of a sudden a man reached in through the window, grabbed the phone out of Katherine’s hand and made a run for it. And that was when we realised we were in South Africa.

On Sunday we had a tour of the school and attended a church service which was definitely nothing like Sunday Morning chapel. It was lively and their hymns were much better than our Jubilate. We got to see the hostels (dorms) and the girls danced and sang spontaneously all in perfect rhythm and harmony. It’s safe to say, we are not as musical as we thought. We quickly learned how kind and energetic the Tigers are.

On Monday we got the privilege to work alongside an inspiring woman named Maggie, who has been running a soup kitchen for 40 years now. While preparing the food and playing with the kids was all fun and games, going into the township itself to serve the food was something else entirely. It was striking to see how they lived in what were basically tin cans. This was the first of the striking moments that were to come. The drive back from Maggie’s was what shocked me the most. On the left of the road was a township and on the right of the road were houses. Houses just the same as you would see in Dublin. That was the talk of the combie for the drive back, nobody could get their head around why there was such a contrast with only a road separating it.

On Tuesday we visited Thusanang Disabled Centre in the township of Huhudi, which was definitely what pushed everybody out of their comfort zones. The ages ranged from 5-50 years and you could immediately see how underfunded it was. When you did the math on the grants they receive, it equated to less than €1 a day. It was truly heartbreaking to see these mentally / physically disabled people not get the treatments they need, some of whom didn’t need to be there. It was just the best option in a bad situation.

Working in The Hem soup kitchen, which is ran by Tiger Kloof, really opened our eyes and mind to the world that we don’t experience. Watching these children smiling and running to get their food not only warmed our hearts but showed us how we take things for granted and that we are so fortunate to have 3 meals on our table every day.

Later on we visited a lion farm and it was truly mesmerizing to be able to get so close to these beautiful animals with just a fence between us. Having lions in a farm was in fact safer for them, to keep them from poachers, but unfortunately this fence that was between us meant they had been bred in captivity. We also visited another farm in Vryburg where we got to gallop around at sunset in South Africa, living the dream once again. But where the sun shines, there’s always a shadow. The family who owned the farm were lovely, welcoming people but after asking a few questions we got answers that we wouldn’t usually hear. They had different views and mindsets to all of us and it helped us understand why there is such a contrast on either side of the road sometimes. The aftermath of apartheid is still very much visible in the South Africa today.

Our trip to Tiger Kloof was an extraordinary, mind blowing and a once in a lifetime experience. To be able to work in the soup kitchens and go into the townships had a massive impact on our views and education. It was a privilege to meet such inspiring people and the Tigers and Maggie are only naming a few. It was a trip that won’t be forgotten by any of us.

On Tuesday twenty Transition Year pupils visited Microsoft Ireland’s newest building, One Microsoft Place, to explore their ‘Dreamspace’ – a wonderful space for young people to learn more about technology. On arrival, the pupils were given a tour of the amazing award winning building, where some of the highlights include the yoga cube, the wellness centre, the amazing “mountain” stairs, the roof garden and the LED waterfall. After the tour they settled into the amazing Dreamspace – a vibrant learning environment – discussing Microsoft’s contribution to technology in their lives before exploring their latest innovations in assisted technology for those with disabilities. The learned about the skills needed to thrive in STEM careers, with a focus on development of soft skills. Then their first challenge – a team building / problem solving task – the Marble Track. With a few assorted household items, each team had to create a track for a marble to travel before settling within a small square of graph paper. There were no rules except that is couldn’t be pushed and had to stop on the graph paper. Each team took a different approach (there was some astounding creativity on show) but all ended successfully completing the task (one team broke the record). But then it was on to the main task – a brief introduction to coding via the Mirco:bit software and hardware. The pupils learned about the basics of coding before programming their own devices, using Microsoft surface tablets, to play a game of rock, paper, scissors. Later they learned how to send messages from one device to another.

The pupils thoroughly enjoyed their experience and, no doubt, stoked their interest in STEM and coding (incidentally this week is European Code Week). We would like to thank Microsoft and their Dreamspace team for a most enjoyable, wonderful learning experience.

The Form I pupils enjoyed a jam-packed science trip to Northern Ireland last week. Over three days they took part in a range of themed activities, most with a focus on science or team building, and arrive back in the College exhausted but enriched by the experience. The trip began early Wednesday morning, with Storm Abi blowing wildly, when the pupils boarded the bus. The fabulous Armagh Planetarium was their first stop – an amazing centre for astronomy – with the pupils learning about the origins of the universe, life as an astronaut and how we are all made from stars. Unfortunately the wind prevented them from participating in the annual rocket building challenge but there was plenty of opportunity to explore the exhibits. Later the group travelled to Belfast and the wonderful W5 science museum. They had great fun exploring the various floors of the complex and traversing their climbing frame. That evening the group went for a long walk (they had lots of energy still, amazingly) and did a little star gazing. Under clear skies they learned about constellations and spotted planets Jupiter, Saturn and Mars – all visible with the naked eye.

The second day was all about team building and getting to know each other a little better. The group travelled to Castlewellan and Life Adventure Centre. The pupils took part in some fun teach building games before building their own rafts. After lunch the launched the rafts and raced them on the lake, later doing some fun activities in the water. Finally, they worked as a team to escape the ‘Peace Maze’. That evening, on their return to our host town of Portaferry, the pupils competed in a quiz.

The final day was all about ecology – the study of living things and their interactions with one another. After packing their bag, the group walked the short distance to Exploris aquarium & seal sanctuary – another brilliant kid friendly attraction. There they learned about food chains and the impact humans are having on the ocean environments. Later that afternoon they travelled to the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre where they continued the ecology theme. The carried out pond and woodland fieldwork, collecting and identifying the various wildlife in those ecosystems.

It was a wonderful trip. Everyone was rather exhausted by the time they return on Friday evening (including the teachers) but stronger friendships were forged and the pupils scientific interest piqued. Many thanks to Ms Hennessy for the organisation of the trip. Here is a collection of photos from the trip:

July 3rd 2018

Somewhere way back, when we were first putting together the plans to celebrate 175 years since the foundation of St. Columba’s College, I had the idea that after all the balls and receptions and drinking and partying we should finish it all off with something that reminded us of our very beginnings back in 1843 and take a pilgrimage to Iona, the place most closely associated with Columba himself, after whom the College is named. It all seemed like a good idea at the time!

Some people will know all about Columba, one of the three patron saints of Ireland, along with St. Patrick and St. Brigid. Many will not. Born into a royal family in 6thcentury Ireland, he gave up his royal position in order to become a monk at a time when Ireland was, for the only time in its history, the centre of scholarship, learning and spirituality in Europe, following the collapse of the Roman Empire. However, in 563 AD, a battle was fought following a copyright dispute over the ownership of a Bible, and Columba, ashamed that he had not prevented the bloodshed, imposed on himself a penance, to go into exile from his beloved Ireland and take the gospel to Scotland, then inhabited by the pagan Picts.

The story goes that he set off in a leather coracle from the north coast, probably from somewhere near Derry, where he had established a monastery, accompanied by a band of fellow-monks. He landed initially either on Islay or the Mull of Kintyre but as he could still see Ireland he decided to carry on and reached Iona, a tiny island off the shore of Mull. Here he was granted land to establish a new monastery, which became the epicentre of outreach into Scotland, where the monks travelled to convert the Picts and ultimately brought their faith right down into the north of England, where they founded settlements such as that on Lindisfarne, off the coast of Northumberland. As they say, the rest is history.

The plan therefore is to retrace the exile of Columba and sail from Ireland to Iona, where we will celebrate our heritage with a service in the Abbey, tour the island and experience a tiny slice of what inspired Columba and his early followers. As it happens, before anyone tells me that our voyage is not following the original route, we are sailing directly to Iona from Tory Island, on the northernmost tip of Donegal, a distance of about 100 miles and 24 hours, weather dependant…it could be shorter or a lot longer! When we arrive we will be met by a group of 25 fellow pilgrims, a mixture of staff, Fellows, Old Columbans and parents, who will be travelling by the land route, leaving on the following morning: fly to Glasgow, bus to Oban, ferry to Mull, bus to Fionnphort, ferry to Iona.

I am grateful to a few people as mad as myself for making this trip possible. My wife Cathy for planning the overland trip and the stay on Iona; Ted Sherwood, who has been just as enthusiastic about this caper as I am; and Dr. Michael Brogan, a wild-eyed doctor from Donegal, whose boat, the MacDuagh (named after Saint Colman MacDuagh – a contemporary and apparent friend of Columba), a 40 foot Galway hooker, is our own leather coracle for our exile. Luckily he is skippering the boat and bringing his own crew to guide us across the Atlantic.

Let me introduce my merry band of monks, 2018 style:

  • Ted Sherwood (Former Head of Geography at SCC)
  • Jenny Bulbulia (Old Columban and Current Fellow)
  • Trish Dunlop (Current Parent)
  • Ian Dunlop (Current Parent)
  • Jane Caldwell (Wife of the Chairman of the Fellows)

We meet tomorrow morning, Wednesday 4thJuly, at 9.30 a.m. to drive up to Donegal to meet the MacDuagh. In my luggage I will have three items: a bottle of whiskey to present to the King of Tory Island, who will then bless our voyage, a leg of lamb, to be roasted on the journey (don’t ask me how…), and the Mioseach. This last one needs an explanation.

In 1843, when the College was founded, one of the founding Fellows presented the College with the Mioseach, a very early Celtic Christian artefact, a book shrine, for holding a Bible or psalter. This box was so valuable that it was loaned to the National Archaeological Museum, where it still sits, while a perfect copy was made, which sits in the Warden’s study at the College. The original was sold to the Museum in 2004 for 1.5 million euros! The copy will be on board, not the original!

So there we are. I will send updates whenever possible and a few photos.

July 6th 2018

We meet at 9.30 a.m. by the sports hall for the off. Wonderful to be presented with a pennant by Terry and Rosie Johnson, with SCC 1843 on it, to be attached to the mast of the Mac Duagh. The drive through Donegal is glorious and we arrived at the Tory Island ferry in good time. We are met on Tory not only by the Mac Duagh and its crew but by the King of Tory himself. He does not disappoint. He has been King for 50 years and regales us with endless tales. He is delighted with his bottle of whiskey but disappointed that we are not staying for the craic in the evening, which is due to start at 10.00 p.m.

The Mac Duagh is a fantastic boat. Originally built about 140 years ago it was fully restored in the 1970’s by Dr. Michael Brogan and is one of the small remaining class of Galway hookers. He and the older two of his companions have negotiated the north west and the north east passages together so we are not in the hands of amateurs! As it turns out that is a good thing.

We set off at 7.00 p.m. and are soon joined a school of porpoises, who have come to check us out. At that point I begin to feel distinctly nauseous and continued to do so for the next 15 hours! My visions of sipping a cool drink on deck, while watching the sun set were dashed! It was not a happy night. Those early Irish monks must have been made of stern stuff and I am delighted that I did not follow through on my early plan to row a leather coracle across the Atlantic. In the morning I am told that the crossing has been surprisingly rough and I am not the only one to have been struggling. Perhaps everyone is trying to make me feel better! By the time I am feeling vaguely human again we are approaching Iona and for the last two hours it is a sheer joy to sit on deck watching the islands slide by and cruising gently into Iona. We arrive at about 1.00 p.m. but stay on board for a further three hours cooking the lamb and snacking on crabs claws and lobster. Thankfully they stay down.

Meanwhile the larger party meet at Dublin Airport in the wee hours and everything goes like clockwork. They arrive at about 4.45 p.m. on Iona and we are there to welcome them. We are staying in the St. Columba Hotel just by the Abbey, a hotel with a fantastic view of the sound. What a place this is! A lovely dinner, then an introduction to Columba himself from our very own Adomnan (Columba’s biographer), Richard Brett, who has set the scene for the two days ahead.  Then impromptu music for a couple of hours in the lounge, with Michael Brogan on the fiddle, another of the crew on the squeeze box and one of the waiters joining in with his fiddle! A few contributions from the floor are also added. A great night and much to look forward to in the days ahead.

July 7th 2018

We meet mid-morning for a tour of the island, strolling off to the other side of the island. Some then choose to carry on to the far south to St. Columba’s Bay, where the saint is said to have first landed back in 563. Small green stones on the beach are said to be the tears of Columba, weeping for his beloved Ireland. Others return to the pier to have a ride out in the MacDuagh. A great day with lots of leisure time too. One of the dinghies coming in from the boat is accompanied by dolphins at touching distance. Another good dinner and then a singing competition between the tables. We rope in a couple of visitors to act as judges, much to their own astonishment and good humour. My table was definitely the best but some misses out on the big prize. The evening then turns quite lively and noisy and goes on and on…I am not sure when or if everyone gets to bed. Happily with a group of adults that is not my problem.

The next morning we meet early and get the boat to Staffa, a small island about 30 minutes up the coast, the home of the extraordinary Fingal’s Cave, immortalised by Mendelssohn. Again we are investigated by dolphins. The island has the most amazing basalt columns and massive caves, with nesting puffins as well. I hate to say it but it is much more spectacular than the Giants’ Causeway! A truly memorable visit in the most serene conditions. Wow, this place is beautiful! We can see north to Skye and south to Islay, west to Tiree and Coll, while everything to the east is Mull. But we could return a hundred times and never get the same benign conditions. We are truly blessed. In case one gets the impression that being a monk in the 6thcentury was a piece of cake in an idyllic paradise, it is worth remembering that for much of the year this place is bleak in the extreme and not for the faint-hearted. For now we are not complaining.

After lunch we all traipse off to the Abbey for a service of thanksgiving. The Abbey dominates the community, watching over the sound, while on the way one passes the graveyard which supposedly contains the graves of many of the kings of Scotland as well as some of the Norse kings. Macbeth is said to be buried there although it is impossible to know. A simple service, magical, simple, profound, a really special time, led by Daniel Owen, a short talk by Ninian Falkiner, lovely hymns. It has been good to remind ourselves of our spiritual heritage and our spirits have been uplifted and fed.

A few of us slope off to watch England beat Sweden in the World Cup quarter final…another spiritual experience.

Last week, while our Leaving & Junior Certificate candidates settled into this intense exam period, the pupils in the other Forms took part in a variety of trips across Ireland. Form V spent four days in the Burren, their traditional ‘Trips Week’ expedition, doing a variety of Biology & Geography fieldwork but with plenty of opportunity for fun in the sun too (we got a lot of sun). The trip began with a walk ‘n talk up Blackhead followed by surfing / rock climbing at Lahinch before experiencing a stunning sunset at the iconic Cliffs of Moher. The vast majority of the fieldwork was carried out on Thursday – the Geographers exploring Liscannor Bay while the Biologists studied both sandy and rocky seashores near Fanore – while Friday began with a hike up Mulloughmore Mountain before the Geographers went caving and the Biologists hunted for orchids (and saints) at Slieve Carran. Finally, on Saturday, they all visited Ailwee Caves & Birds of Prey Centre before heading home.

Our Transition Year pupils spent the week in the Achill Outdoor Education Centre doing a variety of activities, again in glorious early summer sun. The activities included kayaking, surfing, coasteering, hiking, swimming and, on the final evening, camping out in the Achill countryside.

Pupils from Forms I, II and Primary took part in a variety of day trips over the week, usually within an hours drive of Dublin. Trim Castle, Mellifont Abbey, Glasnevin Cemetery, Croke Park (Skyline Tour & GAA Museum), National Aquatic Centre, National Aquarium (in Bray), Bray Head (hike), Kilruddery House & Gardens, the National Gallery (Nolde Exhibition), St. Michan’s Church, Museum of Modern Art (Frank Bowling’s exhibition ‘Mappamundi’), Dublin Zoo, the Kippure Estate, the Botanical Gardens, St. Enda’s Park, Marlay Park and, the less leafy, Tayto Park were all visited over the four days – luckily all in glorious sunshine.

Evie Pringle in Form II describes her favourite moment of the week – Frank Bowling’s exhibition ‘Mappamundi’ at the IMMA.

I loved his use of vibrant colors splashed in an array of patterns across the canvas. He managed to stick everyday objects onto a canvas, slap a bit of paint on it and make it into a beautiful piece of thought-provoking art. His paintings were massive, much larger than your average painting, covered with layers and layers of acrylic paint, prints, marbling techniques and materials such as styrofoam. He often painted maps, usually of Africa, into his pictures. He sometimes started with a print on the canvas and then painted over it, or hid drawings or paintings under layers of paint, giving the impression that he paints for himself rather than for other people. This I like as it means he paints what he likes and it really brings out his personality. It turned out to be a really great day although my feet were a bit sore by the end.

Below is a large selection of photos from all the trips over the week.

Georg Müller-Methling, Form V reports on the recent school trip to China. 

A group of 17 pupils and 3 teachers left St.Columba’s College on March 22nd very excited about the upcoming trip, less about the fact that they missed out on the house singing event the same evening and that they had to leave at 04:45 in the morning. 

The group took two 8 hour flights, first to Abu Dhabi and then on to Hong Kong. The first day in Asia was very tough, for most of us the warm and humid climate was very unusual and we arrived in the morning, which meant that we had to stay up for another whole day, but everybody quickly forgot the exhaustion. We were welcomed by our first tour guide Ball-Ball (“because my body looks like a ball”), who was very interesting and funny, and spent the afternoon in a shopping mall to get some food and then we drove to our hotel to relax, before we had our first dinner in Asia. Later, we went for a walk to the fascinating harbour. 

The next day we  visited the 10,000 Buddhas, which led us to a nice spot on top of the city, then the Hong Kong Museum of History and the Hong Kong Science Museum, before we went to a have the first proper Chinese dinner. Most of us had to get used to the Chinese food, but it actually got better from day to day. The highlight of the day was yet to come: in the evening we went to Victoria Peak, from where you could have a magnificent view of Hong Kong and its enlightened skyscrapers. After that, some of us went to the Ladies’ market to buy some souvenirs. 

The next day, Ball-Ball took us to Lantau Island, where we used a cable car to get to the Giant Buddha in the middle of the forests. We walked the way up to the Buddha and also visited the close by monasteries. In the evening we took the metro to the harbour to see the light show. On our last day in Hong Kong, we visited the NanLian Gardens, some of us had lunch in the cheapest Michelin star restaurant in the world, while others preferred McDonald’s, before we went to a food market and then on a bus ride to cross the border and get to Shenzhen Airport. As we found out later, saying hi to China meant saying bye to proper toilets, social media and English speaking people. It was a very long day, in the end we nearly missed our flight, but finally we arrived in Zhangjiajie.

Our new tour guide Becky who taught us Chinese songs (at least she tried) took us to the Tianzi Mountains in the Yuanjiajie National Forest Park, the place where the movie ‘Avatar’ was filmed, which was enormously impressive. In the afternoon we walked the longest and highest glass bottomed bridge in the world with a height of 260 Meters. The same night we flew to Shanghai, where our most interesting tour guide Qi waited for us. 

In the morning we made our way outside the city in order to get to Zhujiajiao town, an ancient water town, before we went on to see the Chinese Maritime Museum & Urban Planning Exhibition Hall. That night we had dinner in the Xiantandi Area, a small area in the middle of China’s biggest city. Yu Garden and Shanghai’s old Town, where we had a delicious tea tasting,  were on our list the next day before we flew to China’s former Capital Xian. In Xian we were accompanied by the probably funniest guide called Richard who had the very interesting habit of ending every sentence with the words “oh yeah”.

One of the most exciting and interesting events of the trip awaited for us the next day. We got to visit the Terracotta Replication Factory and the Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum. Later that day we cycled the ancient city wall, which goes around the whole city and is 14 kilometers long.  The following day we had to travel again, but this time we did not take the plane: the high-speed train (350 km/h) brought us to Beijing, our last destination. It took the train five hours for the 910 kilometers, it was an impressing experience. In Beijing tour guide Jing introduced us to the Peking duck before we headed to the hotel.

We spent Easter visiting the Tiananmen Square, only two days after Kim-Jong Un did, the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven. It was a very exhausting day with a lot of very interesting experiences, a lot of Smog and warm temperatures, a very special Easter.

Our last full day in China commenced with the visit of the Summer Palace from the Qing dynasty. The last site we visited was probably one of the highlights of the trip at the same time: The Great Wall. We climbed the 1,000 not always even steps and reached the top with an awesome view, however there was a lot of Smog unfortunately. After that we had our last dinner in China before we went to the airport to get home, again via Abu Dhabi. 

For me personally, and I think for the whole group, this trip was an unforgettable experience. China is an extraordinarily interesting and exciting country with lots of beautiful sites to visit. It was also worth going for the experience we gained. At times it was a bit difficult for some of us, but when you accept the cultural differences like being the main object for a photo by many strangers, it is a highly enjoyable country. 

Thank you to the teachers, especially Ms McEneaney, Ms Lynch and Mr Clarke as well as all the parents for making this awesome trip possible! I would highly recommend going on trips like this one in the future, because it is a really good opportunity to travel the world and broaden your mind.

Last weekend thirty junior pupils travelled to Barcelona to experience and culture (and do some geography fieldwork) in one of Europe’s most wonderful cities. Form I pupil Marco Trolese reports on what was a most enjoyable and interesting trip for everyone.

The touring party outside the famous Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

Very very early on the morning of Thursday 25th January, thirty excited pupils left St Columba’s for the cultural trip to Barcelona. We had a full itinerary organised for four days from Geographical sites to Architecture, History and experiencing Catalan culture. On the walking tour of the city we learnt a lot about the history of Barcelona. We walked through the streets of this fantastic city each day. One day we clocked up close to 17KMs!

The Sagrada Familia by Gaudi was so overwhelming and the building is expected to be completed 2026. All the tiny intricate details are very impressive, as was the stained glass windows and skylights. This was definitely my highlight of the trip. Park Guell has some beautiful sites and the architecture is so colourful with the mosaic tiles. This was where the richest people in the city lived, and you could see why. Barcelona’s aquarium was good and it was impressive to walk through the glass tunnel with the all the fish swimming around us.

The tour of Barcelona’s home stadium, Camp Nou, was interesting because we got to see the history of the team and achievements in the past. The football team clearly means a lot to the city. We were fortunate to have tickets to watch Barcelona play at home against local city rivals Espanyol in the Quarter Final of the Copa del Rey. What a great atmosphere – it was fantastic to see Barcelona’s 2-0 win. We also paid a visit to Montjuic where the Olympics were held in 1992. This gave us a fantastic view over the city in a nice area. The Olympic stadium was based here.

For the geographical study we went on a field trip to Sitges which is 30 km from Barcelona. Here, we learnt about coastal landforms and erosion. The weather was bad with rain pouring down on top of our makeshift ponchos (bin liners!). We completed a pebble study which linked to our coastal geography work in school. We got to discuss longshore drift, erosion and deposition. This helped to understand these processes.

Barcelona is a sustainable city and was the first city in the world to be awarded Biosphere certification. You could see why it’s considered sustainable with many solar panels, excellent public transport and city bikes calling ‘bicing’. After long busy days we were able to enjoy local cuisine and evening activities. We had an evening of competitive ten-pin bowling. The Lazer Tag game was an adrenalin filled competition with each team winning a game.

I would like to thank Mr Duffy, Mr Stevenson and Ms Harrahill for a very organised trip, which was so enjoyable and memorable. Overall this was a fantastic experience. Marco Trolese, Form I