On Thursday last, 27th September 2018, all students of German at Coláiste Bríde, Inis Corthaidh, had the privilege of meeting with Germany’s ambassador to Ireland, her Excellency Frau Deike Potzel. Accompanied by her embassy colleague, Frau Cornelia Lück, the Ambassador visited Coláiste Bríde as part of the ten-year anniversary celebration of our Student Language and Cultural Exchange with Gymnasium Bruckmühl, near Munich in southern Bavaria, Germany.
With the motto “Enriching Minds and Connecting Hearts” as our theme, Kiera O’Sullivan, Principal of Coláiste Bríde, struck the key note of the day with a warm welcome auf Deutsch to Frau Potzel and Frau Lück. She also welcomed our German Exchange students and their teachers to the Model County, and specifically to Enniscorthy and our school. Ms O’Sullivan then addressed the immense effort and consistent hard work put in by the Exchange leaders in both schools, Maria Whitty-Sexton in Ireland and Christian Buxot in Germany, to build and maintain links between our students and staff over the past ten years. She also acknowledged the enthusiasm and impeccable behaviour of our participating students and the vital support of their parents over the ten years of this remarkable cultural experience.
Current Sixth Year, Kathlyn McVeigh, spoke glowingly, and fluently auf Deutsch, of her time on the Exchange. She highlighted the value of the enduring friendships she made during that time and reminded her fellow students that this connection between our schools through language and culture has inspired her to work hard to pursue a career in international relationships.
Frau Anne Hieber spoke next, on behalf of Gymnasium Bruckmühl and her accompanying colleagues, Uli Bruns and Susanna Hainke, and paid a fitting tribute to the value of the strong cultural bonds that have been forged between our two school since 2008. She regaled the large student body with humorous accounts of our cross-cultural meetings over the years. Stand-out moments for her and her colleagues are the spontaneous bursting into song of Coláiste Bríde students in various parts of Munich City Centre, as well as the great excitement caused by the welcome appearance of German teenage boys around the corridors of Coláiste Bríde!
The students were then lucky to hear from a former exchange-participant and Coláiste Bríde student, Kate Hall. Currently studying languages at UL, Kate spoke enthusiastically about her studies in Leipzig and her upcoming language immersions in Argentina and France, crediting Coláiste Bríde with developing her interest in and love for languages.
When it came to Frau Potzel’s turn to address the room, she graciously honoured the importance of both our schools in forging tight links over the last decade, and she highlighted the invaluable long-term benefits of such extra-curricular cultural enrichment programmes. Our students were reminded of the ever-present need for global diplomacy when Frau Potzel spoke of her own career in the German Foreign Service. Acknowledging the worrying political and economic backdrop of Brexit, her Excellency stressed the need to focus on our importance and value as close EU partners. She gave the students concrete examples of the practical benefits of studying German in Irish schools, especially given the current shortfall of much-needed German speakers in the Irish workforce. Most importantly for us, Frau Potzel confirmed that, at the highest political and cultural levels, our efforts are appreciated; that the opportunities offered by the Exchange are worthwhile and that they matter. The Ambassador’s respect and fondness for Ireland and our culture was abundantly clear from her address to the students, and her inspiring words mirrored perfectly the same sentiment felt by our German colleagues in the room.
Frau Potzel then accompanied this year’s exchange partners to lunch in the Activity Room, after which she was entertained by a wonderfully energetic Irish dancing performance and our annual “Moktoberfest”.
It is rare to have a visit from a member of our own government in Colaiste Bride, so when the German Government singled us out for special attention we embraced the honour with delight. Our visit from the German Ambassador is truly one we will treasure in Coláiste Bríde. Long may our efforts in enriching minds and connecting hearts continue!
Coláiste Bríde, Enniscorthy Newsletter
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