The Transition Year experience – one student’s story

By Ellen Simmons

Transition Year – A year dedicated to making decisions, building confidence and opening your mind to all the amazing opportunities available to you that you may not have been aware of before. For some it may be a chance to mature before Leaving Certificate and for others, it’s a chance for a break. A chance to put the pen down and relax, after the heavy workload of Junior Certificate.  

When people think of Transition Year, they think of it as a bit of a doss year, a chance to lie back and annoy the teachers. Maybe go on the odd trip or two. And for the most part they’re right. We do go on the odd trip or two and we annoy the teachers a lot. But is that it? Is that all we do? No. Believe it or not we Transition Year students eventually get around to doing some work during the year.

When you ask someone about TY, they never tell you about the classes. No one ever tells you about the competitions or the projects and no one ever tells you about the amazing opportunities available to you. It’s a shame really too because a lot of people go ahead into 5th year from Junior Cert because of lack of information. Now, I’m not saying that TY is for everybody because believe me – it’s not. For some people though, it could change the way they see their future entirely.

In Transition Year, the classes have a much more relaxed atmosphere. A lot of what you’ll do is project work – sometimes in groups, sometimes on your own depending on the project. When doing these projects you more or less have free-reign to do whatever you like (within reason of course).

The teachers will give you a brief outline of the project and a basic example of what they’d like the project to be based on, for example a famous entrepreneur, and then after that it’s down to you. It’s then up to you to choose your groups, what / who your project will be about and how you are going to present it.

Ellen is happy that she chose to do Transition Year but feels that there should be more information available to students who are trying to decide whether to do it or not
Ellen is happy that she chose to do Transition Year but feels that there should be more information available to students who are trying to decide whether to do it or not

During the year, you are also open to many competitions and out of class project opportunities. So far in TY I’ve taken part in three competitions. The first was the Donegal ETB Enterprise Day during which we had to design/invent a product and draw up a pitch and business plan. We then pitched our ideas to the “Dragons”, dragons den style. Our group won 1st prize for our school.

The second competition was an essay competition for which we were asked to write about the life of a barrister. The most recent competition that I’ve taken part in is The Build a Bank Challenge. For this competition you create a functional bank, give it a theme and operate it in your school by getting students to open accounts. Our theme is Harry Potter. You can also apply to get awards such as Gaisce and the John Paul ll award.

One of the best parts of TY in my own opinion is the trips away. This year we’ve already been kayaking, surfing and golfing. My class also visited the LivedLivesLost gallery in Fort Dunree as well as the entirety of Transition Year going to the Aura in Letterkenny to the road safe road show. As well as all that we will be going on a residential trip in the spring (SHARE) for three days down the country. This year there is also a trip to Choláiste Chú Chulainn Gaeltacht for three days and a ski trip to Andorra for a week.

Transition Year offers the chance to try some exciting projects
Transition Year offers the chance to try some exciting projects

TY isn’t for everybody and not everybody who takes part in it will love every minute of it. I was very unsure of TY for the first couple weeks and considered dropping out of TY and going straight into 5th year but now I’m glad I stayed because now I’m having the time of my life. I’ve made loads of new friends, I get to go on loads of trips and do many projects and slowly but surely I can feel myself gaining confidence which is the main thing that I wanted to get out of TY.

I would definitely recommend TY to anyone who is already considering doing it and those who aren’t all that sure about it. It’s worth your while talking to someone who did Transition Year before you; ask them all about it because their point of view will always be different to that of a teacher.

Sure, the teachers are there every step of the way but you’ll be the student, not the teacher and no teacher can tell you exactly what it’s like to be in TY. No matter how good they explain it, it won’t be the same.

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