‘The European Union – what it means to me’

Winner of the European Commission/‘Irish Times’ student journalism competition

Whether I’m standing on the platform peering up through the girders at the venerable Eiffel Tower, reminiscing in the company of Rome’s imposing Colosseum, falling for Lisbon’s historic heart from the top of the Torre de Belém or soaking up the sunshine outside the Palacio Real in the Spanish capital, one thing is for certain: I am a member of one big family like no other.

Whether I’m standing on the platform peering up through the girders at the venerable Eiffel Tower, reminiscing in the company of Rome’s imposing Colosseum, falling for Lisbon’s historic heart from the top of the Torre de Belém or soaking up the sunshine outside the Palacio Real in the Spanish capital, one thing is for certain: I am a member of one big family like no other.

Mon, May 5, 2014, 12:00

A group of acne-plagued, spindly teenagers with unruly hairstyles striding towards club success. A field, two sets of weathered goal posts, a make-shift gymnasium and a kit sponsored by the local grocery store. Each and every player sharing the same vision. A vision to embark on a path to greatness despite the limited resources at their disposal. And brought together by two cultures: a culture of success and a culture of welcoming others into this family-close community.

Over the years, I have seen immense change in my home parish.

As a young adolescent, I would go to the local GAA club to be greeted with the same old faces, day in, day out. But all this has changed. Today, in that same sports club, there is a revelation beyond the ocean of dumbbells, rowing machines and medicine balls. The wink-and-elbow tradition of banter is no longer exclusive to Irish people.

I now play alongside a talented Croatian defender, kick through balls into a dominant Hungarian midfielder and watch with delight as a young Polish forward rattles the back of the net. I look in the direction of my new teammates and smile.

Today, local communities engage in a camaraderie that is not essentially Irish, but essentially European. The European Union has brought people from across a continent closer together, allowing cultures to unite, languages to entwine and friendships to develop.

We are now commas with continuity, fluidity and desirable potentials, rather full stops that encompass nothing more than an abrupt ending.


Stereotype
Since joining the EU in 1973, Ireland has transformed itself from the predominantly “localised” stereotype once associated with the nation into something quite different and unique.

With a troubled and turbulent past, many could forgive Europeans for being reluctant about seeking pastures new across the green fields of Ireland.

However, the allure of the country’s colossal cliffs, commanding castles, stunning coastline, friendly folk and cupán tae has attracted many citizens from across the European community.

This evolution incorporates all facets of Irish society, encourages sceptical-minded people to broaden their horizons and presents possibilities only imaginable in one’s city of dreams.

I now look beyond the sentiments of doomsday economists and see a future with vast opportunity, promise and premise.

Although still at a tender stage in the development of my formative character, I have travelled and worked across the EU, feeling appreciated and valued in the process. I no longer view emigration in a negative light, and I see developing one’s multilingual credentials as a speciality in its own right.

In this respect, the EU has encouraged me to learn, develop and progress as a citizen of the union, in a less ordinary and near life-changing fashion.


Humbled
I feel humbled to be part of a union that promotes democracy, freedom and peace, allowing one to travel from country to country, city to city, and community to community.

The creation of this sense of unity was the key instigator in encouraging me to make a lifelong commitment to changing attitudes towards poverty, inequality and climate change. I recognise that I’m not alone, and can lean on the advice and support of compatible individuals across Europe who strive towards similar endeavours.

The advantages of being part of the EU are priceless and evidently play a significantly positive role in the way I think, live and feel every day.

Whether I’m standing on the platform peering up through the girders at the venerable Eiffel Tower, reminiscing in the company of Rome’s imposing Colosseum, falling for Lisbon’s historic heart from the top of the Torre de Belém or soaking up the sunshine outside the Palacio Real in the Spanish capital, one thing is for certain: I am a member of one big family like no other.

I am proud to be part of the European Union.


Dylan White is current
affairs and sport editor of University College Cork’s Motley Magazine

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