This week, we’ve had a Transition Year student from Colaiste Éinde working with us in the GAP Office. Conor has been a fantastic help in the office and has also written a very entertaining blog post on his experience with Work Experience.


Experiencing Work by Conor Timlin

For the past two weeks, I haven’t been in school. Not that I’ve been mitching, no, I’d get caught for that during the first few hours. I’ve been on work experience (although you probably guessed from the title). The whole year of TY students in my school were told by the school to go on work experience, learning what having a job is like, at least for the people who don’t already help out in their relative’s corner shop (normally for peanuts).

The only thing that annoyed me during that period was that the school didn’t lift a finger to help us with finding places, save for a few suggestions. Many of the people in my class found it hard to find places, and yet last year, our teacher said, “everyone got a full two weeks of work”. I expect that was an exaggeration by the students before us, little white lies saving themselves from trouble. Even I found finding places difficult, not being able to get the full two weeks. Although I wasn’t really the person who was finding the places, I only suggested the businesses and buildings I wanted to work in to my parents.

My first job was two days in the School of Chemistry at NUIG. I, being more physics-oriented, was a little apprehensive going to the department, in my mind (although a few days after I finished, I was reminded by a relative about my young childhood love of chemistry, saying about how she printed out pages and pages of websites relating to the elements. This was happening while her own child, only a year and a half old, was kicking a ball around with great gusto, and everyone saying that he’d become a great footballer. Watch this space I guess. When I entered into the School, I was greeted first by the secretary, whom my father happened to know from golf. They were talking to each other for about a minute, then the senior technical officer, the man who arranged with my dad my time at the school came in to give me a tour of the school before I started working.

What was funny was, that I had already been in many of the places he showed me, thanks to a programme called Youth Academy, which gave primary school kids a taster of university classes, albeit a small one. He showed me the labs that 1st – 4th year undergrads used, which were a bit old and grotty, then the research labs that post-grads had, which looked much cleaner and more, “sciencey”.

I returned to the undergrad lab to assist one of the other technicians, who was there part-time, clean up after an experiment that the engineering students left hurriedly after Friday evening. I suppose they just wanted to get out and start drinking (I can say this since I know quite a few engineering students, mostly 1st years who go out drinking (don’t ask how and why I do). I’m guessing you might be thinking that I’m spreading rivalry and mistrust between the schools, and you’ll want me to stop, but I’d say that rivalry’s already there, even if it is a bit cliché (see The Big Bang Theory).

I helped with clearing out and putting away pH meters and the various equipment left around the lab. As it turned out, the new head of the Science building was giving his inaugural speech and so was the new president of NUIG. So, at 11:00AM, I left for one of the research labs, to work with a post-grad looking for a doctorate, as all the staff had to listen to the new head talk for three quarters of an hour, and then hear the new President talk for a quarter-hour more than that.

She had come from Italy, learning and training here, as she had been in Ireland before and liked living here, so I was glad to hear that the idea that Ireland is a welcoming country is quite true. She was working with reacting two substances, one being a type of sugar, and then the long process of purifying the compound after the reaction. I learnt there that working in chemistry requires a sizable amount of patience.

I then, after mixing up my times, left early, going to meet my dad and his friend for lunch. I waited for the best part of an hour, and since all the seats were taken by students on break, I had to sit on the floor. My ass was not in a good way when I went down to the café to meet my dad and his friend (and I probably looked absolutely daft when I walked).

They talked about various computer topics that I a quarter understood (that specific, yes), and I quietly munched on a burger and chips, which tasted good,  even if they were overpriced, as per-usual with the food in universities. When I went back, I went to observe 2nd years perform their last experiments of the term. Some of the supervisors kind of scared me, and some of the students seemed to blank out when he answered questions, although that might be because they didn’t want to be there, as if they didn’t do very well in their tests during 1st year, they wouldn’t be able to change, and or drop subjects, so some were only there because they weren’t great in tests.

The students there were actually pretty sound, allowing me to talk to them while they did their experiment, about loads of stuff, although I can’t remember what we talked about (I’m shrugging, but you can’t see it). When I finished there, I went home after my first day working in the university.

The second day in the Department wasn’t really much different, involving me observing 5th years from Athenry secondary school doing an experiment. They were a little less inclusive, probably because they didn’t understand why someone younger than them was in the lab. After that, I helped the part-time technician finish cleaning up the lab, and then the chief technician showed me the rest of the department, mostly instruments that analysed compounds. After the two days in the School of Chemistry, I think I have gotten back a passion for chemistry that I lost when I was younger, so I’m glad I went.

My next job was at Galway Autism Partnership, for which I’m writing this post as you’re reading (no wait, that’s not right, I’ll have finished long before you’ll see this). The first thing I did when I got here was learn about the charity, and what it does, which I think is amazing, helping people like myself to deal with daily life. We then talked about loads of different things, and while I worked, I asked questions about autism and having it. The first job I was given was to create a presentation explaining autism for secondary school students. There was a presentation for primary schools, but one for teenagers wasn’t there, so they enlisted a teenager with autism (me) to make a presentation that they could show in secondary schools. I took a day to complete it, but I’d say it was pretty good, if I say so myself. The next day involved me finishing the presentation, then taking stock of their arts and crafts cupboard. I enjoyed doing this, and it was the first time I did stock-taking. I used Excel to record everything, and because I had the computer, I listened to music. Thin Lizzie was definitely a good idea.

Anyways, tomorrow, I’ll be in GAP again, and then on Friday I’ll be going to a primary school to work there, so all in all I think I did well in terms of work, although I know someone who’s getting paid by his uncle to work in his furniture shop, and others who’ve just used these two weeks to relax, which is fine by me, really.