My parents weren’t exactly thrilled when they learned that I’d be staying in a hostel for Champlain Abroad’s Northern Ireland tour. The first thing that came into their minds was probably unwashed sheets, unlocked doors, and people sneaking into the room late at night to steal my stuff.
Probably from that influence, I had no idea what to expect from my first stay in a hostel. I figured since our program director Stephen was staying there with his family, it most likely was somewhat safe and decent.
I imagined all 53 of us staying in one big room full of bunk beds, some peacefully snoring and others using pillows to block out the sound. However, I learned that there were separate rooms that could house 3-10 people when room assignments were sent out. That was a bit of a relief, knowing that there was some organization (and doors!). I was roomed with six other girls who luckily, ended up being very quiet sleepers. My sensitive ears were grateful.
When we arrived at the hostel, my first thought was; “This looks a bit hokey.” There was a statue of a man dressed in redpointing at the hostel, and a picture of horrified-looking sheep on the sign. I did check this place out online a few days before we left and saw that it had good reviews, so I tried to keep my hoity-toity self optimistic.
The room I shared was small, no bigger than an average triple back at Champlain, or maybe even a large double. The ceiling was slanted with one foggy window smack-dab in the middle. At the end of each bed was a set of folded sheets and blankets. To my relief, they actually seemed freshly washed. Later on, the hostel owner came in with clean pillowcases for the pillows that waited for us against the radiator. The only downside was the mattress. It felt like it wanted to be memory foam, but you could probably break your tailbone if you sat down too hard.
Downstairs was the mess hall/gaming area, where there was a pink ping-pong table and a free pool table. For a while, it was just us girls being super competitive and silly at the same time. Most of us were terrible at ping-pong especially. Every time the paddle hit the ball, you had to duck and cover, praying it wouldn’t smack you in the forehead.
I know a big question when it comes to hostels is food. Well, this one served nice, home-cooked spaghetti and meat sauce, and in the morning, full breakfast of eggs, toast, sausage, and bacon. It was actually really good, and I found myself eating off my friends’ plates when they were full. (Additionally, I didn’t bring a late-night snack, so I had to make sure that hunger didn’t come with a vengeance while I was trying to sleep).
One thing I should mention was the lack of Wi-Fi. For some reason, the boys’ building (the main building) had Wi-Fi, and the girls’ building didn’t. Our room also only had one outlet, so no one could really use their phones. The result? Actually talking to one another. Since it was freezing out, a few of us sat with our backs against the radiator and just joked around. I went to an all-girls high school but ended up making mostly guy friends in college, so that night helped me remember what it was like to hang out and be a goofball with a bunch of girls. I mean, one girl ended up giving everyone massages and I cracked some people’s backs with my feet, which is something weird and kind of unusual that would have happened in my high school.
Overall, what is staying in a hostel like? While it can be inconvenient, too hot or too cold at times, and noisy, it can be entertaining, tasty, and a bonding experience you won’t forget.