EIL and the Award

In November 2017 I applied for an EIL Explore Travel Award, which gives 5 people enrolled in a University or college Access programme the opportunity to travel abroad for 2 months on an intercultural learning experience.

I’d never set foot on a plane, nor been outside the island of Ireland. The same goes for my parents and siblings. Now I’ve been given the opportunity to live, learn and work in México for 2 months on a community development role. I’ll be based in the small fishing village of Barra de Potosí in the state of Guerro, Mexico.

After an extensive application, interview process and workshops, EIL looked at our skills and how we work with others in different environments to prepare us. Led by past award winners and volunteers, they give an opportunity like this to people who wouldn’t usually get them. Although I’m a travel virgin, I’ve always wanted to explore the world and myself. Before I started university I’d never even spent more than 3 nights outside my hometown before, unable to afford holidays and vacations like other families.


How I see travel

My understanding of other cultures stems from books and Wikipedia pages, and the occasional visitor or immigrant to Ireland I’d cross paths with. I’ve never EXPERIENCED another person’s culture, and that’s what I’ve always wanted. Not to party, drink and get a tan – but to experience and understand how others live. This is the benefit I get from not travelling as a kid, I came to see those who talked, showed off and went on exotic holidays as people who were just as cultured as I was, even less sometimes. As an intuitive and curious person, it drove me to read a lot of non-fiction on other cultures.

A friend once told me that you can go anywhere in the world, but you can’t get away from yourself. Not sure if that’s a quote from someone, but it inspires me to grow and learn into a better person. Early in my teens, I saw money as the only solution to travel and explore the world, to have unlimited access to activities. Now I see more value in learning and becoming a better person, will money help me do that, no. My mind, my body and my spirit are most important to me, and that includes others around me, my family and friends and the world we occupy.

That’s what this trip is, and that’s what it means to me. I see it as an opportunity to learn, to grow, to work hard and to build the resilience of my body, my mind and spirit through challenges and understanding of the world around us.


Action Project

As part of our trip, we are meant to share, connect and make others aware of the community we’ve visited. To be better global citizens, we document, record and share our learnings to grow and develop a more sustainable world. Much of what EIL does is around the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a list of 17 goals for the fair and equal development of all people’s of the world.

I hope to share my knowledge, work in the community and translate these goals in the form of visual content. I’ll be taking videos and pictures of my time in México, and creating some materials to show people the culture, the ways other people can live. I also intend to share my experiences here, in a truthful and honest reflection of my emotions and feelings while abroad.



I’m well prepared for my trip to México. We’ve been briefed, vaccinated, insured. I’ve been learning my Spanish (still quite poor) and about their culture and traditions. Being over there is different, experiencing will teach me far more, and being curious will hopefully come in handy. Readings from Lao Tzu and Miyamoto Musashi have thought me not to be as anxious, not to fear death. That to live you must be willing to die. I don’t plan on getting into trouble or to seek it, but I intend to be fearless and courageous in my actions and my work. I’m incredibly excited about this opportunity and hope to live and enjoy the moment…

Cathal McGivern

Cathal McGivern

My name is Cathal McGivern. I'm a digital marketer by trade, able to design websites and promote online. I'm an aspiring photographer and videographer. I'm hungry for challenges and change...

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