'I see summers as my way of enjoying academia a bit more': What teachers do on their summer break

Roisin Burke spoke to three academics - two at third level, one at secondary - about travelling to far-flung places, visiting family at home and abroad, and being glad to come home.
'I see summers as my way of enjoying academia a bit more': What teachers do on their summer break

Aoibhlinn Delany kayaking on a lagoon near El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

TRADITIONALLY, teachers have tasked students with relating their summer holiday exploits on their first day back to school, but no-one ever asked the teacher what they did on their summer break, until now.

The Echo dug deep to find out what academics do when the students are away. It turns out they have a lot of fun!

According to testimonies from some University College Cork (UCC) lecturers and a geography and Irish secondary school student, they have been soaking up the sunshine and relaxing after a hard year.

Secondary school teacher Aoibhlinn Delany, who teaches at Coachford College, Cork, said that as a geography teacher, she makes it her business to explore the fine sights of the world so as to be knowledgeable about her subject.

“This summer, I have visited London, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, The Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Italy, Slovenia, and I still have Hungary, Austria, Czechia, and Poland to go,” Aoibhlinn said

“A real highlight has to be swimming with whale sharks in Maolbaol, Cebu, The Philippines, along with canyoneering in this spot. We followed a river through the gorge for three hours, jumping into the water along its course. I have never done anything like this and couldn’t believe my surroundings. I also got the chance to kayak in a large lagoon near the Island of El Nido, The Philippines, where the bays and headlands were breathtaking.”

Lake Bled, Slovenia where Aoibhlinn Delany visited.
Lake Bled, Slovenia where Aoibhlinn Delany visited.

Aoibhlinn said she was privileged to be able to see so many places on her summer break.

“I’m a geography and Irish teacher, so I do my best to get out over the holidays and experience the things I teach,” she said. “Last year, I visited Sweden and Denmark under restricted circumstances, so I jumped at the opportunity for extended travelling this summer. Before the pandemic, I took on New Zealand and I’m currently eyeing up Australia for summer 2023.”

Over the summer, Aoibhlinn switches off from secondary school life. “It can be nice to have a break from being the adult in the room,” she said.

Despite enjoying her time off, Aoibhlinn is glad to be getting back to school.

“I’m looking forward to seeing my pupils and getting back into a routine again,” she said. 

“My brain could use the challenge and I look forward to getting back into conversing through Gaeilge with my fellow colleagues and students.”

Dr Monica O’Mullane is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action (MSCA) fellow at the Institute for Social Sciences in the 21st Century (ISS21) at UCC. This summer, she visited her husband’s family in Slovakia, something they have not done for three years. 

“We got to spend time with my husband’s family in Slovakia in June, after three years without meeting, due to the pandemic restrictions. It was a fabulous holiday and amazing seeing everyone again. This summer, we’ve also been able to visit relatives in Limerick, Ballybunion, Co Kerry, and Dublin, so it’s been a nice, lively summer so far, thankfully.”

Monica said that while she is still working over the summer, there is time for the important stuff.

“Every summer, we try to catch up with family and friends as much as we can,” she said. “I don’t write funding applications every summer, but I usually do finish some writing projects. For instance, this summer I’m finishing up an article for publication in an academic journal, a chapter for a book, and working on a budget for a project.”

Dr Monica O'Mullane by a stream she and her daughter discovered in Slovakia. "We were delighted to feel its relief as the weather was a scorcher!"
Dr Monica O'Mullane by a stream she and her daughter discovered in Slovakia. "We were delighted to feel its relief as the weather was a scorcher!"

Another highlight this summer was getting a grant she had worked non-stop for last summer.

The best thing about her break is spending time with her eight-year-old daughter.

“It’s a lovely time to be together, chill, and talk,” Monica said. “I love to hear her talk about her passions, such as sharks. She loves sharks and marine conservation in general.”

Monica said she loves her job and enjoys when the students come back to campus.

“It’s my dream come true and it rarely ever feels like actual work. I love seeing students around campus every September, especially freshers. They remind me of my fairly carefree student days.

“I see summers as my way of enjoying academia a bit more. I am working, but with sunnier weather, longer days, with time to meet colleagues who I don’t see during the academic year.”

Raquel Odeh is a lecturer assistant of the SPLAS (Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies) department at UCC.

This summer, she returned to Spain for the first time in two years.

“The weather was amazing, and I could enjoy the tasty food al fresco,” she said.

“One of the highlights of my summer holidays was the opportunity to travel around the Spanish mainland, as well as the Canary Islands. It is important to visit different places, so you get to know them properly.”

Raquel Odeh - Isla de Lobos
Raquel Odeh - Isla de Lobos

For Raquel, the summer is all about beach days with family and friends.

“I think it is a good moment to connect with them in nature,” Raquel says. “Eventually, you think about your responsibilities, but I try to push myself to disconnect. Even though we have to keep working, it is nice to be able to enjoy summer plans after your working hours.”

The UCC assistant lecturer said it’s important to immerse in downtime and not work all the time.

“Nowadays, we have the idea of being productive all the time and I think it’s right, but being productive is also resting,” Raquel said. “We can’t forget about that! It’s always important to get a balance.”

Like her colleagues, Raquel is looking forward to returning to campus in September.

“I can’t wait to get back to academics. I love my job and I love being a teacher. It is hard, but also rewarding. I do think I have rested and enjoyed as much as I could, so now I am ready to give my best in academics.”

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