Friday, February 02, 2007

Belgium Week: More Co-Op Reportage


"Hey Dermo! I'll give ya a tenner if you skewer my heart with that corkscrew!"

This is the second instalment about my Co-Op Report, and this entry should see the scathing remarks intensifying. Rather than post in the entire thing (there’s some boring technical stuff that I won’t bore you with), here are the choice quotes from the Summary page, starting with the opening line.

The time I spent at the Louvain Institute for Ireland in Europe was a waste of my time. Reading this report may very well be a waste of yours. […] The Louvain Institute for Ireland in Europe scams its employees with the €110 a week 'trainee wage', which remains at that level regardless of the hours put in. It scams potential workers by telling them they'll be working 9 hour days, when 12-16 are more of a reality. It scams the Universities by misinforming them about the work and living arrangements their students will be a part of (we had to lie to the police about where we resided – what kind of an ethical organisation asks that of their workers?). […] Why should an English student have to make beds and scrub toilets? New Media and self-degradation have what in common? If I were doing European Studies, I could maybe understand why I was there, but since I wasn't, I considered it a failure of the coop office that such an option was being offered to students like myself. That's not to say UL should sever all ties with the Louvain Institute – if they ever offer a Janitor Studies course, it might justify the two organisations getting back in touch.

Shortly after my spirit broke, my back followed. Despite being diagnosed with Discus Bulging of the lower spine, and presenting my Doctor's note to my employer, I was still forced to engage in tasks of physical labour. I attempted to reason with the management to no avail. No amount of pleading would sway their decision, as they simply didn’t care about my welfare. When I brought the issue to the CoOp office and made my health-concerns known back home however, the institute dropped me like a sack of bricks. If I could glean nothing else from the CoOp, at least it has given me some peace of mind about the spinal defect that I have to live with for the rest of my life, as it spared me a month and a half of misery at the Louvain Institute for Ireland in Europe.



This picture was taken on the first night. It was six months before I ever saw Dermot Murphy smile again...

So that’s the Summary... So I’m ready to paste in more stuff from the Learning Opportunities page, and I honestly can’t believe some of the stuff I wrote here! Without further ado;

The learning opportunities were minimal at the Louvain Institute for Ireland in Europe, in terms of what can be applied to my course of study, or even life. It did, however, present me with numerous opportunities to indulge in drunken, drug-fuelled revelry and fornication. Here is a non-exhaustive list of the Learning Opportunities afforded to me by my Co-Op Experience, many of which I knew of already, some are activities that those who were content at the Institute got up to, so they're here just to take up space.

● Smuggling illegal drugs such as marijuana and hashish into Belgium is easily facilitated by a quick train to Amsterdam and a rucksack
● Cleaning caked-on human excrement off a toilet seat is best accomplished by squirting cleaning product directly onto the faeces, then leaving it to dissolve away the faecal matter until the smell rises, after which a damp sponge may be employed in a vigorous scrubbing manner.
● Without mental stimulation at work, a human being is capable of going into a trance-like state, wherein they carry out their work in a robotic fashion, all the while thinking of the other place where they wish they were
● During the aforementioned state of extreme boredom, certain items of cutlery take on unique personalities based on their distinctive markings
● Changing a beer keg is not difficult. Having to lug it half a mile around a hilly, cobblestoned town to where it has to be hooked up is the hard part
● Lower back pain can be exacerbated by the motions employed when clearing and setting tables
● There are people utterly devoid of ambition in this world who put up with incredible amounts of misery so long as they are granted occasional access to alcohol and/or drugs
● Ignorant people can, and do rise to positions where they can abuse young people
● A person can spend a solid 138 days of regretting a poor decision they made, until such time as they are freed from their misery
● The medical system in Belgium is highly efficient
● Living in a mouldy, damp house is a good way to develop an intestinal infection
● 'Flushing out' an infected intestine is a messy process
● Not all Co-op is worthwhile
● Fairly laid-back, easygoing people are capable of being remoulded into misanthropic, embittered shells of their former selves



Quite the denunciation, yes? But don't get me wrong, I’m not looking for sympathy, being the sort of person I am, I can see the positive side to having something to write about on a blog! The point of these entries is to emphasise the absurdity of the situation that I was sent to that desolate place with an educational value of nil as part of a four year degree course!

2 comments:

caitlin k. said...

loved the entry. especially...
● Fairly laid-back, easygoing people are capable of being remoulded into misanthropic, embittered shells of their former selves

absolutely loved the word choice, misanthropic.

reading about this horrible experience you had, makes me feel sympathy for you.
i'd prefer it didnt. misanthropic people dont deserve sympathy:)

Anonymous said...

Nothing like a bit of hard work, eh Sull?