A Healthy Obsession: My name is Bláithín Macken Smith and I am eighteen years old. If you could see sixteen year old me it would be as if you were looking at two entirely different people. I suppose that could be true for a lot of people, but for me the reason behind my big transition was my study of languages. Until my fourth year of school I utterly despised everything about school, every morning it was more difficult to drag myself out of bed, so much so that I very often didn’t. I was convinced that after my fourth year of school that was it. I was going to drop out. So desperately did I want to leave school and become a tattoo artist. I spent much of transition year on work experience in various parlours around Dublin. Many of my family members and teachers thought that the war was lost and that my mind was made up, and then something happened.
All through transition year I was given the opportunity to try subjects I had never tried before. Russian, Japanese, Latin and Spanish, which I had studied since first year but which I now saw the fun in. I took part in language aptitude tests and the DATS tests which showed my abilities in linguistic subjects. Unfortunately for me I didn’t listen to these signs until fifth year. When I finally discovered my love for languages the course of my life changed entirely. I decided I would not do a science or a business subject for the Leaving Cert and instead took up Japanese and Russian along with Spanish, Irish and English. My whole outlook on school changed. I very rarely missed a day and even went to Russian classes every Saturday morning, and although it was stressful at times I loved every minute of it. I threw myself into my studies simply because I loved my subjects so much. I applied for an exchange to Japan at the end of fifth year which I succeeded in getting.
I spent three weeks attending school in Kansai in Japan and I stayed with two different host families who lived in very different areas and gave me two very distinct cultural experiences. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I learned so much. Not only about another culture but about myself as well. I knew exactly what direction I wanted to take my life in. I made life long friends in Japan, with whom I still speak on a regular basis. Of course my language skills have become a lot more colloquial than correct, but hey! Where’s the fun without some juicy slang? Once sixth year started I was so ready to take the big LC head on! God how over confident and wrong I was. It was possibly the most horribly over thought period in my life. I, along with every other sixth year in Ireland completely over worried about those faithful exams. Anyway, after a ridiculous amount of studying and guilty dossing I managed to pull it out of the bag. It’s fair to say that me and everyone else I knew were absolutely gobsmacked with my results. I mean former pink mohawked cynic of the year getting three A1s in Russian, Japanese and Spanish along with prefect of the year?! An utter miracle. I didn’t recognise myself but I’m absolutely loving this new found sense of self.
These days I can be found around the Arts block of Trinity college, being a very patriotic Gaelgóir and a very enthusiastic fan of all things Eastern European. The opportunities these languages have opened up for me are endless. Already this year I have been on an exchange to Kyiv in the Ukraine and I have also been called on to translate a dangerous amount of tattoos. So if you are a Russian speaker and you see some very pasty Irish people with the word “картофель” tattooed on them, please do not under any circumstances tell them that it means potato. The most important goal in your life should be to find something that you love and find any way possible to just keep doing it. The possibilities are infinite and the craic is 90. Lots of love, your favourite and most beautiful language fanatic,