How I Accidentally Got My Kids Excited for College

It’s the first day of school (WOOHOO!!!), so it seems like an appropriate time to share this story.


Come to find out, August is probably the busiest month for tourism in Ireland.

It’s quite possible there are more tourists on the island than there are residents.

At least it sure feels that way. Dang tourists.

(Oh, wait. I’m practically a tourist myself. Never mind. Tourists are the BEST! Except when you don’t walk fast and I have places to be.)

Anyway. Let’s just pretend I didn’t tell you how I really feel.

My dad and The Junk Whisperer made plans to visit us during August. Them coming to see us in Ireland is a big. darn. deal. Remember, when I was growing up, we didn’t go ANYWHERE because there were cows to milk. Dang cows.

One of the places I wanted to take them (that we hadn’t been to yet) was to Galway and the Cliffs of Moher.

My Irish friends told me in May that I needed to book lodging for Galway 6 months in advance if we were headed there in August.

Picture me counting on my fingers…June. July. August.

So, they were only 3 months late in sharing that helpful hint with me. Ah, Irish time.

And then I waited until late June to actually find a place for us to stay. In my defense, I operate on Irish time now had to coordinate with 3 other people on two different continents. It was like herding cats.

Handy Husband and I found a self-catering apartment that was a STEAL. Well, a steal compared to the other hotels in the area. At that point, we didn’t really have a choice. Most every hotel was sold out and I was not spending 500 euro per night for a room – especially when we needed two rooms.

Self-catering means you need to provide your own food and drink, hair dryer, etc. In this instance, they provided bedding, soap and towels. As far as ‘food and drink’ goes, hotel room coffee served from a coffee pot in the bathroom, while efficient, is not my idea of awesome anyway. We thought this self-catering concept would work! And so we booked it and didn’t give it a second thought.

Fast forward two months…

When we arrived by train in Galway, we didn’t have any plans. We did have a couple of hours to kill before we could check into our self-catering apartment though.

We’d heard good things about the hop on/hop off bus tours in Dublin, so OF COURSE they must be awesome in Galway too. We decided that would be a good way to spend 40 euro and kill 90 minutes. Actually, the tour was great and a fantastic way to get a broad overview of the city.

However, a little alarm bell went off in my head when the tour drove right by our self-catering apartment and it was a million miles little far from the city center where all the touristy stuff was located. Not too far by Handy Husband’s standards, but definitely too far when you factor in we were traveling with senior citizens. Granted, these are spry, adventurous senior citizens!

But still.

Let me clarify. Traveling with grandma and grandpa is anything but a burden. In fact, my kids and I LOVE traveling with them because they are fun and we took more taxis in 2 days than we’ve taken in a year of living in Dublin. It was actually like *gasp* a vacation!

When our taxi dropped us off later that night at the reception area for the apartments, I knew things were about to get very, very interesting.

These self-catering “apartments” were located on a college campus. College. As in UNIVERSITY.

This was one very small detail that was not mentioned in the online listing for this location on a very prominent hotel booking site. Not even a footnote. At least not one that we saw.

Our “apartment” was located in Building M. I believe the “M” stood for Mystery Smell.

In true college fashion, there was a pair of men’s underwear located in the building’s foyer at the bottom of the stairs. Yep, yep. Just inside that glass door there.

I’m just hoping they fell out of someone’s laundry basket.

Up the stairs we trudged. No, there was not an elevator. This is COLLEGE. It prepares you for real life where you sometimes have to walk up stairs using your own two feet while carrying life’s burdens your own dang luggage.

We did have modern hotel-like key cards though.

We let ourselves into our “apartment” and it was definitely not an apartment.

Hello, DORM ROOM!

It was clearly set up for college kids. In fact, we were lucky we had this one all to ourselves.

The “apartment” had 3 bedrooms. Technically, we were one bed short – but who’s counting? The bedrooms were outfitted like any dorm room you’ve ever seen. Bed, wardrobe, desk. One of the rooms had two twin beds. The rooms also had built-in shelves and some sort of faux-wood flooring, so definitely an upgrade from my college dorm room.

There was an open area with a kitchenette and a living room. The remote for the TV didn’t have batteries – I guess we had to bring those too.

There were two very basic, no frills bathrooms. One of which had a shower.

In all fairness, it was completely fine. Aside from the smell in the building’s foyer, the dorm room was clean. I have stayed in hotel rooms that were FAR WORSE. Far worse. You don’t even want to know.

I have to admit, this situation threw the adults for a loop though. We recovered, but it definitely took us a hot minute to recalibrate our expectations.

My kids, on the other hand, were about as excited as if we had told them we were going to Disneyland. They quickly disappeared, picked out their room with their own beds. They asked me for their stuff, so they could ‘set up’ their room. All by themselves.

I can’t get them excited about organizing their own rooms at home, but in this dorm room they were STOKED to put their toothbrush on the shelf where God knows what else had been there during the school year.

“This is the best hotel EVER, mom!! We love it here!”

I realized pretty quickly (before I opened my big mouth in front of them) that this was a pivotal, make-or-break moment. I had the opportunity to build college UP or tear it DOWN simply by my attitude toward our sleeping situation.

It was that simple.

Children mimic their parents. They take their cues from us. How we respond to a situation teaches them how to respond to a situation. Their attitudes about something are greatly influenced by my attitude about something.

I definitely did not want to sour them on something as important as college because I was disappointed I couldn’t lay on a king-sized bed watching a flat screen TV while drinking bad coffee I made in my hotel bathroom.

When you are traveling, especially internationally, expectations and reality can often clash. Even when you aren’t traveling this happens! For the most part, I’ve learned to take these things in stride.

But I’ve also learned to give myself a minute of internal dialogue to readjust and reassess.

Would I have liked this “apartment” to be closer to downtown? Yes. For a bunch of reasons.

Was it the end of the world? No.

Did we save money by staying here so we could spend on other fun things? Yes.

Did it end up being nice to have a separate room for the kids? HECK YEAH!

I found the silver lining, people!

That night as I was tucking the kids into bed, I told them about my dorm room in college and some nice G-rated stories about college life. They couldn’t get enough!

College really was the BEST experience – the schedule, the interesting people, the fun events, the learning. Of course, at the time, the classes were hard and I got homesick, but I realize now what a formative role college played in my life. I don’t regret it for one second.

Now that I look back on our weekend, I am so happy we ended up staying in a college dorm room. It was the perfect, accidental way of getting my kids excited for college. They don’t understand what it all means at the moment –  they are 7 and 10, after all. But a seed has been planted in their brains and over time, with the proper nourishment, it can grow.


If you missed the must-read posts about Galway or The Cliffs of Moher, here are the links.
Visiting Ireland: Galway with kids
Visiting Ireland: Cliffs of Moher and Aran Islands with kids


P.S. All the photos in this post, except the one from the Cliffs of Moher, were taken from the Corrib Village or NUI Galway website. NUI Galway is one of Ireland’s most respected and highly regarded universities. Motivational quotes are sourced on the image. 

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