A Ballymena teenager has been enjoying a Roman adventure as part of a group of Cadets who travelled to Italy over the summer.
In an exhausting whistle stop tour 14-year-old Charlie Louise Craven and fellow Cadets, accompanied by Adult Instructors, took in many of the top tourist sights and explored the history of the city, from the fascinating archaeological remains of its earliest days to poignant memorials of World War II.
Charlie, a member of the Cambridge House Grammar School Army Cadet Force Detachment, said: “It was a little daunting to be thrown in with so many new people but, because we were doing so much together, we soon became friendly and I have to admit that making new friends in real life is far better than adding virtual friends on social media.
“The trip gave us a fantastic opportunity to find out more about the life and history of a city which is a complete contrast to anything we might know at home in Northern Ireland and I think we all benefited from exposure to a different and fascinating culture.
“It was totally different to a family holiday because we were there not to relax, but to take in as much as possible – and we were all up for that, although I think some of the Adult Instructors may have been wilting by the end of the trip!”
Lieutenant Colonel Brian Sykes, Deputy Chief Executive of the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association for Northern Ireland, said: “Annual camps and trips abroad are highlights of Cadet life and do much to build confidence, knowledge and general awareness in our young people.
“Usually our focus is very firmly on the obvious themes of the Cadet syllabus such as building skills through outdoor adventure or enhancing understanding of military history with Battlefield Tours, so this latest venture was something of a departure, giving Cadets from a range of communities and backgrounds a broader opportunity to explore one of Europe’s great cities.
“As always, our young people really grasped the opportunity and they entered into the spirit of the trip, discovering the history and art of Rome and savouring its unique atmosphere.
“Within just five days, they seemed to cover the length and breadth of the city, revelling in the beauties and splendour of Vatican City, exploring the chilling San Sebastian catacombs and pausing for reflection at the nearby WWII Ardeatine Memorial, taking in many of the major visitor attractions and finding out about the Italian way of life all in the blistering heat of high summer.
“Their stamina was equalled only by their good humour and all returned with enhanced confidence and a determination to go further with the Army Cadets.”
Army Cadet Detachments (in schools and Open Detachments) across County Antrim are currently looking for new members. To find out more visit www.reservesandcadetsni.org.ukm or call 0800 730 730.