When I first arrived at the international students’ orientation in January, the speakers told us about R&G week, commonly referred to as “rag” week. When they spoke about it, they equated it to an American spring break. However, after experiencing it myself, they must be very mistaken as to what an American spring break is.
R&G week is Raise and Give week. Events are held throughout the University College Cork campus to raise money for a charity of the University’s choice. Some of the events included the Iron Stomach, where contestants sat on stage and ate awful combinations of barely edible items in hopes of winning and also raising money. Other events were waxing and shaving, where people sign up to be waxed or shaved and anyone can pay to rip a strip of wax off their hairy chest or legs.
Throughout the week, students walked around campus with buckets collecting spare change from passersby and reminding everyone how great it is to donate.
The main event of the entire week, though, may confuse some and leave them wondering what it has to do with charity. To the Irish though, drinking has everything to do with charity. Yes, that is right, the main event of this university-supported week is having a few, or maybe a few too many, drinks with your fellow students.
Each day at the New Bar and the Old Bar, the two bars on campus, events started at noon. I mean, if you’re doing it for charity, why not start as early as possible?
The campus bars are completely packed during this week. There is a security check before entering the bar, and each student must swipe their cards in order to get into the bar; that is, if they make it past the line of eager and thirsty college students.
Drink specials are available at the bars all day. Three euro for a beer? Or how about 10 euro for 3 jagerbombs? Not a bad deal really.
The day does not end once you leave campus, however. The entire community knows about R&G week and is prepared to handle the worst.
At my apartment, we received a letter from our landlord telling us he was well aware that R&G week was approaching and outlined the rules he wanted us to follow. The Garda, the Irish version of the police, stand outside of the liquor stores to stop anyone too intoxicated from entering and purchasing more alcohol.
R&G week holds specials every night in the city, starting Sunday night. Each nightclub and pub prepares for the mayhem that this week brings, and many of the clubs reduce their cover charge to entice students to come out.
Now, it seems very strange, but classes are still held throughout the week. All classes continue, but that does not mean that the students actually go. Remember the “gold” and “black” weeks the students have here? This week is a very dark “black” week. Being a silly American, I still showed up for my classes, however exhausted I was. I was one of five in many of my classes. Like I said, it was a very “black” week.
The orientation speakers told us to expect this week to be equivalent to an American spring break, but the Irish really put us to shame.
The stereotype of the Irish and drinking really rings true during this week, but it really is a “great craic,” as they would say here. And it’s all in the name of charity.