A ‘Swede’ Proposal at the Cliffs of Moher

Duncan Persons, ’19 // Communication

Ah, study abroad. How I miss the days of venturing off to class, and being constantly amazed by the beauty of my surroundings. Out of the 11 countries and countless cities I’ve visited, Dublin is a metropolitan like no other. Its culture, its people, even its smell is something that cannot be found anywhere else, and will never dissipate from my memory.

Crossing the Carrick-A-Rede Bridge with Study Abroad friends. Photo Credit: Logan Hall Potvin, ’19 https://hallpotvinphoto.com/

I studied abroad with Champlain Abroad Dublin during my Spring 2018 semester. And while I did encounter challenges, my experience abroad is a cornerstone to my success and happiness today post-grad. But not in the way that you’d think…

Little did I know when I boarded my flight to Dublin, I’d later be asked to photograph an opportunity of a lifetime. Sounds crazy, right? Let me tell you how I ended up in Sweden after graduating from Champlain.

a visit to the Cliffs of moher with a twist

Flashback to almost two years ago, I was planning my Spring Break with my best friend Kassy who was visiting from my hometown in Upstate New York. Coming from the Adirondacks, we’re an outdoorsy breed and love nature and photographic scenery, so seeing the natural beauty Ireland had to offer was a must.

You know those memes of a graph where we think “success” is a constant or exponential line upwards? Yeah, I found out that’s not how it works. There are twists and turns and highs and lows. The same could be said for planning your trips, wherever you travel.

Kassy suggested we take a day trip out Cork, which can be found in the southern region of Ireland. When we arrived at our hostel, we saw a discounted opportunity for us to see the Cliffs of Moher out west. Now, at Champlain Abroad Dublin there is a voluntary opportunity to visit the West of Ireland as a group, and almost every student RSVPs. You tour some significant Irish landmarks — the Cliffs of Moher, the town of Galway, and one of the Aran Islands. So I wasn’t too thrilled about the idea of seeing the Cliffs twice since I had already paid for the group trip later in the month. Kassy rebutted, pointing out that weather is a huge factor  you get a gorgeous day, most times you will endure some kind of weather; heavy fog and intense rain being likely. I was ever-so-blessed to have intense wind and hail the first time I visited.

When we arrived at the cliffs, Kassy and I went up towards the castle. A man and I made eye contact, and I could sense the slightest hesitation in him. He lunged forward, pulled back, and then approached me asking if I would take a photo of him and his girlfriend. 

As we all fought the icy wind and hail, the man tried to convince his girlfriend to take a quick pic. As he hands me his phone, he says “I’m about to propose.”

What did I say? “Yeah, right”. I was thinking, “We all have runny noses from the wind blasting in our face, so romantic. This guy is not gonna propose.” Five seconds later, he’s down on one knee and asking his girlfriend to spend the rest of his life with him.

Cliffs of Moher Proposal. Erik and Lina sharing a special moment. Photo Credit: Duncan Persons, ’19.

Instinctually, I whipped out my camera and started shooting candids. I wanted to capture the moment perfectly but I was battling the elements of the earth, trying to record his proposal on his phone, and shoot photos all at the same time. After the woman said yes, we all rejoiced. Kassy and I congratulated them, and I offered to send them the photos I took. We exchanged contact info, and I sent the photos off in an email a few days later. 

wedding invitation FROM SWEDEN

Cut to Saint Patrick’s day, I went to the parade with a few friends, and Kassy had arrived back home in New York. I received a response from the man, reading, “We both want to say thank you for being the best person I could have randomly picked. The photos are great, and we are very grateful for the way you helped us capture the moment. We’ve already thought we would very much like to give you something as a token of our appreciation, and an invitation to our wedding is the least we could do!

Initially, I declined the offer. I was flattered and told them I appreciated their kind gesture, but it was unnecessary and overcompensating. However that changed in November, when I received the ‘Save the Date’ in my college mailbox back in Burlington. They had somehow found my college’s address in order to send me an official invitation. After thinking it through very carefully for months, I decided that I would book a flight to Sweden.

I left for JFK airport, and arrived in Luleå about 11am. After a few delays and cancellations, I made it to the wedding just in time for Lina’s mom to pick me up at the airport. When I arrived, it felt so good to be there. The wedding took place at Eric’s grandfather’s cabin, and the couple exchanged their vows down by the lake behind the house. While the ordained minister was speaking in Swedish during the ceremony, I sat in my chair thinking, “Wow, what an incredible story. I flew all the way to Sweden by myself to rejoice in such a special occasion for both of their families.” Every person that I met that day greeted me and made me feel so welcome to be there.

Summer wedding in Luleå. Photo Credit: Duncan Persons, ’19.

At their reception, I was to speak in front of everyone and share my perspective on our story, the way we encountered each other, and how fate is a funny thing. It made me think that if each event leading up to my trip to the Cliffs of Moher happened one second later, none of this would’ve happened.

global FRIENDSHIPS and lifelong memories

This trip was, by far, the most special trip I’ve ever taken. It was a complete risk on my half and their half, but it ended up being a fairytale ceremony. The amount of love in my heart that I have for Eric and Lina is never-ending, and I hope to see them at my wedding some day. 

Duncan Persons together with Lina and Erik at their summer wedding in Luleå, Sweden.

STUDY ABROAD ADVICE

Studying abroad can be intimidating, and it is perfectly okay to be nervous and excited at the same time. One piece of advice I wish someone gave me before I left home would be to keep an open mind. And I don’t mean “keep an open mind only to the positive and planned things that come your way.” When we welcome an unexpected turn of events into our lives, we are open to the greatest change. Keep in mind that something greater could be just ahead of you; Kassy and I wanted to kiss the Blarney Stone in Cork. But instead, we saw Eric kiss Lina after he proposed. Now, I don’t know about you, but I think I ended up getting the better end of the stick. Embrace the mistakes you’re about to make, learn from them, and go make some more.

My other piece of advice is to make this trip your own. A semester abroad is about YOU, and what you want to see, do, and who you want to become. Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone is the only way we learn, and studying abroad is intended to do exactly that. Whether it’s traveling to different countries to immerse yourself in the culture, trying new foods, or meeting new people, these are all stepping stones that will help build your story and create some amazing memories. The best part is that you have a dedicated staff who are willing to give you ideas, help plan your trip, and push you to grow into the person you will become. I know without the Dublin staff, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and I’m eternally grateful for the support I’ve received during and after my travels. 

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Tony’s Tunes: A Study Abroad Student’s Guide to Music in Ireland – Love edition

Welcome to the second edition to Tony‘s Tunes. This month, as it is the month of Love, I am focusing on Irish songs based around all things love. Here are some of my favourite songs that deal with love, hurt, relationships and everything else you can imagine.

Tony Langan is from Dromiskin, County Louth, about 40 miles north of Dublin. He has been involved in the study abroad world for the past 7 years, joining Champlain Abroad Dublin for the Spring 2018 semester as the Student Life Manager. Tony enjoys a good live gig, a nice pint of Guinness and showing people the hidden sights and sounds of Dublin!

 

1. The Waterboys – Bang on the Ear

The Waterboys are a legendary Scottish/Irish band that have been around for years. This particular song is about the singer, Mike Scott, recounting various different relationships he has had over the years. Beautiful lyrics, melody and storytelling.

2. Glen Hansard – Bird of Sorrow

Glen Hansard is probably my favourite singer from Ireland, if not anywhere in the world. I must have seen him perform over 20 times and counting, and this is certainly not the last time he will show up in one of these lists. This song starts slow and ends in an amazing burst of passion and shows off his incredible voice. The song is apparently written as a love letter to his mother and talks about how he will be there for her during tough times. This live version is amazing and well worth watching as well as listening too!

3. The Pogues – Rainy night in Soho

If you are unaware of The Pogues and the songwriting genius of Shane MacGowan, the leader singer, you are about to enter into a rabbit hole of amazing music. The Pogues started out as an Irish punk band in London many years ago and became famous for their on stage energy, Irish folk ballads and Shane MacGowans haunting and beautiful lyrics. This song speaks of an Irish man abroad, in Soho, and recounts meeting a lover. It is simply amazing and one of Ireland’s most famous love songs. The song ends with the loving words…”You’re the measure of my dreams”

 

4. Thin Lizzy – Dancing in the Moonlight

Thin Lizzy are widely known as one of Ireland’s greatest rock exports and there have been recent complaints by bands such as Metallica as to why Thin Lizzy are not in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame yet. Dancing in the Moonlight brings the listener on a journey of a young couple going on a date, and the consequences that follow.

 

5. U2 – The Sweetest Thing

One of my favourite U2 songs. Catchy music and nice lyrics. Bono wrote his song as an apology to his wife Ali as he forgot her birthday. This is also a special music video as it was recorded just around the corner from Champlain College’s Academic Centre in Dublin. All our alumni should easily recognise Fitzwilliam street in the background.

Don’t forget to check out the first edition of my favourite Irish Music and remember you can also find Tony’s Tunes as a playlist on Spotify.

See you next month for our Paddy’s Day special where we will celebrate songs about the Irish diaspora. Wishing you a great Valentines day from Dublin!!

 

To keep up with Champlain Abroad’s programs this semester and beyond, be sure to follow @ChamplainAbroad on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

Tony’s Tunes: A study abroad student’s guide to music in Ireland

Tony Langan Photo by: Logan Hall-Potvin, ’19. (hallpotvinphoto.com)

Tony Langan is from Dromiskin, County Louth, about 40 miles north of Dublin. He has been involved in the study abroad world for the past 7 years, joining Champlain Abroad Dublin for the Spring 2018 semester as the Student Life Manager. Tony enjoys a good live gig, a nice pint of Guinness and showing people the hidden sights and sounds of Dublin!

Below you’ll find a list of some local Irish songs that Tony is listening to at the moment! All these artist’s are Irish, young and there is a very good chance you can catch them live during your study abroad semester in Dublin.

 

 

Fontaines D.C – Liberty Belle

You will hear loads about Fontaines D.C. in the future, if you have not already. They are a young rock/punk band and their debut album, Dogrel, has won countless awards for best album last year. Also as the name suggests Liberty Belle is about the Liberties area where the band studied music at BIMM.

Lankum – Cold Old Fire

Lankum are an amazing traditional Irish music band from Dublin who link modern music with old sounds. This song is about the gentrification of Dublin and looking for it’s ‘beating heart’. They also have an amazing new album out called ‘The Livelong day’ which is well worth checking out.

Junior Brother – You make a fine picture

It took me a long time to get into the unique sound of Junior Brother but once I did I was hooked. Like Lankum this is a folk sound but his unique voice is amazing. This song is from his EP and he also has a terrific new album called pull the wrong rope.

Kojaque – Love and Braggadocio

Kojaque is an amazing rapper from the North side of Dublin. His first album was nominated for album of the year in Ireland. This song is from that album, Deli Daydreams. I love the smooth jazz sounds with hip hop over it.

A Lazarus Soul – Black and Amber

Like most Irish folk songs they are catchy and deal with a difficult subject matter. This song is no different. A Lazarus Soul are a 3 piece from Dublin who write songs about their city and life. Amazing band.

There are SO many more new bands to discuss, never mind the absolute wealth of beautiful music from years gone by. I will be doing a lot more of these so keep an eye out. You can also find Tony’s Tunes as a playlist on Spotify.

To keep up with Champlain Abroad’s programs this semester and beyond, be sure to follow @ChamplainAbroad on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

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Emily Mazzara on her international internship with Books Ireland

By: Emily Mazzara, ’21 // Professional Writing

As part of study abroad with Champlain College, one of the many opportunities you can take advantage of is working an international internship. In the year of 2019 alone, 25 students applied, interviewed, and finessed their way into internships with companies and organisations in Dublin. It’s a huge opportunity that will not only look good on a job application later down the line, but will also teach you many valuable skills. I’ve been asked to share my experiences on what an international internship in Dublin might entail, how it differs from American internships, and some of the projects I have gotten up to.

Where am I working? 

My internship this semester is at Books Ireland, a literary review and news magazine. Books Ireland focuses on publishing all the up-to-date news on Irish published, written, and interest books. The piece of the magazine that makes it unique is the comprehensive list of Irish published and written books called First Flush

Cover of the Books Ireland November/December 2019 issue

What have I been working on? 

I have gotten to participate in and work on a myriad of different projects since I started working for Books Ireland in September. I would list them all here because they have each impacted my experience in a different way, but I’ll stick to the highlights. For the November/December issue of the magazine I had my hand in three different articles. I got to contribute to the first flush by writing short 30 word descriptions of the books that came in from publishers. I wrote an 800 word piece on the fiftieth anniversary of the bookshop and publisher Veritas Bookshop. The piece focused on how the company has changed and evolved over the years. I got to go in and interview the head of marketing for the publishing part of the company in order to write the piece. The last major project I got to work on was writing the copy and doing the design for a book catalogue for Wordwell and Eastwood publishing. Wordwell is the parent company of Books Ireland so I was brought on to do the project for them. 

 

What is the most frustrating part so far?

I have been incredibly lucky and haven’t had very many if any frustrating things happen. I think the biggest frustration I have come across is that I have not been able to attend all of the events that my internship has invited me too. Classes and other things have been keeping me quite busy outside of my allotted internship days. I just wish I had the ability to attend and see everything they have on offer.

 

What’s the biggest difference between and Irish internship and an American one?

The biggest difference that I have noticed is the workload. In an average American internship you will be placed on one or two projects for a three to four month period and that would be all you would do in that time. Here, things get turned over pretty fast, so I have had to speed through a few projects that I wished I had more time to work on. The other big difference is in how the higher-ups interact with the interns. Everyone is much more casual about both their speaking manner and how they ask their employees to do tasks. They will never be as bossy as you can see American bosses be. They are more likely to ask you kindly if you wouldn’t mind doing something “if you have the time” than they ever would be to directly ask you for something to be done. They will also be vague in their directions. The bosses expect you to be able to handle a certain level of work coming into the internship and will not spell things out for you every time. 

 

What have I learned about my career from my internship that I didn’t know before starting?

I have learned a lot of valuable information and skills from my internship so far this semester. The one thing I learned that stood out the most is how to market a book in a crowded market. Wordwell produces beautifully crafted and written books on Irish history, but Irish history is a very crowded market in Ireland. There are many competing publishers how create books in the same genre but with a higher budget. What I have learned through this is how to find and make contact with the niche audience that will be the main buyers of the book you are producing. 

 

Final Thoughts:

I have done nothing but enjoy myself during this internship. I cannot recommend doing an Irish internship enough. Not only will you have the chance to meet some really cool people and make some amazing contacts, you will also have the chance to learn something about how your future industry runs halfway around the world. 

 

To keep up with Champlain Abroad’s programs this semester and beyond, be sure to follow @ChamplainAbroad on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

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Reflections at the Halfway Point: Studying Abroad in Dublin

BY PATRICK DAVIN ’21 // PROFESSIONAL WRITING, CHAMPLAIN COLLEGE

I have now been living in Dublin for roughly two months. In these two months I have learned and grown as a person so much. It’s mind boggling how much you can change in such a short amount of time. While change can be scary, it’s necessary and good. 

Before study abroad

Everyone has ideas of what living abroad will be like, but you never truly know until it happens. I knew that I would be living with a few friends. I knew that I would have to really work at budgeting (a task harder than you think), and I knew that I would be facing a totally new culture. But I did not know how I would adjust. And, of course, the anxiety that comes with finally becoming fully independent was welling up inside my mind. I had never truly shopped for myself and prepared meals. Don’t get me wrong, I can cook food that’ll knock your socks off, but I had never really done that every day. When I’m home in the summer I work at a job that gives me meals. When I’m back at Champlain, I have IDX in all of its glory (or infamy, depending on your view). 

I was anxious about shopping and cooking. I was anxious about going to places by myself. I was also anxious about being away from my family. How would I know where to go? How would I get there? How will I fill up my free time? What if I don’t like any of the food? What happens when I meet new people? Will I be awkward and anxious, or cool and calm? Anxieties abounded, but luckily they melted away after I arrived. 

The Halfway Point

In the beginning, I would use Google Maps to make sure I was walking the correct way  to school. But now I confidently stroll, headphones in, to school without an issue. I could do it with my eyes closed. Shopping and cooking by yourself  isn’t so scary after all. In fact, it’s kind of fun. I’ve also made some great friends here. Like I said, my original anxieties have melted away. While I miss my family, I’m excited to see them soon when they visit for fall break. I’m confident now. I don’t mind going to the store or the park or school alone. And in regards to my free time, it’s filled up with potluck dinners, Lord of the Rings marathons (drinking game included), clubs, pubs, lots of homework (of course), traveling to other countries, and much, much more. 

How Game of Thrones should have ended. On tour in Northern Ireland you get to visit the village of Ballintoy, where many scenes in the series where filmed.

Speaking of traveling to other countries, that was my main goal while abroad. I wanted to visit as many places as I could.  I visited Barcelona over a four day weekend. It was phenomenal, but a bit nerve wracking navigating another strange city. I have trips planned for Milan in Italy and Amsterdam in the Netherlands. I’m counting down the days until both! I’ve also explored a great chunk of Ireland, but there’s still much more to see here. I plan on exploring it with my family when they arrive soon.

Barcelona stretching out before me.

While life is filled with many what ifs and anxieties, you have to keep moving forward. Every second is filled with a possible learning moment. Seize any opportunity that comes your way, and always face a challenge head on. I’ve grown a lot while I’ve been here for two short months, but I know I have more growth coming.  I’m looking forward to exploring what else this great world has to offer, while continuing to learn and grow at the same time. 

To keep up with Champlain Abroad’s programs this semester and beyond, be sure to follow @ChamplainAbroad on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

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Up the Dubs!

Up the Dubs! The crest of Dublin GAA

emily mazzara, ‘21 // professional writing, CHAMPLAIN COLLEGE

Every country and culture across the planet has a sport that brings people together and connects communities. In America it’s football. In most other countries it’s football (or soccer to us States people). In Canada it’s hockey eh. As I found out during my first few weeks, Ireland’s sport is football, but yet another variation than the two I have already mentioned. Now, I have gone from not knowing this game existed, to having played it and cheered on the Dublin home team in the national finals all in the span of two weeks.

On Friday September 30, Tony, Champlain Abroad’s Student Life Manager, took a group of us out to a Gaelic Games club to learn about Irish sports. While American kids are playing soccer, football, and baseball at age five, Irish children are learning to play hurling, Irish football, and handball. These three games are the backbone of community pride all across Ireland. A few of the older club members very patiently taught us how each of the three games are played before releasing us to duke it out in a match. Suffice to say, they probably had a good laugh or two at our expense. 

Champlain College students lined up to learn the rules of hurling. Photo credit: Emily Mazzara ’21.

Alongside teaching us about how the games are played, one of the club’s coaches also explained the cultural significance to the sports. Unlike in the US where players are bought and traded like the collectable cards their pictures are on, in Ireland the only team you are able to play for is the one in the county where you grew up. If a player is asked to join their county’s team it is considered an honor to be a representative out on the field. But the biggest difference of all…players aren’t paid. Every athlete has a year-round day job, on season and off. Because of these two facts, people are extremely invested and proud of their hometown sports teams. It is less like cheering for a group of athletes in a game and closer to the pride felt when watching a group of warriors win a battle. The loyalty and dedication of both the team and the fans is intense. 

The classic group photo! Happy Champlain College students after a day of learning and experiencing gaelic games.

All of this learning about and experiencing of the games helped to prepare me for going to watch the Gaelic football national finals that Sunday. The game was between Dublin, our honorary home team (Up the Dubs!) and Kerry. Almost the entire Champlain group went down to a local pub to watch the game out in the community and get the full experience. If you think your dad is loud when he shouts at the football players on the TV, he is nothing compared to the Irish when their team is one point down and overtime is running out. It was incredibly fun feeling like a part of the action, even as a Dublin transplant. Attending the Gaelic Games outing helped me to better appreciate going to the match later because I not only knew how the game was played, scored and won, but how important it was to the people of Ireland. It’s an experience I cannot wait to have again when the rematch game is played in two weeks. UP the DUBS!

 

To keep up with Champlain Abroad’s programs this semester and beyond, be sure to follow @ChamplainAbroad on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

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FYI: Five Things No One Tells You About Studying Abroad in Dublin

Living in the Liberties. Photo Credit: Miranda Rodriguez ’21 // Champlain College

Miranda Rodriguez, ‘21 // creative media, CHAMPLAIN COLLEGE

Studying abroad is great way to get in touch with your sense of adventure, to gain some independence, to meet new people, and to experience an entirely new way of life. Whether you’re leaving next semester or your semester abroad is still just an idea, here are five things I didn’t know about studying abroad in Dublin till I got here. 

  1. Don’t be intimidated by your new neighbors

Locals in Dublin are some of the nicest people you’ll meet. Speaking to new people can be intimidating, but especially in Ireland the locals are absolutely down to hang out with you. Don’t stress out about it too much; talking to locals is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in a totally new culture as quickly as possible.

2. Cash is more important than you’d think

Especially since buying local is the best way to maximize spending money for groceries, having cash on hand rather than just bringing a card will be way more helpful when you’re running errands. Smaller street vendors are more likely to only take cash, so make sure you always have a few extra bucks on your person just in case.

3. Eating local and eating healthy is way easier outside of the States

As stated in the previous reason, the best way to maximize your spending abroad is to visit local vendors. Especially here in Ireland, though, all of the food in local butcher shops and produce stores are totally organic. Buying a pound of meat and some vegetables to last you the week won’t cost you more than ten euro here, and if you get creative there’s no end to what dishes you can make.

4. Travelling to mainland Europe is not very expensive (if you play your cards right!)

Paying attention to peak and off-season times to travel is of course part of the equation, but ultimately websites like Skyscanner and Google Flights can help you in booking a real cheap trip to places in mainland Europe for a weekend getaway or even for longer breaks in the semester.

5. It might sound cliche, but you’ll have the time of your life.

No amount of hype by Champlain Abroad alumni could’ve prepared me for the amount of fun I’ve had in only my first two weeks here. Dublin is an incredible and magical place, filled with things to do and history to discover. If you let yourself, you’ll definitely have the absolute best time.

Up The Dubs! Don’t be intimidated by your new neighbors. Photo Credit: Miranda Rodriguez ’21 // Champlain College

Regardless of where you end up, studying abroad is going to change your life in the best way. The first two weeks you spend abroad is when you’ll be learning the most about the place you’re in, the people in your neighborhood, and the life you’ll lead for the remainder of the semester. 

 

Connect with Miranda over Instagram and Twitter at @inlustris__ to watch her semester in Dublin!

To keep up with Champlain Abroad’s programs this semester and beyond, be sure to follow @ChamplainAbroad on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram


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Get Your Greens!

Margot Nelson, ‘20 // Professional Writing, Champlain College

Having never lived in a city before studying abroad in Dublin, I didn’t know what to expect. For the most part, I can definitely understand why people love city life: there’s always something to do, you can walk or take the bus pretty much everywhere, and there’s a lot of great curry and chip shops around. But there were still times this semester when I felt overwhelmed with city life. The noise, the smells, the constant hustle and bustle were new to me and it can definitely be a lot to take in if you’ve never experienced it before. Luckily, Dublin does a good job of maintaining some natural spaces within the city. If you ever need a breath of fresh air, a quick escape from the noise, or just a nice spot to sit and read a book outside, here are a few of my favorite green spaces in Dublin.

St. Stephen’s Green. Photo credit: Margot Nelson ’20

St. Stephen’s Green. Photo credit: Margot Nelson ’20

St. Stephen’s Green. Photo credit: Margot Nelson ’20

This first stop is one that all Champlain Dublin students are familiar with because it’s 5 minutes from the Academic Center. St. Stephen’s Green is a historical park in the center of Dublin, right between Grafton and Leeson Street. It is home to seagulls, pigeons, swans, and ducks that live in the ponds. On sunny days, college students and business people alike gather in the park to stretch their legs or toss around a frisbee. I recommend going to Burritos & Blues, getting a burrito with your student discount (make sure to have your student ID!), and sitting in the park for lunch.

Iveagh Gardens. Photo credit: Margot Nelson ’20

Iveagh Gardens. Photo credit: Margot Nelson ’20

Iveagh Gardens. Photo credit: Margot Nelson ’20

Another park close to the Academic Center is the Iveagh Gardens. Enclosed in brick walls and dotted with statues, the Iveagh Gardens is a lot quieter than St. Stephen’s Green. It’s the perfect place to sit and relax, or to wander along the gravel paths. See what you can find: a statue hidden in the ivy, a mystical archway, or a fairy door on a tree trunk (I still haven’t found it, but I’ve been told it’s there). If you’re in the Writing the City course, you will come here as a class for inspiration so it’s definitely worth it to poke around and explore.

National Botanic Gardens. Photo credit: Margot Nelson ’20

National Botanic Gardens. Photo credit: Margot Nelson ’20

National Botanic Gardens. Photo credit: Margot Nelson ’20

If you have more time to spare, I cannot recommend the National Botanic Gardens enough. It’s about a 30 minute bus ride away from where you’ll be living in Dublin, and the entrance is free. For the colder months, there are greenhouses packed with exotic flowers and trees. There’s a rose garden and a whole section of one of the greenhouses dedicated to foods from around the world. If the weather is nicer you can take a walk through the sprawling grounds. There are creeks and flower beds, groves of pines and rhododendrons, and interesting plants at every turn. I went there on one of the most beautiful sunny days of the semester, and it was so relaxing and enjoyable to stroll through the trees until I found a spot to read my book and have a picnic. There were a lot of people when I went, but it still felt like an oasis from the city. This is one of my absolute favorite spots in Dublin, and I highly suggest you spend an afternoon there. They even offer some inexpensive events and exhibitions if you’re interested in that!

Studying abroad in Dublin was my first time living in a big city, and it was such a valuable experience. I learned how to use the public transportation system, how to navigate the city without a map, and how to do things on my own. But I also learned that spending time in nature is very important to me, and that sometimes I just needed a walk through the park to clear my head. I know a lot of people are the same way, especially those of us who have never lived in a proper city. The great thing about Dublin is that whether you need a quick break between classes or a whole afternoon, there’s always somewhere you can go and get your nature fix.


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Meeting An Old Friend For The First Time

BY patrick davin ’21 // PROFESSIONAL WRITING, CHAMPLAIN COLLEGE

As we slowly drove up the gravel path to the old wrought iron gate that fenced in the farm house, I realized that I felt like I was in a dream. While this feeling would persist for the entire weekend stay, its apex was this very moment. My mind wandered back, examining the incredible feats of fate that aligned like stars in order for this to be happening. Here I was, halfway across the world from everything and everyone I ever knew, meeting an old friend for the first time. I knew his face and I knew his voice. We had shared laugh after laugh, and even a few emotional heart to heart talks, all through a screen. And now I was meeting him and his family for the first time (and hopefully not the last)! 

Steve (left) and I. His girlfriend Shauna (also a good friend of mine) took the picture.

It all started nearly ten years ago. Steve and I met randomly, by chance, on a game called Left 4 Dead. After a few laughs and inside jokes, a friendship was born. I would dare say a brotherhood of sorts. We’ve played Xbox together as much as we could over the past ten years. We swore we would meet each other someday, and we nearly did three years ago when I was in Ireland for the first time. Unfortunately, it was a more regimented school trip unlike this wonderful study abroad experience, so I was unable to meet him. 

The farm Steve’s family owns goes back generations. Currently, they have six or seven dogs  (I honestly lost count!), a handful of cats, and two horses. You could say I died and went to heaven. His family are wonderful, and opened up their home to me without a second thought. The first night I was there, the sky opened up and the rain poured down. So we all sat around and drank both tea and coffee. We talked about life, history, aliens, his father Jimmy’s very interesting past, my family, some juicy drama that I won’t share (sorry!) and much more. We talked for three hours, but it felt much shorter than that. His parents went out to the “local” ( their go to pub), but we three, (Steve, Shauna and I) opted to stay in. We sat back and talked some more while American Dad played in the background and the rain softly kissed the roof. 

 The next day, Saturday, was lovely weather. In this case, that means it only rained for the first half of the day, and the rest was sunny and beautiful. We spent the majority of the day at his in- laws house. I had also played Xbox with them and they wanted to meet me. I was quizzed on Irish names and if I had ever heard of them. Names such as Aodghan (eh-gawn) and Crónán (crow-nawn) were alien to me. But there were a few that I had heard before. 

We left ravenous with hunger, and arrived at the farm to a most pleasing sight: curry and cheese chips (french fries) with sausage. I think it was one of the greatest meals of my entire life. Steve’s mother had been kind enough to make it for us, and when we asked her if both her and Jimmy had eaten already she looked at us and laughed, saying “ Of course we did! We were starving!” We may have come back a bit later than expected…

It was still sunny out, and I was dying for a walk around the property. Due to the earlier rain, the river had flooded, making it harder than expected. But we prevailed, and I got some great pictures. They took me to the abandoned mill, which was bustling until it was shut down in 1920. We made plans for the next time I visited. We plan on wading across the river and exploring the other side. 

The abandoned mill and Coco. Coco was not supposed to be on our walk, but he managed to escape through the fence. I’m not complaining, he gave me this great photo opportunity! Photo credit : Patrick Davin

The flooded river. Photo credit: Patrick Davin

 That night we decided to end our day together with what brought us together in the first place: video games. Steve and Shauna showed me a phenomenal game called SpeedRunners, in which you race around a map at high speeds trying to knock the other person out of view of the screen. You win once this is done three times. The game gets continually harder as the screen begins to shrink.  After playing this late into the night, we went out to look at the stars, as there is about zero light pollution where they are. I’ve always been fascinated with the stars and the night sky, and where I’m from we definitely don’t see as many as they do. 

The next morning we woke up and brought Shauna to work. Steve and his dad then dropped me off at the train station. Steve sat with me as I waited for the train, and we made plans to see each other again. It was a wonderful experience, and I’m so grateful to them for opening up their hearts and homes to me. I can’t wait for the next time. 

 

I’m Patrick Davin. I’m from Marshfield, Massachusetts and I study professional writing, specifically editing and publishing. In my spare time I love to read science fiction and fantasy novels, play video games, explore nature, and listen to musicTo keep up with Champlain Abroad’s programs this semester and beyond, be sure to follow @ChamplainAbroad on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram


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The adventures of solo travel

by Margot Nelson ’20 // Professional Writing, Champlain College

Study abroad is full of opportunities for different types of traveling. From group field trips to Northern Ireland and the West of Ireland that Champlain Dublin organizes to weekend trips around Europe with friends, it’s so easy to hop around and explore during your time abroad. However, there is another option for an exciting travel experience, which Rachel Paskavitz, a third-year Social Work student, experienced for the first time during her semester in Dublin.

Rachel Paskavitz, Social Work ’20 at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. Photo credit: Margot Nelson

“I hadn’t realized how accessible solo traveling was until I sat down and realized it would be silly for me not to take advantage of the opportunities I have while I’m here.”

Rachel spent the weekend in Killarney, County Kerry, which is about a three-hour train ride from Dublin.

“I felt like traveling in Ireland would be a good first step into solo traveling. There was still so much for me to see here in Ireland, and Killarney was a great place to experience both a small town and the beauty of the outdoors. It was far enough out of my comfort zone that I was confident I could do it but wouldn’t get stressed or overwhelmed.”

The Killarney National Park. Photo credit: Rachel Paskavitz

Planning is essential to any kind of travel, but when you’re on your own it can make the difference between a pleasant experience and a stressful one. Rachel recommends having at least your accommodation and transportation pre-booked, and to keep all your important information in one place.

“I was able to navigate the train system for the first time, so I was pretty proud of myself for doing that.” Rachel took the Irish Rail to Killarney and stayed in a hostel. “The Black Sheep Hostel was amazing! So cute, clean, comfortable, and friendly. 10/10 would definitely recommend!”

Set aside half a day at least to explore the town center of Killarney. Photo credit: Rachel Paskavitz

Before going on your solo trip, Rachel also recommends making a list of activities and places you might want to visit but to avoid over-planning.

“Know what’s in the area but allow yourself free time to roam while you’re there,” she suggests. “In Killarney, definitely go to the National Park! It is literally right next to the town and you can walk right over to it. Explore as much as you can, and take a tour of Ross Castle in the park. It was really interesting and you can explore the whole castle instead of just seeing the outside. The town is also worth walking around, it’s really cute and small so you don’t need a lot of time to see it.”

Visit the Ross Castle in the Killarney National Park. Photo credit: Rachel Paskavitz

So what are Rachel’s thoughts on her first solo trip?

“Being in full control of my time was really nice. Traveling with other people can be stressful sometimes because everyone wants different things, but I didn’t have to compromise! I was able to eat where I wanted and do what I wanted.”

You never know what you’ll find during your solo travels. Photo credit: Rachel Paskavitz

Leave yourself enough time to explore wherever you decide to travel on your own! Photo credit: Rachel Paskavitz

“If you’re considering solo travel, just do it! Even if you feel nervous about it, when the time comes it’s so much more exciting than it is nerve-wracking. The best thing was the joy and excitement I felt over and over as I kept finding more beautiful things in the area as I explored, and the gratitude I felt for the opportunity to have that experience.”

Do you want to read more about independent travelling? Check out this gem of a blog post from Alumni Lindsay Maher. 

“I was leaving on a Thursday night, and the morning of, nerves settled into my stomach. Though I wasn’t leaving the country, the reality of embarking on this journey in a new area alone was sinking in. Needless worrying about whether or not I was going to forget or lose important items, then if I was going to truly enjoy going by myself.”

 

Visit champlain abroad to start your own study abroad adventure!

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