Exploring Ireland's History

One of the classes that I have been taking during my semester abroad with Champlain Abroad Dublin is called Early Irish History, taught by archaeologist Naill Colfer. We’ve been exploring Ireland’s past all semester and recently took a trip to the Irish National Heritage Park in Wexford. Here we actually got the chance to see reconstructions of many of the things we’ve discussed in class!

The first thing we got to see on the tour was a Mesolithic house, used when people first came to Ireland, around 8000 BC, and lived as hunters and gatherers. Later on, the people adopted the practice of farming during the Neolithic era. We got to see examples of these sorts of houses as well and a reconstruction of a tomb from the time. When I visited the Burren in the west of Ireland I got to see an actual tomb from this period too!

Neolithic tomb at the Irish National Heritage Park

Poulnabrone dolmen is a portal tomb in the Burren, County Clare, Ireland

On our trip to the Irish National Heritage Park, we also got to see a monastic settlement in early medieval Ireland, a ringfort with houses that you can apparently pay to spend a night in, and even a Viking settlement with a longship built using only methods and materials that the Vikings would have used!

A Reconstruction of an Early Medieval Church at the Irish National Heritage Park

One of the things that I have found really fascinating during my time here in Ireland is its history. I’ve gotten to learn a lot about the country’s prehistory through my Early Irish History class and I’ve learned about more modern historical events in my English class: The Dublin Literary Experience. I knew vaguely about main events in Ireland’s history like the Great Famine and the Easter Rising in 1916, but I’ve definitely learned so much more through my classes here. It’s made me really appreciate Ireland’s past and I feel as though I’ve really gotten to know Ireland during these past few months.

It’s also so amazing to me that never have to walk far without running into a piece of Ireland’s history, and that that history can date back as far as 1000 years! I can walk on areas where Vikings were living and I can see churches and historical buildings that were built hundreds of years ago situated next to modern office buildings. Although there were certainly people living in America 1000 years ago, there aren’t really any landmarks or buildings that I can go see from that time period. And I definitely can’t see them on my daily walk to school! I’m just not used to seeing this kind of history where I grew up and it’s a very interesting change that I will miss when I go back home.

An example of older and newer Ireland combined on my walk to school.

We read some works by James Joyce, probably the most well-known Irish writer, in the Dublin Literary Experience class and I was surprised to see a lot of places that I recognized in his works. Being the literature nerd that I am, I get very excited when I can actually see these places in my head as I read stories that are a hundred years old! It’s just amazing to me that I can see what Joyce and other authors were inspired by! Being from New Hampshire, I don’t really get to read about places that I’ve been to that often so it’s quite a change to come to Dublin, where suddenly there’s so much that’s been written about places I’ve actually been to.

So, I think it’s definitely safe to say that Ireland and Dublin have captured my heart through their history and literature, among other things. Now that there is about a month left in my study abroad experience, I’m faced with the bittersweet realization that the end of my time in Dublin is in sight. I’m looking forward to seeing my family and friends back home again, but I’ve grown attached to Dublin as well and will miss it. But thanks to the classes that I have taken here with Champlain Abroad, I have learned more about this city than I ever could have if I just visited as a tourist and I’m grateful for that.

Amanda Girard
Champlain College Dublin, Fall 2015
Champlain College- Professional Writing ’17

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