BY Samantha McLaughlin, ’19 // marketing, CHAMPLAIN COLLEGE
Before I came to Dublin I was on Church Street in Burlington talking to a friend. I was telling him about my travels for the up and coming semester, and as soon as I said “Dublin”, I heard a woman with a thick Irish accent say “Oh, I’m from Dublin!”. This Immediately sparked my attention, and I started asking her the basics. Where to go? What is it like? What should I do? She said to me Dublin reminded her a lot of Burlington, it may be bigger but not by much.
I guess I had my mind set on a scene from Game of Thrones, you know, looking out a window at a small cottage into fields of never ending green. small houses with beautiful doors, nothing bigger than two story houses, farmland, castles and men that convene at the local pub after a long day’s work. Basically “P.S. I Love You” but maybe a little less romantic. Something so different from where I live in the United States. There on Church Street, I just didn’t believe, or maybe just didn’t listen, to this woman about a place she has spent all her life. O’Boy, should I have listened, because I was in for a shock when I arrived. But I quickly realized that woman I previously met was right. Dublin from the outside was just like Burlington. Sizewise it’s like Boston, even in looks it’s similar. I didn’t feel out of my comfort zone because I could easily guide myself around town without getting lost. Nothing felt uncomfortable because of this. I surprisingly started recognizing people that I’ve just seen from walking around. Speaking of walking, everything is walkable just like Burlington, plus buy and support local is huge just like Burlington.
And because everything felt recognizable, I initially felt robbed of my abroad experience. Am I pushing myself outside my comfort zone enough? I struggled with the fact that I was too comfortable, the sense that everything seemed too familiar. Had I chosen the right study abroad location ?
We are now nearly two months into the semester and I may have judged Dublin too soon. You know the saying “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”, it is true. I judged the looks of Dublin before I even got the chance to fully meet it. Despite my feeling of “this is the end”, life did go on and orientation had started. There’s no way around it orientation can be a drag, though a necessity, but the information that is needed or required isn’t always the most interesting in obtaining. However for me, orientation helped unlock the treasures this abroad experience is going to give. Only if, I could release that robbed feeling, if I could stop judging this cover and actually crack the city for all that is has to offer. All expectation I had, had to be pushed to the ground and replaced with reality. Once I threw expectations out the door and with the help of Stephen’s ( Stephen is the Director of Champlain Dublin, he makes sure everything is running smoothly, honestly he does a little bit of everything, even accounting!) words and with the aid of my first night out to Harcourt Street (the street with all the clubs and bars, making for a crazy night filled with lots of fun), I realized then that I was uncomfortable being alone in a place that I was so comfortable being.
I have a lot of self-exploration to do and Dublin is going to help me with that. I realized that I’m not as independent as I thought, I saw this when I wasn’t comfortable talking to people unless I had a fellow study abroad mate with me every step of the way. I had a fear of being alone or being seen alone, I feel that in American society today, being alone is deemed as weird or unfavorable. You know that feeling, if someone is alone we think it’s because no one wants to be with them. Though here being alone almost looks elegant. There is a certain confidence that is portrayed on a woman in a restaurant indulging in a book or people watching as she digs into her meal. I came to Dublin with no close friends, so to me that felt like alone. I’m not truly alone because I have Champlain Abroad, which offers the support from a small but truly special staff and people with faces that I recognize but don’t truly know yet! It’s me and Dublin now and I’ve realized I am stuck in the American mindset and I don’t know how to publicly be comfortable alone. But like I said, the help of student orientation and my study abroad program, I’ve cracked out of this shell and I see the light.
I’m ready to start my journey of self exploration through the culture, people and the land of Ireland and whatever else I hope to find that it offers. I think I will do this by exploring the Irish Film Institution opening, Dublin Culture night, Fighting Words volunteering experience, the Bluefire Street festival, trips to the cafe alone to journal, nights out in the pub, exploring Dublin’s National college of Art and Design and honestly anything that sparks my interest. Four months isn’t a lot of time and I’m planning to dig deep into the soul of Dublin, extracting everything she has to offer and customizing it on a personal level. I hope to gain that elegance and bring it back with me. Here goes nothing…