Author Archives: Amanda Girard

5 Ways Studying Abroad Changed My Life

As I am writing this, I am approaching finals week and my last week studying abroad in Dublin with Champlain Abroad, which is, as cliché as it sounds, a bittersweet feeling. I miss my family and my boyfriend back home in the US, but at the same time, I know I will miss Dublin and the life I have come to know here when I am back home.

I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my experiences over the past few weeks and I always seem to circle back to ways in which I am not the same person that I was when I arrived 4 months ago. Here are just 5 of the many ways studying abroad in Dublin has changed me.

Ready to study abroad in Dublin with Champlain Abroad

Amanda Girard, Professional Writing Major, ready to leave for a semester in Dublin with Champlain Abroad.

1.) Growing More Independent By Living on My Own
Before coming to Dublin, I had only lived either with my parents or in Champlain College’s campus housing in Burlington, Vermont. I had never had the experience of living with roommates in an apartment, and certainly not living in the middle of a city. To be honest, I was nervous to see if I could succeed in living on my own but now that I’m at the end of my semester, I’m realizing that it wasn’t so hard. Living in Champlain Abroad Dublin’s urban, independent student apartments was a great middle ground between living at home and living on my own in an apartment, mostly because we had a great cleaning staff who cleaned our apartment every week. I also had two great roommates, Emmalee and Michelle, who made living together totally stress-free, which always helps. Going back home, knowing that I have accomplished living on my own in another country, gives me a huge confidence boost that I can live on my own in the US when I return. Continue reading

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

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A Weekend Trip to Northern Ireland

Champlain Abroad Dublin recently took a weekend trip to Northern Ireland for some unforgettable adventures. Friday was an early start, at 8 in the morning, but though everyone was a little tired, they were also excited to hit the road and head up north!

Our first stop was in the city of Belfast for a Political Black Taxi Tour of the city. Ciarán O’Rourke’s Northern Irish History class already had a background on the Troubles in Northern Ireland and I personally knew a little bit about the history of these events, but the Taxi Tours gave us such a new perspective. It’s one thing to hear about the Troubles in class, but it’s quite another thing to actually be in Northern Ireland and experience the area. It amazes me that 15 years ago, we wouldn’t even have gotten the opportunity to take this trip at all because of the conditions in Northern Ireland.

The taxi drivers told us a lot about the area and the history surrounding the Troubles. Some of the most interesting things that they showed us were the various murals honoring those who died in the Troubles located all around Belfast on the sides of houses. Here are just some of the many examples of art:
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Halloween-Dublin Style!

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, so when I realized that I would be studying abroad during October, I was excited to experience what this time of year is like in another country!

In many ways, the Irish and American Halloween seasons are very similar. Shops are filled with themed decorations throughout the month and kids go trick or treating dressed up in costumes. It’s not unusual for me to see cobwebs, skeletons, and pumpkins on my walks to the Academic Center.

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The leaves have also started to change colors and fall from the trees. Being from New England, I’m used to amazing fall scenery and places in Dublin like St. Stephen’s Green and Phoenix Park offer views that remind me of home.

Phoenix Park

Phoenix Park

The Halloween season in Dublin has its differences as well. For example, there are parades, bonfires, and fireworks around the country to celebrate. The fireworks are really interesting to me because that’s a tradition that I have never heard of in America. Since I will be around for October 31, I am really interested in going out and experiencing what a Dublin Halloween is like and immersing myself in the celebrations and traditions of another culture. Even if there are a lot of similarities, there are bound to be some differences as well! Continue reading

A Typical Tuesday With Champlain Abroad Dublin

Many people hear about the wonderful trips that study abroad students go on and the unforgettable places they see. These are semester highlights and no doubt I will have many of those by the end of my time with Champlain Abroad Dublin.

But what does the average day look like for a Champlain Abroad Dublin student? Those days when I spend more time at the Academic Center  than I do exploring Dublin or other places are just as interesting. I’d like to lead you through my typical Tuesdays!

I’ve always been a morning person, so I wake up for my day around 7! (I know, crazy right?) Recently, the sun has begun to rise later, so it’s often still dark when I wake up! But here’s an early morning view from my apartment:

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Dublin's Hidden Gems

This past summer, in anticipation for my semester with Champlain Abroad, I read every single travel book on Ireland that my town library had. I scribbled down notes about the different attractions that I could visit in Dublin, the trendiest (yet most affordable) restaurants, and even looked up how far away these places were from my apartment.

So, when I actually got off the plane, I already had a good idea about what sorts of attractions awaited me in Dublin. I knew that I would be living along the River Liffey, which divided Dublin into its North and South sides. When Ciaran O’ Rourke, Champlain Abroad Dublin’s awesome head resident and activities coordinator, took us for a tour of the city during our first few days, I was able to take pictures of these amazing landmarks, like Trinity College and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, that I had read so much about.

Champlain Abroad Dublin students outside Trinity College

Main gate of Trinity College

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My First Month with Champlain Abroad Dublin

Hello! My name is Amanda and I’m a third year Professional Writing major at Champlain College, currently studying with Champlain Abroad Dublin.

Apartments for Champlain Abroad Dublin students

Student apartments for the Champlain Abroad Dublin group.

It’s been about a month now since I arrived at my student apartment from the Dublin International Airport and, yes, it’s also been a month since I have left the familiarity of the US for the first time. While there are some brands and chains here that I recognize from home, like Burger King, Special K, and even Starbucks and their pumpkin spice lattés, there are many new things that I have never seen before. Spar, Tesco, and Lidl have become frequent stops for grocery shopping and the green crosses of pharmacies can be seen on most main streets. Café Sol is perfect for a quick bite for lunch and Penney’s is the best place for affordable clothes.

But, of course, I have learned more in the past month than where to do my shopping for the semester.

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