Author Archives: Lilly Johnsson

About Lilly Johnsson

Assistant Director - Champlain Abroad Dublin

Kohle Feely ’21 // Business Administration; Entrepreneurship

While studying with Champlain Abroad in Dublin, I interned with Unify Ordering. Unify connects restaurants and other food services with suppliers through both their app and website. They digitalise suppliers’ product list with item details, in order to avoid the confusion and incorrect order quantities that have often occurred within the food industry.

As an Irish startup, they have a small team. Therefore, during my time there, only three or four of us would be in the office together. Day to day, I helped out with many operational tasks: managing product lists, customer support, and making sure account information was correct on the company’s back end. 

A long term project I worked on was completely rewriting the help articles to reflect updates and changes to the platform. Thanks to the different accounting and financial classes I’ve taken at Champlain, my Excel skills are pretty on par and I ended up the de facto office expert whenever there was a spreadsheet involved!

Although we had to head home to the United States earlier than expected due to the coronavirus, my internship site was sad to see me go and enthusiastic about continuing my work remotely. The transition to working 3,000 miles away back home wasn’t too difficult since most of the work I had been doing was online and independently-based.

The transition to working remotely (in combination with being in a different time zone) was definitely a challenge. However, I have developed better organizational and time management skills when I am responsible for different tasks happening at once. Unify is growing rapidly and is always being updated with new features, so making sure to communicate with the team often was also very important.

One of the key aspects of interning remotely for Unify was staying up to date with conversations in Slack. Additionally, I had weekly calls with my supervisor in order to stay updated on the team and go over new tasks. Unify uses a project management software called Jira, which keeps projects organized and keeps track of everything they are doing— especially helpful while working remotely with a time difference.

One of the biggest cultural differences I experienced during my internship abroad was Ireland’s high-context culture. Compared to America’s low-context culture, the way Irish people communicate in both professional and social settings is heavily tied to their history. Communication is less direct and the way something is said carries more weight than the message itself. While this often meant that directions at my internship felt a bit ambiguous, Irish people place a larger emphasis on getting to know each other and developing relationships with coworkers than American workplaces. I personally think it’s a great aspect of Irish culture, and definitely helps to build stronger teams.

I had a great time interning with Unify Ordering and enjoyed experiencing both the Irish work culture and being in an entrepreneurial setting. Seeing a small company being built from the ground up—from app development to seeking investors—was an invaluable experience and it fit perfectly with both my major and minor.

Working in a different culture helps with developing a wider mindset, better communication skills, and cultural intelligence to work effectively with people from all backgrounds. Especially as businesses become increasingly global and more work is done virtually, international work experience is a priceless addition to your resume. 

I highly recommend that any student studying abroad considers an internship. Besides being a great work experience for your resume, living and working in a new place gives you a better idea of what it’s really like to live there day to day as a local. Plus, you’ll make international friends and network connections that can open up so many doors to new opportunities in the future. I miss going into the Unify office every week, and can’t wait to go back and visit.

I have dreamed of traveling around the world since I was a young girl. I had a little globe toy that taught you about cultures and languages that I absolutely loved to play with. My family did not travel much when I was younger and I didn’t see the ocean until I was 16 years old. My first time on a transatlantic flight was the summer of 2019, heading to China for an international internship experience through the Freeman Foundation Grant at Champlain College.

I’m really lucky not to have only one, but two abroad opportunities in my college career so far. When I arrived in Ireland in early January of 2020, I had a list of countries I wanted to see since I would be living in Europe for four months. I booked trips to Milan, London, Berlin, Budapest, Amsterdam, Prague, Mallorca, and Vienna. I also immediately made friends from all around the globe in our living accommodation, and we quickly became a little family.

Exploring with friends

My whole world was turned upside down on March 12th. I woke up to a call from our Student Life Manager telling me not to get on my flight to Amsterdam that night. After I hung up I noticed three emails, one from Champlain’s home campus in Vermont, and two from our Champlain Abroad Dublin Program Director. I immediately started crying.  The emails didn’t say it, but I knew we were being sent home. I called both my parents, and explained to them through the tears that I wasn’t going on my spring break, and that I would probably be booking a flight home that same day. I started looking at my list of trips with a broken heart – I had only made it to Milan. I started canceling flights, hostel accommodations, and requesting refunds. I had spiraled into a panic adding up the cost of everything I was not able to do.  I had a trip to Mallorca, Spain booked for the first week of May which would mark my last week in Europe; I kept it booked hoping I would be able to travel then.

We were called to a Spring 2020 group meeting that day where Champlain Abroad staff announced we were going home. It was one of the most emotionally tense rooms I have ever been in. The following weekend was probably one of my best weekends in Dublin. I said yes to everything, and I spent my last hours with my international friends.

Rainbow in Dublin, seen from Champlain College’s Academic Centre.

Upon my arrival home to the US, I was still very sad and angry at the universe. Adjusting to home after being abroad is always difficult, and this time was no exception. It was then that I decided I had no more tears left to cry about my experience, so I made a list. I listed out every accomplishment I had made during my study abroad time:

  • Interned at ParkPnP, an Irish Tech Company
  • Adjusted to Irish professors 
  • Learned how to live with SEVEN people, and still get along
  • Got my nose pierced
  • Became apart of my local Dublin community, The Liberties
  • Cooked my heart out, and loved every minute of it
  • Attended an International Women’s Day event at the Facebook European headquarters
  • Walked everywhere, and made a mental map of Dublin
  • Made life-long friends from all around the world
  • Went on an amazing trips to Northern Ireland and Milan
  • Went to all of Tony’s 5 euro dinners and other Student Life Events (they were all great)
  • Left of piece of me in Dublin 
Enjoying a night out in Dublin with friends
International Women’s Day event at the Facebook HQ

Making this list has really helped me appreciate everything I got the opportunity to do. It wasn’t until I started my remote classes that I really got into a routine that allowed me to start looking forward. There are lots of blessings in disguise that come with working from home. I started working out to get myself back on track, and I have never felt better. I am the oldest of five children, and it is the longest period of time we have all been home together in a very long time. We have already made lots of great family isolation memories. As far as school goes, we still work with the same Irish professors we had before; it’s just a different platform. This has allowed me to have more time to reflect on the material we are learning because there are a lot fewer distractions (like watching How I Met Your Mother with your roommates WHILE you do your work). I feel like I have connected more with my professors now too because we are all working to engage with the online platform since we aren’t in Dublin anymore plus we are all going through this global pandemic together. 

There are some big life lessons that I have learned from being abroad during a global pandemic. (Most of these are cliches that I realized are so true)

Life doesn’t just happen to you. I have tried my best to find the positives of life in isolation. It gives you a great excuse to get those things done that you will “get to eventually.”

Patience is a virtue. We all are waiting around at home, we all are experiencing grief, we all are adjusting, and each of us is going to handle that differently. Being patient with change, people, and ourselves comes in handy right now.

Change can be a beautiful thing. I have experienced so much change since January, and I am a better person because of it. I moved to a foreign country, I made new friends, I adjusted to new teaching styles, I worked in an Irish workplace, I made myself a new home abroad, I had to cancel my travel plans, and I had to move home unexpectedly.

All those things mean that I now have an even bigger motivation to make my way back to Europe, and it has pushed me to realize that I want to keep traveling for the rest of my life. It also has given me even more tolerance for change and difference. My semester abroad didn’t go as planned, but I will still hold it close to my heart. 

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

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.


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. (

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


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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