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 […]Continue reading
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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)!
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.
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 music. To keep up with Champlain Abroad’s programs this semester and beyond, be sure to follow @ChamplainAbroad on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram
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.
“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.”
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!”
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.”
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.”
“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.”
By margot nelson, ’20 // professional writing, champlain college
I went to visit my aunt a few weeks ago.
That’s not super unusual, people visit their aunts all the time. Except that usually when I want to see her, I have to take a 7-hour flight across the Atlantic, so being able to hop over for a weekend was brand new and so exciting.
My mom is French and my dad is American so I grew up speaking both languages, though we have always lived in the U.S. I attended French international schools in Boston and Philadelphia where I was surrounded by people like me with families across the globe. Even in my public high school, many of my friends had family far away: India, Croatia, Mexico… We were incredibly lucky to be able to travel to see our families whenever possible, and I feel so privileged and grateful to have grown up in such an international community of people who shared my experiences. That being said, part of me did envy my friends who could just go see their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins for the weekend or for holidays.
When I first found out I was accepted to the Champlain Dublin program, I knew I would be going to France. I called my aunt and planned to meet her as she got out of work on a Friday afternoon. It felt too casual to be standing there, in a cobblestone street in the 1st arrondissement of Paris (Ie arrondissement) with my backpack to meet up with her and get a pizza after a short, direct trip from Dublin. After 20 years of red-eye flights and impossible layovers everywhere from Heathrow to Amsterdam, it kind of felt like cheating. Like it was too easy.
We spent the weekend walking around, going to the local market for daffodils and fresh bread, visiting the Shakespeare and Co. bookstore, going to see a show at the Théâtre Marigny, and enjoying the rare February sunshine. With no plans in mind, we wandered around Montmartre to get some crêpes for lunch, and lingered in front of every patisserie we saw. In the Jardin du Luxembourg, hundreds of people were spending their afternoon in the fresh air, pushing wooden boats in the fountain, reading books in the grass, and generally just having a nice time. We stopped to admire the Notre Dame Cathedral, which was just as spectacular as I remember it from the last time I was in Paris ten years ago. Then, we found the Marché Aux Fleurs where my aunt bought some narcissus bulbs and I debated smuggling some plants back to my dorm room in Dublin.
It was such a relaxing weekend and all too soon, it was time to go home. I can’t quite explain how bizarre it felt to wake up in Paris on Monday morning and end up racing in a cab from the airport to get to class in Dublin on time in the afternoon. Bizarre, but good.
Being French and speaking the language has always been a huge part of my own sense of self, and it’s been amazing to be in Dublin and to take advantage of the proximity and affordability of travelling to France for a couple of days. During your time abroad, make sure to find out if you have family in Ireland or anywhere else in Europe. And if you do, reach out and try to go see them! Having those kinds of connections makes the world so much more approachable and will give even greater meaning to your time abroad.
BY Erin Warner, ’20 // MANAGEMENT and Innovation, CHAMPLAIN COLLEGE
Hadley Roy is a third year Marketing major and Psychology minor at Champlain College. Though having never traveled overseas, she was inspired to come to Dublin because Champlain provided her with an easily accessible opportunity to live abroad long term. Coming to terms with the unknown is a huge barrier many prospective abroad students face before making the decision to commit. In past situations, Hadley has found herself incredibly flustered when struggling to communicate with a heavy accented individual. Foreign environments tended to pull her out of her comfort zone, making the decision to commit to the Dublin Abroad program difficult.
However, the ability to lean on the Champlain abroad community for support empowered her to remain optimistic about the experience. Having peers with a range of travel backgrounds provides any first-time traveler with both the wisdom and empathy needed to feel comfortable abroad. In addition, staff members such as Tony Langan, International Student Life Manager, and Lilly Johnsson, Assistant Director, have been noted to be extremely encouraging during the transition. Tony and Lilly have answered any and all questions about the city to help Hadley make safe and smart choices while abroad.
“The tight-knit Champlain community follows you to Dublin and you realize how kind and caring your fellow students are. Everyone looks out for each other and we have become a family here.” -Hadley Roy
A piece of advice Hadley would give to another prospective first-time traveler is to accept and embrace that the unknown is scary. Once you embrace the unknown, the excitement and awe of travel is right around the corner! A great way to tackle the unknown is to bring some items of comfort from home with you. A recommendation from the first-time traveler is to bring a pillowcase that smells like your family’s detergent or a box of Annie’s Mac & Cheese. Packing something that can keep you grounded during the lows of culture shock can make it easier to transition into an environment outside your comfort zone.
“Try as much as you can, be as bold as you can, and enjoy every second of it.” – Hadley Roy
After a few weeks of being abroad in Ireland, Hadley has learned to embrace the unknown. She has mastered the Dublin bus system, visited a series of castles, and danced Irish step in a local pub. This month, with the help of some friends a weekend trip has been planned to Copenhagen, Denmark. She is even daring enough to attempt a four-country Spring Break to Budapest, Vienna, Prague, and Bratislava. While first-time travelers may find the Dublin Abroad program daunting, a close-knit community, supportive faculty, and a little bravery can allow any student to flourish.
If you want to read more about how to break out of your comfort zone, check out this blog post from Rachael Elmy, ’19. She describes her trip to the caves of Keash as “probably the most uncomfortable (and best) day trip ever!”.
Hi! I’m Adam DeCosta, a third year computer science student. I’m one of the social media ambassadors for Champlain Abroad Dublin this semester. You’re going to see more updates from me throughout the semester, so make sure to keep up! Anyway, here’s a little bit about me. I am a huge nature enthusiast; I love hiking, kayaking, backpacking, camping, and photographing all of it. If an activity has anything to do with the outdoors, I probably would want to try it out. I also love being inside. I enjoy playing video games, editing photos, watching Netflix, programming, and just reading tech news.
I was born and raised in a tiny town called Georgia, Vermont, just over twenty miles north of Burlington. There was pretty much nothing to do there, I had one neighbor and he actually lived in a different section of the house. I spent most of my life living on a dairy farm with my grandparents and my mom. I am a first generation college student and everything post high school was terrifying to me.
study abroad in ireland
Champlain College has given me so many opportunities and so many new paths to go. Before coming to Champlain I had never heard of study abroad. So if you went back in time, found high school me, and then told me I was going to spend four months in Ireland I probably wouldn’t have believed you. Now I’m here, and it is such a life-changing experience. Before I even got to Dublin I had a new adventure; it’s called flying! For those of you who haven’t flown before, don’t worry about it! It’s a ton of fun! Quick tip: if you are in the Northeast, book through Aer Lingus so you can get some fairly cheap direct flights to Dublin! It will make your life so much easier!
Dublin is the first city I’ve ever lived in and it’s definitely been an adjustment for me, a Vermonter born and raised. For me, the “big city” was Burlington, and Dublin is super different, but also fairly similar. I’ve never really experienced living anywhere there wasn’t any mountains or trees in view. No matter what direction I look from the terrace above our housing in the Highlight student accommodation I see more buildings. It’s nothing bad, just pretty different. Don’t worry though! If you love nature as much as I do it’s super easy to get outside of Dublin by taking any of the trains. Bray is beautiful and right on the seaside. We were taken there during the student orientation and there is a beautiful walk up to the top of Bray Head where you can see the entirety of Bray with an incredible view of the surrounding area. I highly recommend taking the walk up!
like a local
There are also a bunch of really nice parks in Dublin. Right by Champlain’s Academic Center there is St. Stephen’s Green. It’s a pretty busy park and has a beautiful center with tons of flowers and it’s surrounded by trees. You can hang out there and eat food, or do some work, or just lie in the grass and listen to music. It can be pretty serene. I haven’t personally been to other parks, but I’ve heard that both the Iveagh Gardens and Phoenix park are beautiful. Phoenix park is huge, it’s seven square kilometers and has deer! So if you miss seeing animals that aren’t pigeons or seagulls it’s a great place to go.
Something really cool we did during orientation was take a tour of the area we are located in. So we live in the Liberties which is the old historical section of Dublin and it’s honestly very nice. On this tour we met a lot of the local shopkeepers and grocers and it really helped me feel more at home here. Now whenever I go to them they ask me how my most recent trip was because they still recognize me. They’re very welcoming and also importantly, cheap. Unlike in Vermont / the US in whole, local grocers and food is actually cheaper than the supermarkets and groceries here are very cheap compared to home. Our orientation tour with the locals actually made the news in one of Ireland’s largest newspapers, you can read more about it here in the Irish Times.
BY RACHAEL ELMY, ’19 // PROFESSIONAL WRITING, CHAMPLAIN COLLEGE
My parents weren’t exactly thrilled when they learned that I’d be staying in a hostel for Champlain Abroad’s Northern Ireland tour. The first thing that came into their minds was probably unwashed sheets, unlocked doors, and people sneaking into the room late at night to steal my stuff.
Probably from that influence, I had no idea what to expect from my first stay in a hostel. I figured since our program director Stephen was staying there with his family, it most likely was somewhat safe and decent.
I imagined all 53 of us staying in one big room full of bunk beds, some peacefully snoring and others using pillows to block out the sound. However, I learned that there were separate rooms that could house 3-10 people when room assignments were sent out. That was a bit of a relief, knowing that there was some organization (and doors!). I was roomed with six other girls who luckily, ended up being very quiet sleepers. My sensitive ears were grateful.
When we arrived at the hostel, my first thought was; “This looks a bit hokey.” There was a statue of a man dressed in red pointing at the hostel, and a picture of horrified-looking sheep on the sign. I did check this place out online a few days before we left and saw that it had good reviews, so I tried to keep my hoity-toity self optimistic.
The room I shared was small, no bigger than an average triple back at Champlain, or maybe even a large double. The ceiling was slanted with one foggy window smack-dab in the middle. At the end of each bed was a set of folded sheets and blankets. To my relief, they actually seemed freshly washed. Later on, the hostel owner came in with clean pillowcases for the pillows that waited for us against the radiator. The only downside was the mattress. It felt like it wanted to be memory foam, but you could probably break your tailbone if you sat down too hard.
Downstairs was the mess hall/gaming area, where there was a pink ping-pong table and a free pool table. For a while, it was just us girls being super competitive and silly at the same time. Most of us were terrible at ping-pong especially. Every time the paddle hit the ball, you had to duck and cover, praying it wouldn’t smack you in the forehead.
BY Rachael Elmy, ’19 // PROFESSIONAL WRITING, CHAMPLAIN COLLEGE
My alarm went off at 6am on a Saturday morning. Outside, everyone was still asleep, including the sun.
We agreed to meet outside the student residence by seven, whether or not everyone was there, to be able to catch an 8am train from Heuston Station in Dublin to Ballymote in county Sligo. By the time I got outside, my three friends were already walking past my building. I ran to join them. I was excited, but I had no idea what the day had planned for me.
There was no doubt that it was quite cold and wet, and I was worried that it would be so cold that I wouldn’t enjoy my experience. Despite going to Champlain College in Vermont, I actually hate the cold, and could easily live in 90 degree weather year-round if possible. It didn’t help that on that four-hour train ride, everything we passed by was covered in snow! It wasn’t like Vermont snow, though. It looked more like someone lightly dusted some powdered sugar onto the fields and trees. It seemed tamer or more poetic than a Vermont winter, but that doesn’t deny the fact that it was cold!
As we got closer, there was less snow but more mist, sort of like someone was breathing onto a window. We hoped the moisture would bring a bit of warmth with it. Spoiler alert: We were wrong.
We called a cab once we got off the train. It was a small town, nothing like the busyness of Dublin, so I believe there was only one taxi service in the area. It was run by this sweet, skinny older man in a big white van (I know, that sounds sketchy, but don’t worry, we’re alive and well). We told him to take us to the pub closest to the Caves of Keash.
When we got off the cab, the pub was basically deserted. No cars were in the parking lot, and no lights were on inside. It was 11:30, and the pub did not open until noon. I could feel the cold begin to rise up from the pavement, through the rubber of my sneakers, and then settle into the soles of my feet. We told the driver that we would be okay with waiting there until staff arrived. He nodded, told us to pay him at the end of the day, and left.
The pub was in the middle of nowhere. It was across the road from a fenced-in field with some large hills behind it. The road itself stretched for miles in either direction. You could sit in the middle of it for a solid ten minutes and nothing would happen, except I wouldn’t suggest doing that because if a car did come, it basically came at the speed of light.
While we waited for a half hour, we sang some really obnoxious songs from summer camp and my friend Sarah tried to make friends with the cats that lived around the pub. We looked like tourists who had been day-drinking, and we really hoped that no one saw us, because we looked kind of ridiculous.
The pub owner finally drove in about a minute before noon. We kind of awkwardly nodded to him as he unlocked the door and began to set up inside.
After about five or so minutes, we were let into this cozy little bar with a nice roaring fire, stone walls, and comfy chairs. My friend Molly ordered a Guinness, and the rest of us ordered tea, wanting to rid the cold from our bodies as soon as possible.
We asked the owner if he normally saw tourists heading to the caves. He told us yes, but normally during the summer. “The people who go during this time are…brave.”
We laughed, knowing “brave” was synonymous with “stupid” at this point.
We also met an older man, probably in his late fifties, with his mother, a woman in her late eighties. He talked our ears off. He was incredibly friendly, and even bought us all drinks, welcoming us to the West of Ireland. He told us a brief tale of folklore surrounding the caves. Apparently, one of the greatest high kings of Ireland, King Cormac Mac Art, was taken from his mother by wolves when he was an infant and raised in the caves. Now, do I believe that? Not particularly, but hey, I’m in Ireland. Using my imagination is a requirement.
By the time we left the pub, the weather was much more tolerable, but that didn’t make the climb up any easier. Continue reading