Category Archives: Adventures

Exploring Iceland the student way

Exploring Iceland the student way

Champlain College student Greer Yoder gives Iceland two thumbs up

BY ZACH PAULSEN, PROFESSIONAL WRITING’17, champlain college

Planning Planning planning

Earlier in the month of November was our fall break. In lieu of Thanksgiving Break, students studying with Champlain Abroad Dublin in the fall semester are given a ten day long break during which to explore Europe, and you’d have been-pressed to find anybody who wasn’t. Personally, a group of four friends – fellow students Greer Yoder, Maggie Sergeff, Max Brisben and Reuben Kernan – and I explored Iceland for four days, and in doing so we learned a lot about what it takes to make trips on a larger scale like this work.

This has not been my first European trip. Earlier this year I visited England to see a friend, and before this year I had been to Europe on several occasions, but I cannot stress enough how easy it is to get complacent and assume that trips are all going to be flawless fairy tales that build themselves. This is one instance where I was admittedly caught off guard.

In my heart of hearts, I think I understood that Iceland was an extremely isolated place, and I would have to put in a lot of work, and play it smart, but I let my past three months in Europe get the better of me, and I went in without truly expecting any sort of issues to arise.

Needless to say, things weren’t as easy as I had expected, but we worked through it and in the end I came out with one of the best vacations of my life and a place that is 100% on my must-visit-again list.

Flights, wheels, a place to sleep and food to eat

Champlain Abroad student Max Brisben geared up and ready to go

Champlain Abroad student Max Brisben geared up and ready to go

The trip started out pretty well from the get-go. We arrived with ample time to the Dublin Airport, and spent a good hour before our flight relaxing and mentally preparing for the trip we were about to embark on. However, relaxing as it may have been, this is where we encountered our first issue.

When travelling to Iceland via Wow Air, expect policies to be different. Whereas Irish airlines Ryanair and Aer Lingus, and many American airlines, such as Delta or United are much less stringent when it comes to what constitutes a carry-on and a personal item, Icelandic airline, Wow Air is very strict in enforcing bag sizes. Make sure that even if you know your bags could fit in an overhead compartment or under a seat, they also fit within Wow Air’s measurements, because otherwise you will get hit with a baggage fee.

 

The very first time I set eyes on Iceland

The very first time I set eyes on Iceland

Having put this behind us, we stepped on to our plane and waited the longest two and a half hours of our lives until we touched down in Iceland. From the very beginning it was like we were in a different world. As I like to describe it, it was like a glacial Hawaii. Even with the rainy and cloudy weather, the landscape felt exotic and enticing.

One thing I recommend wholeheartedly comes with two different halves of advice. One: rent a car. If you are 20 you can rent a small sedan (a saloon in European terminology) from the rental company Sixt, and if you are 22 or over you can begin to rent bigger sedans, and 25 and up you can rent vans. It’s all doable. We rented an Opel Corsa to accommodate all five of us, and while it was a tight fit, we were able to make it work, and it allowed us to see so much more than we would have otherwise. In effect, the whole of the southwest coast was open to us and I cannot stress enough how much more amazing our trip was because of this. It is well worth the price, without a doubt.

And two: familiarize yourself with car rental policies, and be prepared to shell out a couple extra euro for various forms of insurance and a navigation system. Almost anywhere in the southwest coast can be reached by paved roads, but anywhere else will be gravel, so gravel insurance is an absolute must.

And the navigation system proved to be invaluable for us. It is solely responsible for our safe arrival to our Airbnb, and unless you have an existing knowledge of the Icelandic language, it is what would get you safely there too.

Our Airbnb cabin on Meðalfellsvatn

Our Airbnb cabin on Meðalfellsvatn

We rented a lakeside cabin as our accommodation, and opted to stay in the more remote – and I mean very remote – lake of Meðalfellsvatn. It’s about 45 minutes outside of the capital, and biggest city, Reykjavik, and is where many Icelanders have their summer homes, so needless to say during the winter season, it got a little bit spooky being the only people around for miles.

The house was incredible, though. And staying outside of Reykjavik is well worth it, as it becomes much more affordable. The house was our hub and the first day was spent going and getting dinner in the city. Tempting as it is, we could not do this often. Eating out in Iceland is outrageously expensive, so we also used this time to go grocery shopping. Cooking your own food is absolutely the way to go when travelling here.

Another warning about Icelandic cuisine: do not eat whale, no matter what people say, as it contributes to illegal and immoral whaling practices that still take place off of Iceland’s shores. The Icelandic government has even devoted a website to steering tourists away from restaurants that serve whale. Shark, too, is a shadier meal to eat. You’re not going to find shark fin soup, but shark dishes are another thing best avoided.

Given the little amount of daylight during the winter months, after this brief excursion we returned to the house for the night. Continue reading

The Story of Dublin

By: Meghan Neely, Professional Writing’18

 

I’ve been telling stories for as long as I’ve been able to talk. Narrative is the air I breathe. It’s the core of my existence and it’s how I connect with the world around me. It’s how I form relationships and it’s what helps me to make sense of who I am. It’s my passion, this love of story, which defines me as a writer. Like any kind of love, though, it can be confusing sometimes.

meghan-neely-profile

Meghan Neely, studying in Dublin with Champlain Abroad in the Fall of 2016

There are a lot of days when my writing and I don’t speak to each other. Days when I tear up pages and sit on the edge of my bed wondering whether or not I made the right choice. I could have picked a more stable major, something in technology or business. A course of study with a logical, proven pattern and an annual salary. But here I am. I chose writing, and I chose Champlain. This September marked the beginning of year three, and I clung to my writing like a dog with a car tire and let it carry me overseas.

Patrick Kavanagh

Statue of Irish Poet and Novelist Patrick Kavanagh

When I first stepped off the plane in Dublin, my stomach was in ropes. I had no idea what to expect from this strange, new city looming over me. I knew that, within weeks, it might make or break me as both a college student and as a writer. I felt like the struggling indie musician setting foot in New York City for the first time, guitar on my back and heart on my sleeve. Anything was possible, but could really I make it big? Would Dublin really be the city for me?

It’s been a long time now since my arrival in Ireland, and while I have many more weeks of growing ahead of me, I’m starting to think Dublin and I will be in love for a long time to come. This is the city of writers, after all.

maxwell-brisben-poetry-reading-at-the-flying-south

Champlain College student Maxwell Brisben, Creative Media’18, performing at the Flying South Open Mic night in Dublin.

Its street corners bleed inspiration from deep seated veins pumping literary history and new talent. Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, James Joyce — their faces reside in stone and museums across the city. Dozens of poetry events fill the night air with emotion from cafes along the River Liffey. No matter how far I travel, the writers are always there, watching and reminding me that yes, it can be done. You can make a living this way.

Every morning I wake up in Dublin is a morning I wake up a little more inspired, a little more confident. When I board the city bus for my internship, I know that there’s a career ahead of me, that what I can do is important. There’s never once a dull moment in this city, and I find myself shredding the pages of my notebook less and less. I’m writing more, reading more, and I owe it all to Dublin’s authors, old and new.

 

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An Open Letter to Dublin

By: Amanda Hollywood, ’17 // Public Relations

Dear Dublin,

sick mondo

When I had a fever I had to lay in my dark room with a damp towel over my forehead.

Whenever I would complain about how stubborn one of my siblings was being, my dad would always counter with a story from his childhood about my granny. When he was young it would be his job in the morning to make her a cup of coffee as he made his own breakfast, and one time, somehow, he accidentally set his toast on fire in the toaster and had to put it out with a fire extinguisher. When my granny came downstairs, she scolded him for not having her coffee ready, even while seeing him clearly in the aftermath of an actual fire. No matter how my dad explained, she wasn’t hearing it. She just wanted her coffee. The farther back in my family you go, it seems, the more and more stubborn we get. After coming to Ireland, I know without a doubt it’s the Irish in us. That’s where you come in, Dublin.

You didn’t care that I was here to have the time of my life. You didn’t care that I had invested thousands into this trip. You didn’t care that I had very different goals set, coming abroad. There were lessons you had for me to learn, and I was going to learn them, one way or another. Namely, by getting really, really sick. About 45% of my time here was spent being somehow sick. I spent more time sick here in Ireland than I’ve spent sick in the past five years, easily. I spent many days and nights staring at the ceiling and reasoning with the universe: Don’t you understand I’m supposed to be having the time of my life right now? Don’t you understand I have plans? But you were stubborn, Dublin. And you taught me to be stubborn, too.

happy mondo

The first thing I did when I got better was hop on a plane to the Happiest Place on Earth

You stubbornly made me become independent. I had no one to rely on but myself. There’s no mommy out here to nurse you back to health- you have to do it yourself. No one is obligated to take care of you, or otherwise care at all. Not to say no one cared, but you taught me self care. Self reliance. And now, self confidence that I can take care of myself. If I hadn’t spent weeks stubbornly fighting my way to good health, I never would have had the independence needed to take two trains and a bus all the way to Dingle and spend the weekend there alone. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to navigate the Paris metro system on my own.

And with the stubbornness of a group of doomed rebels rising up on Easter morning, and the stubbornness of the harps now plastered on any and everything Irish but which earlier had nearly gone extinct, I got better. I kept going to the doctor, and I kept taking my medicine, and I kept resting until I got better. And I was not derailed. I stubbornly did everything I set out to do, and did it in half the time everyone else had. Dublin, you taught me to be stubborn- and to persevere.

super happy mondo

One of my best days in Ireland was when I did the Howth cliff walk. I was afraid I would be too weak after being so sick, but I had the time of my life!

It wasn’t easy, but even so, I’m thankful for the lessons you so kindly forced down my throat, Dublin. I can practically hear your ‘I told you so’s nipping at my heels as I prepare to depart. Ireland really is a Mother. So, thank you, Dublin. It’s a little begrudging, in the same way you would hate admitting it when your mom is Absolutely Right, but there is no denying I have been changed for the better. You’re sending home a completely different person- a more stubborn, self-confident person- and I hope you’re prepared to take the blame for that!

Goodbye Dublin. I think I can take it from here.

Yours Always,

Amanda

 

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