Category Archives: Civic Engagement

A time to reflect: EHS placement Dublin

BY blair thompson’18, psychology, CHAMPLAIN COLLEGE

Working at Island Key’s Co-operative Childcare in the Docklands

Blair Thompson - Champlain Abroad DublinAs a psychology major, I’m part of Champlain College’s EHS division. Dublin’s EHS course for this semester of junior year entailed getting a placement as a volunteer in a workplace that relates to our soon-to-be bachelors degree. I started working every Wednesday at the Island Key’s co-operative childcare program. This program is part of a government organization for subsidized housing, for people and families of low income. Many of the people living there are actually immigrants from places like Lithuania and Poland, although many are still local Irish who have lived in the Docklands their whole life. The Docklands used to be a working class neighborhood where many manual laborers were employed working on the docks, hence the name of the district.

There was a period of industrialization that started replacing workers with machines which could get the job done faster. These workers became unemployed, thus turning the Docklands into a rather rough neighborhood, full of unemployed people who could no longer afford homes, and the school dropout rates rapidly increased. Any time I mentioned to an Irish person that I worked in the Docklands, I got the same uneasy reaction. I remember specifically one taxi driver telling me how it’s getting better now (due to these government organizations like affordable housing and childcare), but a few years back if you were an outsider walking down the street, “you’d find yourself naked before you even knew what happened”. The taxi driver was inferring by this that the people who lived there had a reputation for being really tough, and would steal literally everything from you, even your shoes….although the naked part was definitely an exaggeration.

I grew so much from working at my placement for the whole four months of my semester in Dublin. Let’s just start with the fact that it was an hour walk to work from the apartments, and an hour and a half walk from school. I had no choice but to take the dreaded and slightly feared public bus. I don’t know if anyone can relate, but back home in Connecticut any time I took the public bus it would end up turning into a fiasco. Whether it was going to different stops than I expected, resulting in me getting very very lost…in the rain. Or maybe anyone, male or female, can relate to some pretty creepy bus riders that try to start weird conversations and follow you off the bus. Let’s also not forget the grandpa-aged men asking for your phone number. So I was really stressed about how the heck I was going to make it to work every week. I many times would walk (note to future volunteers: never forget your umbrella), which

I actually really enjoyed because passing familiar faces and coffee shops after a while of the same routine became quite endearing and sweet. It was kind of a homey feeling, when I would pass business men and women living completely different lives, but still sharing a slice of our lives in common. After a while of recognizing one another, we would give each other a friendly nod, which is just one of those “it’s the little things” moments that makes me happy. Also as a side note, adopting some of the Irish ways while abroad can totally make one gain some weight, so that little time of exercise really pays off. Exercising also produces happy hormones, like dopamine, which is a nice way to de-stress.

So, after the first few work days I got in the routine of getting to work without getting lost. I even became confident enough to take the bus when I felt like it, which turned out to be a completely positive experience. Shockingly enough the bus routes turned out to really not be that complicated after all. If you can look at the bus route diagram while simultaneously finding those stops on your google maps, you’re good to go.
Now that half the battle of getting there was checked off the to-do list, It was time to finally start work. I was put in the classroom with the toddlers, where they can always use an extra hand. One minute you see them, the next they’re in corner…covering themselves with paint or something similarly inconvenient. About half of the toddlers first language was not english, even though they were just developing speech. This was interesting from a psychological perspective to observe how they found ways to work around the language barriers in order to communicate what they wanted or understand what we were saying to them. One really cute little boy in my classroom was from Romania and I watched him learn two languages at once. After being with the toddlers for a bit, I decided I wanted to try working with the older kids. I’ve worked as a pre-school teacher for younger ages before in previous jobs back in America, so wanted to try something new and get out of my comfort zone a little bit.

I started working from 1:30 in the afternoon, to 5:30, and i’m totally guilty of waking up right before then on those days. The kids were ages 6 to 9 and some parts of being a teacher in that classroom were actually more difficult than being with the toddlers. The kids and I spoke the same language, English…but it didn’t really feel that way at all. The Irish accent is so strong that sometimes I couldn’t even understand what they were saying, let alone the slang made things impossible. Slowly but surely I got used to the different words and phrases they used, and could finally understand them. They definitely thought I was an idiot from time to time when I couldn’t understand things they thought were so simple. I remember helping them with their homework and one little girl asking me how to spell something. I told her the American spelling but she was used to the British way, and she realized it was “wrong”. She definitely didn’t ask me for help on her homework for a while after that. Eventually she came around, but she had me prove my intelligence first! (P.s. A tip for any education majors coming over: they call a period “.” a full stop). Continue reading

Champlain Students taking part in Creative Minds Hackathon

BY Zach Paulsen, PROFESSIONAL WRITING’17

Kelsey Hannemann (Criminal Justice’18) , Michael Roberts (Digital Forensics’18), and Tyler Bedard (Graphic Design’18) all study abroad students from Champlain College were taking part in the Creative Minds Hackathon, hosted jointly by the DCU Ryan Academy and the U.S. Embassy in Ireland. The goal of the 72-hour creative boot camp was to put hundreds of students’ and professionals’ brains together to help work towards a solution for refugee inclusion, integration and self reliance.

Hackathon 2016

Photo album from the Creative Minds Hackathon 2016, courtesy of U.S. Embassy Dublin.

“It was a pretty big draw because it is a major issue in Ireland,” Roberts says of the role that this years theme played in attracting participants. “We’re all working towards projects to help refugees, and helping asylum seekers find who they are in Ireland, and maybe find housing; find ways they can participate in the community.”

The theme itself certainly wasn’t the sole draw to this event however.

Creative Minds Hackathon

Champlain participant Kelsey Hannemann and part of her team members during the Creative Minds Hackathon

“I thought it would be a good opportunity to reach out to more people and network and that kind of thing,” Hannemann stated, in regards to her personal reason for taking part.

Bedard echoed with a similar sentiment: “we can always go to Northern Ireland again, but that’s a one-time thing.”

The event itself took place on 14th through the 16th of October, and was structured in a way that facilitated teamwork and networking the entire way. The first day of the Hackathon was spent acquainting with team members and fleshing out ideas for projects going forward.

“It was pretty much getting to meet your team and seeing where everybody’s previous skills, majors, careers, whatever, would be able to help, so you could be able to do a multiple-week project over a weekend,” Hannemann said of the workflow of Friday night. Continue reading

Why You Should Volunteer at 8 am On Your Day Off

By: Olivia Werenski, Public Relations‘17

This past week, I received an amazing opportunity, one that is consistent with the Champlain College way and how it gives their students every opportunity available. Currently, I am enrolled in the Non Profit and Social Marketing class, taught by the wonderful Serena Mizzoni of Ashoka Ireland. However, in years before, the course was taught by Lucy Masterson, the CEO of Fundraising Ireland. This week, I volunteered for the Rise Up! National Fundraising Conference 2016 and had my thought process about non profits changed for good.

I have to be honest, I wasn’t really wanting to go. After a stressful week of final papers, housing selection, class registration for senior year, a job interview, and throwing an event for my Creative Dublin class, I had low energy and motivation. Waking up at 6 am was tough, especially when I wasn’t getting a paycheck.

When I arrived with fellow volunteers in tow, I was amazed by the hotel where it was being hosted. It smelled like fresh chocolate chip cookies and there was free food everywhere. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad here! We met up with Hermon, a coordinator for the conference and she assigned us our places and gave us some free t-shirts (always a plus).  I ended up being assigned to room 6 for the day, where I would help the presenters with anything they needed and make the lectures a smooth experience for both the participants and the speakers.

Volunteers for Fundraising Ireland

Some of the Champlain College students volunteering at the annual conference for Fundraising Ireland. Photo credit: Lilly Johnsson

The speakers were from all over the world: Scotland, London, USA, Canada, Spain and more. I was impressed with both their talent and drive to get to be where they are in their careers today. Most were CEO’s, either for large companies or owned their own companies. Hearing them speak about the psychology behind decision making and ethics behind asking for money was both interesting and thought pondering. I had come into the conference almost hating fundraising and feeling awkward in situations where I had to ask for money. Now, I see the premise behind it. Not only is it necessary to have a sustainable business, but it doesn’t always have to be this uncomfortable and pushy thing that is always the elephant in the room. These speakers made me see things from a different angle, one that was based on evidence and research instead of personal bias. Plus, I received some fantastic LinkedIn connections that I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten.

Tammy Zonker

Tammy Zonker, Founder and CEO of Fundraising Transformed, during her talk at Fundraising Ireland’s conference. Photo credit: Lilly Johnsson

Fundraising Ireland's national conference

In between talks at Fundraising Ireland’s national conference. The venue was the Hilton by DoubleTree hotel in Dublin.

All in all, it was a wonderful learning experience and resume builder and it wouldn’t have never been possible without the help of Champlain Abroad Dublin. This experience reminded me to not judge a book by it’s cover and to always take a risk, no matter how early in the morning it is.

Catch up with me on Twitter: @OWerenski

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Champlain Abroad

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Because Dublin Isn't All Fun And Drinking

Olivia Werenski, Public Relations’17

This semester, like I have mentioned before, was one that I wasn’t sure I was prepared for. The hardest part (besides actually getting there), I assumed would be the classes. While school hasn’t ever been hard for me (well, except math), I feared that the combination of schoolwork mixed with being in another country would concoct the perfect potion of stress and anxiety.

Champlain College Dublin Building

It’s sometimes hard to study when your school building is so beautiful

When you apply to Champlain Abroad Dublin, you actually chose classes in the application. This made me very excited! The time spent flipping through the pages of the course catalog and imaging sitting learning about Irish art and literature made everything feel exciting and real and most importantly, raw. This was real, I was really going to go to school in another country and learn about their culture and history and ways of living first hand.

Now that I am here, classes are even better than I expected. I’m taking 5 classes: Creative Dublin, Dublin Literary Experience, Environmental Earth Science, Non Profit and Social Marketing, and Writing The City. Each course involves in class and out of class elements so students get a hands-on approach to their learning and really feel immersed in the culture of Dublin. This was a nice change of pace, as I’ve learned that I learn the best by doing and practicing, rather than listening to a lecture.

Recently, in Non Profit and Social Marketing class, my teacher Serena Mizzoni, took us on a field trip to Kilbarrack fire station and learned about Neil McCabe, the creator and chief executive officer of The GreenPlan©. Neil is an entrepreneur and fireman who turned his rundown and out of date building into a functioning, modern and cost effective “green” station where employee morale was at an all time high. It was really fantastic to see the concepts that we were learning in class applied to a real person and a real life situation. Neil impressed me not only with his wit and sense of humor but intelligence and passion for sustainability. You can read more about Neil and the GreenPlan in this recent article published in the Irish Times on February 22nd: https://www.irishtimes.com/sponsored/it-s-good-to-be-green-1.2541211

The teachers are amazing here as well. All of my teachers are Irish and know a lot about Dublin as a city and as a group of people. The culture and the history that I have experienced while here in my classes has been something I most likely would not have gotten if just on my own. The spirit of immersion and background knowledge they bring to the table has given me a fresh perspective on the Irish culture. Besides being great teachers, a few of them have even become friends of mine and are a good source of advice for traveling as well!

I wouldn’t change a thing about living and attending school here. While still being challenging at times, for the most part everything has been smooth sailing academically. I feel comfortable yet challenged in all my classes and have faith that I will be learning new skills that I can take home with me and re-purpose in other classes. It’s still the same Champlain dynamic I’ve always admired about the school. I urge everyone to find a place where you feel comfortable yet pushed at the same time to be the best version of yourself. I’m so glad I’ve found mine.
Until next time!

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Cultural Immersion through Volunteerism

Dublin is a city brimming with opportunity; and upholding Champlain Abroad’s motto to explore, immerse, and engage has proven easy and rewarding. Within one month of arriving, I was making my way to class without a worry about how to get there, being asked for directions, and claiming little corners of the city as my own. There is a familiarity to this place, and the feel of locality has made itself immortal. It goes beyond the trad sessions in pubs and classroom or group excursions; it reaches into volunteerism, as well.

I haven’t volunteered steadily anywhere since high school, but Champlain Abroad makes the chance to do so more than available and the staff are wonderful in helping students find the place for them. And there are a host of places that Champlain has worked with in the past, but there is also room to research organizations in the area! From the beginning, when looking at the list of programs Champlain suggested on the post-acceptance application, I was interested in spending a couple of hours a week at Fighting Words—and it couldn’t have been a better decision on my part to sign up.
So far, I have volunteered at three Fighting Words sessions, already looking forward to the others that lie in store for me. Co-founded by Irish author Roddy Doyle and Seán Love, Fighting Words offers free creative writing tutoring and workshops to children and young adults. They often host events in the center as well as around Ireland, and have specific times set up each day for primary and secondary school students to come in and write. On Monday afternoons, high school students from literally all over the country come for two hours, and as volunteers we sit with a group and act as a set of eyes and ears that isn’t a teacher or other authority figure.

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It Takes One to start a movement…or four dedicated young women.

If you would have asked me three weeks ago to start a campaign to empower women, I probably would have looked at you like you were crazy and said “I mean I’ll make a twitter page, but I doubt anything will happen.” Three week later, I found out just how wrong I was. For my Social & Not-for-profit Marketing class (MKT 340) , we were told by our teacher Lucy Masterson to get into a group, pick a topic, and “do something with it” When my group got our topic, which was “empowering women to have the confidence in the work place,” we all just sort of looked at each other. How in the world were we supposed to do that?! Here we were, four college girls, sitting in a class room in Champlain College’s Academic Centre in Dublin. Not a clue how we were supposed to instill confidence in women in the work place.

Liza Fowler, Rachel Hatem, Karisa Desjardins and Page Hallock - Champlain College students and founders of the Women's Empowerment Movement It Takes One.

Liza Fowler, Rachel Hatem, Karisa Desjardins and Page Hallock – Champlain College students and founders of the Women’s Empowerment Movement It Takes One. Photo Credit: Lilly Johnsson

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