Category Archives: Independent Travel

Meeting An Old Friend For The First Time

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)! 

Steve (left) and I. His girlfriend Shauna (also a good friend of mine) took the picture.

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. 

The abandoned mill and Coco. Coco was not supposed to be on our walk, but he managed to escape through the fence. I’m not complaining, he gave me this great photo opportunity! Photo credit : Patrick Davin

The flooded river. Photo credit: Patrick Davin

 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 musicTo 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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The adventures of solo travel

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.

Rachel Paskavitz, Social Work ’20 at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. Photo credit: Margot Nelson

“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.”

The Killarney National Park. Photo credit: Rachel Paskavitz

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!”

Set aside half a day at least to explore the town center of Killarney. Photo credit: Rachel Paskavitz

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.”

Visit the Ross Castle in the Killarney National Park. Photo credit: Rachel Paskavitz

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.”

You never know what you’ll find during your solo travels. Photo credit: Rachel Paskavitz

Leave yourself enough time to explore wherever you decide to travel on your own! Photo credit: Rachel Paskavitz

“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.”

 

Visit champlain abroad to start your own study abroad adventure!

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A Short Trip “Home”

By margot nelson, ’20 // professional writing, champlain college

I found some flowers at a local street market in the 18e arrondissement.

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.

Outdoor markets are a great place to find fresh fruit, vegetables, meats, and cheeses.

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.

Shop front of the Shakespeare and Co. bookstore in Paris. Photo credit: Margot Nelson

Beautiful plants and bulbs ready to go at the Marché aux Fleurs.

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.

 

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Tales of a First Time Traveller

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!”.

VISIT CHAMPLAIN ABROAD TO START YOUR STUDY ABROAD JOURNEY!

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A semester of stronger relationships and new perspectives

BY Stephanie hauer, ’20 // PROFESSIONAL WRITING, CHAMPLAIN COLLEGE

When I boarded my flight to Dublin, one of the things that worried me most was being away from my family for four months.  I had no idea that my time abroad would help me build new and exciting connections with my family in ways I had never dreamed of.

I knew for a long time that I wanted to study abroad in Ireland.  My grandmother grew up in County Antrim, and her stories of home had enchanted me my whole life.  So when I entered my junior year of college with a plane ticket in hand, I was ecstatic to be accomplishing this long-held dream.  I was also nervous about being in a new place away from my family and close friends. I touched down at 4 in the morning, smiling but a little bit scared, and watched the sunrise blossom over this beautiful city that would quickly become my home.

Dublin instantly wrapped me up in a big, welcoming hug.  Everyone I encountered was kind and generous. The thick accents slightly obfuscated friendly greetings and offers to help.  I settled in and started exploring, emboldened by the charming atmosphere around me.

As much as I enjoyed being in the city, I was also eager to explore beyond its borders.  My goal was to visit the homelands of my grandparents and relatives. This adventure would take me to Northern Ireland, Poland, Switzerland, Germany, and Scotland.  Europe was now on my doorstep, and I periodically packed my bags with excitement.

My first ancestral trip was with Champlain to Northern Ireland.  I had grown up hearing stories of Giant’s Causeway, the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, and Ballintoy, so I was beyond excited to see those places included in the itinerary.  But the best part was that our route would drive us right through my grandmother’s home town of Armoy. While we were on the bus, our driver let me know when we were approaching, and I looked out the window with starry eyes at the streets my grandma had walked along herself.  Armoy was charming. It was small and cozy and sweet.

Stephanie Hauer from Champlain College crossing the Carrick A Rede Rope bridge in Northern Ireland.

The surrounding countryside reminded me of the landscapes that I drive through when I head up to school in Vermont, and I felt connected to my grandmother in a whole new way. Now, whenever I go to Champlain, I will remember this moment and feel closer to my grandma, even though she lives 700 miles away from me.

My parents came to visit during fall break, and we did a whirlwind tour of Europe to visit more of the home countries.  Our first stop was Warsaw, Poland. My mom’s father was descended from Polish people. He passed away in 2015, so I was looking forward to learning more about the country his family came from.  Warsaw was wonderful, and I felt so at home there. The food was incredible; I’m a very picky eater, but pierogi make me happy.

The cornerstone of our time in the city was the wall at the Warsaw Uprising Museum.  They have a memorial wall with the names of all the insurgents who fought against German occupation of the city in World War II. We found a relative of mine, who I later found out is my half great uncle, on the wall as a private first class.  I’d never even heard of the Warsaw Uprising, but this was a great introduction to it because it was an opportunity to learn about history and heritage at the same time.

Stephanie Hauer from Champlain College in Warszawa

Next, we took the train to Berlin to meet my family for dinner.  I only expected my uncle, aunt, and cousin. When we arrived at their apartment, I walked in to find almost a dozen people in the living room.  My aunts, uncles, cousins, and other family members were all gathered to welcome us. They had varying degrees of proficiency in English, but they balanced out their limited vocabularies with enthusiasm and laughter.  It was incredible to meet all of these people I didn’t know before. We could reference mutual family members like my grandpa and my uncle, and they all knew who I meant. It was very healing to share memories of them, and to hear new stories, since both of them have passed away.  It was amazing to be a part of the network of Hauers from across the globe.

Our final stop for this trip was Switzerland.  We spent a day in Lucerne and were blessed with amazing weather (even though the predictions all said rain and fog).  We crossed Lake Lucerne and crested Mount Rigi-Kulm. It was breathtakingly beautiful, and I was in awe of the city. My dad’s mother used to vacation here, so it was extra special to walk her footsteps on a vacation of our own.  My parents and I also visited Aarau, the town where my grandma was raised. We even found the section of shops in the center of the city where she used to work.

Stephanie Hauer from Champlain College on tour in Switzerland with her parents.

Fall break ended, and my parents returned to America, but I wasn’t alone for long.  My sister came to visit me, and we took a weekend trip to Scotland. We scoured the city of Glasgow until we found a plaque dedicated to another relative of ours, James McGill.  Glasgow was a beautiful city, as was Edinburgh, and the people there were very kind. The Scottish part of our heritage is somewhat diluted, as it is from a few generations back, so I don’t know as much about it as my other nationalities.  This weekend with my sister was a great opportunity to learn more.

Stephanie Hauer from Champlain College exploring Scotland with her sister.

My semester abroad not only helped me connect with my extended family, but also with my immediate family.  It has been a long time since I’ve been on vacation with my parents, and being able to spend a week of leisure with them was a lovely bonding experience.  When my sister visited Dublin, I got to show her around the area and teach her all of the things I had been learning throughout the semester. I also forged new friendships with my flatmates, classmates, and even my professors.  I met many new people, encountered new perspectives, and immersed in a different way of life for a while.

My time in Dublin taught me a lot about my relationships with others, and about my own self and identity. I am so grateful for the chance to make so many connections in such beautiful places, and I will return to America soon having grown and developed in new and exciting ways.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT CHAMPLAIN ABROAD!

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Caves of Keash: Probably the Most Uncomfortable (and Best) Day Trip Ever

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.

The Caves of Keash adventurers, (from left to right) , Rachael Elmy, Artemis Walsh, Molly Moseley and Sarah Bellefeuille.

The Champlain College Caves of Keash adventurers, (from left to right) , Rachael Elmy, Artemis Walsh, Molly Moseley and Sarah Bellefeuille.

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.

Sligo scenery

Sligo scenery on our way to the Caves of Keash. Photo Credit: Rachael Elmy

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

The 4-Step Student Guide to Dublin Bus

BY MEGHAN NEELY, PROFESSIONAL WRITING’18, CHAMPLAIN COLLEGE

Dublin is a big city.

There’s a lot to do and see, and while most things are within walking Dublin Busdistance of Champlain Abroad’s Academic Center and student apartments, you might not always have the time or the energy to get places on your own two legs. Lucky for you, Dublin has some of the best public transportation systems in Ireland. And perhaps the most notable mode of travel among them is Dublin Bus.
Now, I know city buses don’t always have the best reputation. They tend to be crowded, sweaty tin cans that are never on time. And while these factors hold somewhat true for Dublin Bus and countless other bus services around the world, it’s not exactly an opportunity you can pass up. The buses are a way of life here in Dublin, and if you know how to get around everything else will just be a minor inconvenience. So, what exactly do you need to know?

 

1. Your Student Leap Card is Your Friend Student Leap Card

If you’re planning to travel via Dublin Bus, then one of the best investments you can make is a student Leap Card. These nifty little pieces of plastic will allow you to tap-on at any Dublin Bus stop with preloaded cash, freeing you from the hassle of calculating fare and counting exact change. What’s better is that you can also download the Leap Top-Up app to your smartphone, allowing you to add money to your card wherever you are. With a Leap Card, you can never be caught short. Continue reading

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

Traveling Alone: From Nervous Novice to Poised Professional

By: Amanda Hollywood, ’17 // Public Relations

It’s coming down to the last few weeks of our semester abroad, meaning we’re all frantically trying to squeeze in as much traveling as we can and check a few more things off our bucket lists before finals hit. It’s an interesting time because by now we’ve all gotten pretty close and are accustomed to always having someone around. At the same time, with funds and time running out, we all have certain ‘Must Do’s in mind for ourselves- and those goals don’t always align with our friend’s. That is how I found myself booking a weekend on my own to the Dingle peninsula, the most western point in Ireland.

My roommates had all planned to go to Barcelona together, but I found myself less than eager to join them. I’m not a fan of hot weather- I call Burlington and Dublin home, after all!- I don’t speak Spanish, and I can’t spend more than five minutes in the sun without being burnt to a crisp. On the other hand, Dingle seemed to be calling my name, having grown up on the stories of the time my dad had spent there when he was my age. It was really hard to decide to go on my own rather than sticking with my friends, but I only had the money for about one more trip and I knew I had to see Dingle if I wanted to leave Ireland with no regrets.

So in true American fashion I set off for the West early on Friday morning, my roommates having already flown out to Barcelona the night before. It’s no easy task getting to Dingle: it took two trains and a bus, totaling about five hours travel, and I was worried about navigating so much transportation on my own. I booked my hostel before I started figuring out how to actually get there, and thank goodness I did or I might’ve backed out. It can be intimidating, navigating train stations and bus routes on your own, especially with no phone to easily look up any information needed on the spot. But the hostel was booked so I had to get there no matter what, and with some careful planning and navigation, I did.

The journey was totally worth it, by the way

The journey was totally worth it, by the way

I had stayed in hostels before on the Western Ireland trip which I was really thankful for, but even so, this was a new experience. I was in a mixed gender room with six beds, and I had been trying to reassure myself that just because it was labeled mixed and had six beds didn’t necessarily mean that six men and women would be there during my stay. However, when I walked into the room, it became quickly obvious that I was indeed getting the last bunk in a room full of men and women. That made me pretty nervous at first, and to make myself feel a little better, I ended up keeping my bag up on my bed with me when I slept at night. My hostel was definitely plenty secure, and I never felt that I was in any danger or a sketchy situation, but even so I was on my own and had to look out for myself. Little things like not leaving your phone out charging somewhere unattended or counting your money out in the open are just little actions that can help you feel more secure and guarded when you’re on your own. Continue reading

How wonderful it is to visit Howth!

Ireland myth #1: Rolling hills are everywhere.

Champlain Abroad Dublin‘s Academic Center and student apartments are located in the heart of Ireland’s biggest city! While Dublin is not exactly like New York or Boston, there is still quite a bit of hustle and bustle. With hustle and bustle comes public transportation and with public transportation comes adventures!

In just the short amount of time I’ve been here, I’ve discovered just how easy it is to get out of the city and into the scenic views Ireland is known for. (Ireland is dubbed the Emerald Isle after all) With 6 euros and a bit of time on your hands, you can hop on a train and explore a new village or town along the coastline. 

Map if Howth peninsula

Map of Howth peninsula

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