Category Archives: Study Abroad Tips

My Second First Time in Ireland

BY FAITH Frith, ’18 // Professional writing, CHAMPLAIN COLLEGE

Anyone who knows me knows that this isn’t my first trip to Dublin. I came six years ago before I started my freshman year of high school. During that nineteen-day experience, I developed a love for Europe and its culture. This love burned so brightly that I was ready to come back long before I returned to the States.

Relaxing in St. Stephen's Green

Me and my friends in St. Stephen’s Green during my high school tour to Ireland.

When it came time to discuss travel abroad plans with my academic adviser in Champlain College, I began making a list of all the countries I wanted to visit but would also be comfortable living in. Now, my adviser is pretty well-known for pushing his advisees out of their comfort zone, and originally, he tried to talk me out of coming to Dublin as he believed it maybe wasn’t going to be challenging enough for me. I’d already been there so I already had some level of comfort. But I successfully argued to go.

There is something beautifully different about studying abroad in a country versus coming on a summer high school tour. My first trip to Ireland was lovely, but it wasn’t my trip. I didn’t get to decide where to go or what I was going to do. I was just along for the ride. And yeah, that was fun but this trip is sooooo much better and sooooo much more than that.

Bray Head

Champlain College students in Bray, Co. Wicklow during the student orientation for the Champlain Abroad Dublin program, Fall’17.

This is my trip. Yeah, I’m taking classes but ultimately, I get to do what I want when I want. And that kind of freedom is necessary to immerse yourself in a culture. I didn’t have that level of freedom the first go-round.

Interesting signs at Dublin Airport

I flew to Dublin by myself, got through customs by myself, and made it to the meeting place by myself. Instead of hopping on a coach bus and driving straight to a tourist hotspot, I got in a taxi and headed to my apartment.

I really love that this time around I have a place to call “home.” It’s a bit off the beaten path which is perfect for me. I love city environments, but I also like having some place quiet and chill to lay my head.

Living in Dublin for the past month has been the blissful honeymoon with adulthood that I didn’t know existed. I don’t have a food plan which means I have to fend for myself. Back in Burlington, I found myself constantly eating out and thought that I might slip into familiar spending habits here. Thankfully that’s not the case. I go grocery shopping weekly and make my own meals. It’s definitely not as bad as I thought it would be.

I get to come and go as I please (when I’m not required to be in class of course). This gives me time to sit and relax in St.Stephen’s Green. I vividly remember my first trip to the Green. I was ecstatic because it was the first place in Ireland where I could actually be in the Crayola crayon green grass. I happily skipped onto a patch of grass and collapsed in near snow angel form with patriotic Mickey. Now I spend hours at a time sitting on a park bench and writing whatever flows while I’m there.

 

On the train to Bray during student orientation

So what I’m getting at is that you shouldn’t let an old, pre-college trip stop you from spending a semester abroad in a somewhat familiar place. You’ve grown as individual, and the city that you’re returning to has changed as well. Dublin is a bustling city so full of life. I didn’t give it its due credit my first time here. I was a city girl whose mind had not yet fully opened.

Now that I’m back, I can see how it’s not that much different than Philly. It has the ridiculous inner-city traffic, the crowds of people commuting from one place to another, and a thriving sense of city pride.

And you might just have a similar revelation when you study abroad.

 

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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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Top Three Places To Relax In Dublin

By: Liv Werenski, Public Relations’17

Ahh, friends, here we are again. Finals time is slowly creeping up on us again and most of us aren’t ready for it. No matter how much of a prepared student you are, finals gets the best of everyone and with it comes stress and a need for relaxation. Being on a college budget doesn’t mean you can’t find spots to unwind. Even if you’re the most outgoing person, a little alone time to relax and have some quiet space is good for the soul and makes you a better person to be around.

The go-to places around Dublin are coffee shops. While I love those and Queen of Tarts is my one true love, they aren’t always the quietest places and can be bad for your budget (who can resist those chocolate lava cakes). The Champlain academic center and student apartments can be effective and of course easy to get to for a quick study sesh, however, they’re full of people you know who can become welcome distractions. While studying abroad, especially in a fun-filled place like Dublin, it’s hard to remember that you’re here for a reason. While immersing yourself in the culture is important, the main focus for every student should be the academics.

Personally, I found that about halfway through the semester, I needed to reset. I needed new places to visit, new people to talk to, and new activities to stimulate my creativity and mind. I’m the kind of person that loves change and needs it to feel fully myself, and when you live with the same people and attend the same classes with them and then find yourself in a routine, things can seem a little mundane.

Here’s a list of my top favorite places to de-stress in Dublin on a budget:

  • St. Stephen’s Green/ Iveagh Gardens/ Phoenix Park
Deer in Phoenix Park

Local Phoenix Park deer

While I love each of these parks, they all have their specific benefits. St. Stephen’s is the closest to the academic center and is super clean, Iveagh Gardens is the most quiet and intimate and Phoenix Park is the largest and also has wild deer that you can feed and a zoo! Parks and being outdoors in the sunshine are the best thing to clear a busy mind and get the alone time you desperately need without feeling completely locked away and shut away from the world. Bring a copy of a non textbook to fall in love with reading again or perhaps a yoga mat for some real connecting to the Earth.

  • Tropical Popical
Tropical Popical

Tropical Popical – the ultimate relaxing treat

You guys, this is THE place to pamper yourself in Dublin. Prices are average/a little expensive, however, you get to have your nails done while watching reality TV and drinking a margarita out of a coconut or pineapple cup. On a rainy day, it’s sure to brighten your mood. Book in advance because it’s so popular. The staff at Tropical Popical will pamper you and take care of you head to toe and you may even see a celebrity sighting since this was named THE Dublin nail salon. Try out the chocolate pedicure for a decadent treat. The best relaxation is when you don’t have to think.

  • Sunday mornings in Dun Laoghaire
stocking-up-on-olives

Olive booth at Dun Laoghaire Sunday Farmers Market

How does cliff jumping off a historic literary cliff followed by a farmer’s market sound? Every semester Champlain staff organise an outing to the 40 Foot bath and People’s Park in Dun Laoghaire south of Dublin city, make sure to tag along! The calming splashing of waves followed by homemade dumplings and a pressed juice were just the thing I needed this weekend to get some head space and think about something other than final papers and presentations. Bonus: It’s only 7 euro round trip to get there on the DART, Dublin’s subway system. Each booth has homemade arts and crafts and local food options, which are much better than anything at Lidl. I chose homemade dumplings and Pad Thai which were hot, fresh and out of this world tasty.

Let me know if you have any other suggestions or have tried any of these in the comment section below! Remember to stay focused, but never take yourself too seriously and to enjoy every part of life, both the stressful and time consuming and the fun and spontaneous.

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Preparing to study abroad in Dublin

By: dylan helstien, ’17 // Professional writing

When I applied to study abroad in Dublin I wasn’t too worried about being accepted. I had good grades and a good reputation. I was more worried about what classes I would get, seeing as I didn’t have much leeway in my required credits I needed to graduate on time. Once I was accepted I received a package with all the necessary information to help me prepare for my semester abroad. I read the entire hand book they gave me, I was excited and wanted to know everything. The guide book gave me recommendations on what to bring, what to expect, and all the rules/ safety regulations.

It’s worth putting some time into preparing to study abroad before you hop on that flight.

I was preparing to study abroad for both Fall and Spring semesters, which is a real option for many different majors. While I was mentally preparing for two semesters I was only physically able to prepare for my upcoming Fall semester, which meant all summer I was planning and prepping. I love planning, which I know isn’t for everyone but if you can try it will definitely help you out in the future. For example, I had my flight to Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest booked about 2-3 months in advance. I ended up saving a lot of money by planning ahead and it’s the perfect thing to do to keep yourself busy while you wait for your adventure to start. I almost planned my entire three week trip that would be between semesters over the summer. Soon I was researching every European country and deciding which ones I wanted to visit and when.

By the time my flight to Dublin was a month away I had almost all my trips planned and all I had left to do was make sure my passport was renewed, let my bank know I was leaving, and pack. I actually think that packing was the hardest part. I lived off campus and had to pack up my whole apartment, or at least all of my belongings, not my roommates. Packing dishes, sheets, and anything that wasn’t clothes was easy because I didn’t need to think about it. I just put it in a box and called it a day. My clothes were another story. Having to pack enough clothes for two semesters in a suitcase was a challenge and from what I’ve heard packing for one semester isn’t much easier. Here’s a rule of thumb, pack two of everything. Two long sleeves, two short sleeves, two tank tops, two pairs of jeans and so on. 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

5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Studying Abroad in Dublin

Oh, how the end of a semester has inexplicably come once again! It’s hard to believe that this is my last blog post for Champlain Abroad Dublin or that I head back home in less than two weeks. It seems like just yesterday  I was asking everyone I knew what to pack or expect. No matter how many different people you ask or how much you prepare, there’s still things you’ll never know until you’re across the pond and experience them yourself.

Champlain Abroad Dublin Campus Building

Sarah Steward, Communications Major, studying abroad in Dublin with Champlain Abroad Dublin.

In the blink of an eye, I went from being an apprehensive American student to feeling like a true Dub.  Here’s a list of things I wish I knew before studying abroad in Dublin:

1. You will walk quite a way to school…and you will break a sweat

Champlain College students  know that in Burlington, Vermont  getting anywhere on campus takes 5 minutes or less. Here in the Emerald Isle, that’s not the case. In the beginning of the semester, you’ll feel like your 30-minute commute is daunting, never-ending and extremely sweaty. For some reason, every student starts to break a sweat somewhere between Kevin Street and Leeson Street Lower. While none of us can explain this phenomenon, we all agree that our commute allows us to pass so many beautiful buildings, fellow commuters, and delicious coffee shops by simply going to class. (There’s always something interesting to look at!) When you reach Champlain Abroad Dublin’s academic center, you are greeted by an authentic Georgian door. I don’t know; something about it makes me feel like I’m at home rather than at school. In fact, that’s something that isn’t shared enough- the academic center is home! Continue reading

Being Homesick in the New Place You Call Home

Everyone tells you that studying abroad is one of the best experiences you will ever have.  This is the time to learn about a new culture, country and about yourself. It’s one of the biggest opportunities of a lifetime! While all these things are true, there’s still something that people forget when talking about taking the leap abroad: homesickness.

Feeling homesick while abroad sucks and it also sets in a bit of guilt. How dare I feel sad or homesick when I’m so lucky to be embarking on one of the greatest journeys a college student can take?

Being homesick is inevitable and that’s something everyone should learn before coming abroad. It’s also important to know that feeling this way is completely normal.

I think I can speak for most students in our group when I say that this is our first time away from home. Sure, packing up your room  and making the trip to Champlain College in Vermont, just to have your parents send you on your way for 8 months can be pretty tough. Being away from your family when you’re not even in America is definitely a greater challenge!

During orientation back in August, we learned about the  highs and lows of a student’s journey abroad. Generally students start off in the honeymoon phase- where everything is fresh, new and exciting! About a month to two months after, that excitement slowly declines and we become homesick. (It’s safe to say that this is where most students have been at these past few weeks!) This lull happens even while home and at school; midterms are piling up, Fall break and Thanksgiving is just around the corner and going home sounds more and more tempting. After this, students are back on track towards a gradual incline- Fall break happens, homework has slowed down a bit and going home is in the near future!

It would be a travesty to sit around and wish your time away! Here’s a list of things you can do when you’re feeling homesick, whether it be at school or abroad:

Distance means nothing with friend Skype dates!

Distance means nothing with friend Skype dates!

Utilize social media and Skype

This tip needs to be done very carefully. It’s so easy to be sucked into life back home. There’s a fine line between catching up with family and friends and then catching up with them constantly, shutting yourself out from everything else your time abroad has to offer! Make time to talk to your family and friends and update them on your life because they really do want to know all that you are up to. (You are on an exciting journey after all) It’s easy to forget that life is still happening back home so it’s nice to catch up and stay in the loop. Skype is the best way to talk to people- it’s free and it’s almost as if you’re still talking face to face! Continue reading

The Art of Time Management

The time is now, the week is here: midterms. Exams abound, and essay assignments never seem to stop coming. As a third-year college student, this isn’t my first tango with that dreaded M-word. As someone who is studying abroad, though—yes, the study is a key factor here—it proves a bit more challenging.
My workload has been very manageable, but in the last few weeks my assignments have been piling up and led to some initial stress. It’s not a secret, but practicing time management is so, so important: especially while living in another country, where the world is your oyster and there is endless life pulling you in all directions. Like I said, it’s not a new development: but polishing up this habit will combat stress and leave ample time for immersion! I haven’t perfected my formula, but what I’ve been doing to date has worked swimmingly.

1. Make a list.
I haven’t gotten a formal planner while here, but I do have a notebook where, each week, I make a to-do list and organize it into sections of classwork, events to sign up for, papers to print, and miscellaneous things to take care of. It’s also best, for me, to write everything in order of importance. Paper due in four days? Starred at the top. Reading for class next week? Listed towards the bottom, below the upcoming assignments needing to be taken care of first. It’s a good visual of what needs to get done when. And sometimes I start from the bottom of the list and work my way up, to be able to cross a few minor tasks off. Really, a day for me can’t begin until I know what needs to be done when. Continue reading

Two Study Abroad students and Their Groceries

Hello there!

My name is Sarah and I am a third year Communications major. First things first, I absolutely adore Champlain College.

Sarah Steward - Champlain Abroad Dublin Fall 2015

Sarah Steward – Champlain Abroad Dublin Fall 2015

Over the past three years, it has made me who I am in many ways, and I’m excited to see where my academic endeavors take me while I study abroad with Champlain Abroad Dublin. The next four months will hold a ton of adventure and learning experiences; I am grateful that I get to share them with you!

Every day I fall more and more in love with Ireland. Everyday I also learn to accept that the things I may have once viewed as oddities are now a part of my new daily routine. Sometimes you just have to roll with it.

Exhibit A:

Two girls walk into a bar…

Scratch that.

Two American girls walk into a bar grocery store. In Ireland.

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A letter to myself four months ago

Why are you packing four jackets? Also, the amount of shoes is a tad excessive. As you pack frantically at the last minute, and your heart is racing, sit down and take a deep breath. You don’t know this yet, but this is going to be the best four months of your life.
Things you don’t know:
-You’ll walk about 30 minutes to get to school. At first this will be kind of annoying, but eventually will become some of the most valuable minutes of your day. It will be the time to declutter and re-organize your brain.

Liza Fowler - Champlain College International Business'15 -Study abroad student in Dublin with Champlain Abroad Spring'15 - Photo credit: Joe Frank

Liza Fowler – Champlain College International Business’15 -Study abroad student in Dublin with Champlain Abroad Spring’15 – Photo credit: Joe Frank

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