Category Archives: Tours and Excursions

Trip to visit Amazon Web Services

BY Dr. Renaat Verbruggen // adjunct faculty, CHAMPLAIN COLLEGE

Last semester I took my Global IT Ethics (CSI 320) and Computer Architecture (CSI 370) classes for a field visit to Amazon Web Services (AWS) at their new Dublin office – the Shannon Building in South Dublin just near the Grand Canal.

Champlain College students on their way to visit the Amazon Web Services HQ in Dublin

Matt Pye, Operations Manager with Amazon Web Services, hosted us. Matt’s talk began by explaining the history, background and current structure of Amazon. The founder – Jeff Bezos – despite starting by selling books from his garage, always saw the company as a technology supplier and not a bookseller. Matt then gave an overview of the type of Services (more than 1500 now) provided by AWS and how they allow companies such as Netflix to operate from the cloud and dynamically utilise extra capacity when needed. The list of services now is vast and also includes a specialised game development engine, secure authentication servers and dedicated platforms for the Internet of Things. One interesting fact was that the Amazon web selling sites are also hosted on AWS but treated as any other paying customer.

Importantly there is an AWS Educational Programme which provides free experimental use of AWS for student projects. He also described in-depth the Amazon approach to graduate recruitment and more generally the types of background research that applicants should do before attending any interview with any company. AWS currently employs 1700 people in Dublin and Cork and has released plans to hire 500 more over the coming years.

We were introduced to Bruce Shackleton from who is a manager in the Security division who spoke about AWS security and even answered GDPR questions. Finally we  had discussions about the use of AWS for the hosting of a start-up and its evolution to a multi-site cloud-based system the afternoon concluded with a question and answer session. It was fantastic to be allocated so much time and it was much appreciated. All this and a free lunch too! While he had to be circumspect, Matt forecast that there would be some very interesting announcements from Amazon at their annual get-together coming up in Las Vegas at the end of November, when AWS “take over” the town.

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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.

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Visit to the Little Museum of Dublin provides a visual journey of the city

By Rachael Elmy, ’19 // Professional Writing, Champlain College

A trip outside the classroom is always exciting, especially in a city like Dublin! Nicole Rourke’s 9.00am Writing in the City class is no stranger to these little trips. Many of us had just gotten back from Spring Break and were in no mood to sit down and listen to a lecture. We still wanted to get up and explore, and of course, Writing in the City let us do that. Even though it wasn’t a huge outing, it was still pretty cool.

We took a trip to the Little Museum of Dublin, about a ten minute walk from Champlain Abroad’s Academic Center through St. Stephen’s Green. The museum certainly was little. It used to be a Georgian house, but now, it is filled with artifacts donated by the people of Dublin. These artifacts included items from the 1916 Rising to U2 memorabilia. 

Champlain College students in the ‘Writing the City’ class visiting the Little Museum of Dublin.

Champlain College student Artemis Walsh, Professional Writing ’19, exploring The Little Museum of Dublin.

The great thing was, I could touch almost all of this, especially in the self-guided part of the tour. I’m one of those people who will touch things even if there is a big fat sign saying I shouldn’t. I loved the fact that I could sit in a big spherical chair inside the U2 room or play with an old typewriter in a mock journalism office. You could even sit at a small student’s desk and color if you wanted.

The first part of the tour had a guide, and you did the second part on your own (this would be the part with the big spherical chair and coloring). When we arrived, we wandered through this room full of some of the wildest fashion I had ever seen, all created by Irish designers. Some of us played a game of who would wear what (apparently, I would wear a skirt with pink and green patching) and others just read about the designers on the walls. I personally appreciated this part because I love fashion and I wondered why fashion history overlooked these designers. They were so talented!

Champlain College students in the ‘Writing the City’ class visiting the Little Museum of Dublin.

After admiring the clothes, our tour began. The guide took us on a visual journey of Dublin through the decades, from around the early 1900s until now. It didn’t feel like a lecture or a history lesson. He was telling us about the saga of Dublin. Even the self-guided parts presented side stories in the overall epic that is Ireland. Dublin is basically on this one continuous journey that started all the way back in 1916, and its story isn’t finished yet. In many ways, Ireland is a lot like the United States. We both had a fairly recent independence, we both have what we consider Founding Fathers and Mothers, and we are both proud of our national identities, down to the littlest detail.

 

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Hostels aren’t as scary as your parents think

BY RACHAEL ELMY, ’19 // PROFESSIONAL WRITING, CHAMPLAIN COLLEGE

My parents weren’t exactly thrilled when they learned that I’d be staying in a hostel for Champlain Abroad’s Northern Ireland tour. The first thing that came into their minds was probably unwashed sheets, unlocked doors, and people sneaking into the room late at night to steal my stuff.

Probably from that influence, I had no idea what to expect from my first stay in a hostel. I figured since our program director Stephen was staying there with his family, it most likely was somewhat safe and decent. 

staying in a hostel

Staying in a hostel is a new experience to many study abroad students.

I imagined all 53 of us staying in one big room full of bunk beds, some peacefully snoring and others using pillows to block out the sound. However, I learned that there were separate rooms that could house 3-10 people when room assignments were sent out. That was a bit of a relief, knowing that there was some organization (and doors!). I was roomed with six other girls who luckily, ended up being very quiet sleepers. My sensitive ears were grateful.

When we arrived at the hostel, my first thought was; “This looks a bit hokey.” There was a statue of a man dressed in red pointing at the hostel, and a picture of horrified-looking sheep on the sign. I did check this place out online a few days before we left and saw that it had good reviews, so I tried to keep my hoity-toity self optimistic.

The room I shared was small, no bigger than an average triple back at Champlain, or maybe even a large double. The ceiling was slanted with one foggy window smack-dab in the middle. At the end of each bed was a set of folded sheets and blankets. To my relief, they actually seemed freshly washed. Later on, the hostel owner came in with clean pillowcases for the pillows that waited for us against the radiator. The only downside was the mattress. It felt like it wanted to be memory foam, but you could probably break your tailbone if you sat down too hard.

game of pool

Ready for a game of pool?

Downstairs was the mess hall/gaming area, where there was a pink ping-pong table and a free pool table. For a while, it was just us girls being super competitive and silly at the same time. Most of us were terrible at ping-pong especially. Every time the paddle hit the ball, you had to duck and cover, praying it wouldn’t smack you in the forehead.

ping pong match

Ping-pong matches can get serious!

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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

Trip to visit Amazon Web Services

BY renaat verbruggen // adjunct faculty, CHAMPLAIN abroad dublin

On November 14th my CSI 320 Global IT & Ethics and CSI 385 Operating Systems Architecture classes went for a visit to Amazon Web Services (AWS) at their main Dublin office – One Burlington Plaza in South Dublin just near the Grand Canal. We were hosted by Alan Reddy, Operations Manager who has been with Amazon for four years after working as a programmer with a network engineering company.

Alan’s talk began by explaining the history, background and current structure of Amazon. The founder – Jeff Bezos – despite starting by selling books from his garage, always saw the company as a technology supplier and not a bookseller. Alan then gave an overview of the type of Services (more than 1500 now) provided by Amazon and how they allow companies such as Netflix to operate from the cloud and dynamically utilise extra capacity when needed. The list of services now is vast and also includes a specialised game development engine, secure authentication servers and dedicated platforms for the Internet of Things.

Champlain Abroad Dublin students ready to visit the office of Amazon Web Services

Champlain Abroad Dublin students ready to visit the office of Amazon Web Services

One interesting fact was that the Amazon web selling sites are also hosted on AWS but treated as any other paying customer. Importantly there is an Amazon Educational Programme which provides free experimental use of AWS for student projects. He also described the Amazon approach to graduate recruitment and more generally the types of background research that applicants should do before attending any interview with any company. Amazon currently employs 1700 people in Dublin and Cork and has released plans to hire 500 more over the coming years. They are moving into a completely new HQ in the coming months and in fact might be expanding further.

Finally after discussions about the use of AWS for the hosting of a start-up and its evolution to a
multi-site cloud-based system the afternoon concluded with a question and answer session. It was
fantastic to be allocated so much time and it was much appreciated. All this and a free lunch too!
While he had to be circumspect, Alan forecast that there would be some very interesting
announcements from Amazon at their annual get-together coming up in Las Vegas at the end of
November, when AWS “take over” the town. You can read more here: https://reinvent.awsevents.com/

Renaat Verbruggen, Adjunct Faculty, Champlain Abroad, Dublin.

 

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Champlain Abroad students visit Amazon Web Services

blog-csi-320-2016On November 16th the Global IT & Ethics class (CSI 320) class went to visit Amazon Web Services (AWS) on the canal at Grand Parade in Dublin. We were hosted by Matthew Pye, Operations Manager and two of his colleague engineers one specialising in security and the other in game development in the cloud. Matthew’s talk began by explaining the history, background and current structure of Amazon. The founder – Jeff Bezos -despite starting by selling books from his garage, always saw the company as a technology supplier and not a bookseller. Matt then gave an overview of the type of Services provided by Amazon and how they allow companies such as Netflix to operate from the cloud and dynamically utilise extra capacity when needed. The list of services now is vast and also includes a specialised game development engine, secure authentication servers and dedicated platforms for the Internet of Things.

They also provide free experimental use of AWS for student projects. He also described the Amazon approach to graduate recruitment and more generally the types of background research that applicants should do before attending any interview. Amazon currently employs 1700 people in Dublin and Cork and has released plans to hire 500 more over the coming years. Finally after discussions about ways to prevent Distributed Denial of Service attacks the afternoon concluded with a question and answer session. It was fantastic to be allocated so much time and it was much appreciated. All this and free pizza too! As an aside the meeting took place on the 7th floor of the old Nationwide Building Society offices which was the previous home of their CEO Michael Fingleton and now contains pool tables and fantastic views across the City – changing times indeed.

Renaat Verbruggen
Adjunct Faculty
Champlain College Dublin

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Meet Ireland through Sports, Culture & Comedy

BY Ciarán O’rourke – Head resident & activities coordinator

To say the Champlain Abroad Dublin Fall 2016 students have been busy would be a complete understatement. They are somehow balancing classes, assignments, and field-trips, with weekends trips across Europe, while engaging in a range of activities in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Already this semester they’ve experienced strange new sports, toured the rugged west coast, and enjoyed nights of karaoke, culture, and comedy, and the best part is they’re still only getting started.

Here are some of the highlights so far:

The Great Champlain Dublin Scavenger Hunt

Although it seems quite a while back now, we still have to mention the traditional scavenger hunt taking place during our student orientation every semester. The Fall 2016 group didn’t disapoint us, and dove into the city and met people with charm and excitement collecting points with their new study abroad buddies.

The Great Champlain Dublin Scavenger Hunt The Great Champlain Dublin Scavenger Hunt The Great Champlain Dublin Scavenger Hunt The Great Champlain Dublin Scavenger HuntThe Great Champlain Dublin Scavenger Hunt

Experience Gaelic Games

With two students interning with Experience Gaelic Games this semesters, Champlain Dublin’s visit was more homely than ever, in the local community, sports and culture center. Our interns demonstrated their newly learned knowledge of the native Irish sports of Gaelic Football and Hurling, alongside the local Irish player-coaches, teaching the other Champlain Dublin students the rules and skills before taking to the field and playing a match.

All-Ireland Gaelic Football Final

Students learned the games just in time for the following day’s biggest game of the year in the Irish sporting calendar, the All-Ireland Football Final. The country shuts down and the pubs swelled for the afternoon, as all eyes in the nation were fixed to a screen. Our students got behind their adopted home team cheering side by side with the local Dubliners, but as the final whistle blew at the end of overtime both teams had drawn level on points, our students were left feeling more than a little confused. Unlike anything they were accustomed to in the U.S., they learned that they had experienced a rare occurrence in Gaelic Football and the game would have to be replayed all over again in two weeks later. Thankfully their wait was rewarded on October 1st as Dublin were crowned the All-Ireland winners in the end, and by the end of the replay, they had become experts in the rules over the two game, well almost. Continue reading

Champlain College visit the film set of The Vikings

Here’s how Ireland works.  It’s all about who you know.  I happened to be introduced to a fellow Canadian named Jeff Woolnough at a US Embassy Christmas party, and of course we spoke of hockey and Canadian poVikingslitics.  It turned out that Jeff was in Ireland as Director of the TV series The Vikings, currently being filmed at Ashford Studios in County Wicklow, about 30 miles south of Dublin.  With Champlain College having a Filmmaking program, I asked if he could arrange for us to visit the set for an afternoon. ‘Not a problem’, he said, ‘we’ll take care of you’.
So, this week myself, Ian Oliver (Champlain Dublin faculty teaching our Creative Dublin course), and six students made the trek to the studio and spent a delightful few hours watching several scenes being filmed getting a tour of the various sets.  We’re not allowed to reveal anything about what we saw, nor could we take photos, but suffice to say this is a very impressive and massive production.  We saw the indoor sets, outdoor sets including a Viking village and large pool for filming boat scenes, the costume, special effects, and prosthetic departments.  We chatted to the director, cinematographer as well as production assistants to get a view of how such a complicated TV series get made.
Huge thanks to Director Jeff Woolnough and Production Assistant Andrew Burke for facilitating our visit and being such fantastic hosts.
-Dr. Stephen Robinson
Director
Champlain Abroad Dublin

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Exploring Ireland's History

One of the classes that I have been taking during my semester abroad with Champlain Abroad Dublin is called Early Irish History, taught by archaeologist Naill Colfer. We’ve been exploring Ireland’s past all semester and recently took a trip to the Irish National Heritage Park in Wexford. Here we actually got the chance to see reconstructions of many of the things we’ve discussed in class!

The first thing we got to see on the tour was a Mesolithic house, used when people first came to Ireland, around 8000 BC, and lived as hunters and gatherers. Later on, the people adopted the practice of farming during the Neolithic era. We got to see examples of these sorts of houses as well and a reconstruction of a tomb from the time. When I visited the Burren in the west of Ireland I got to see an actual tomb from this period too!

Neolithic tomb at the Irish National Heritage Park

Poulnabrone dolmen is a portal tomb in the Burren, County Clare, Ireland

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