Tag Archives: Independent Travel

Reflections at the Halfway Point: Studying Abroad in Dublin

BY PATRICK DAVIN ’21 // PROFESSIONAL WRITING, CHAMPLAIN COLLEGE

I have now been living in Dublin for roughly two months. In these two months I have learned and grown as a person so much. It’s mind boggling how much you can change in such a short amount of time. While change can be scary, it’s necessary and good. 

Before study abroad

Everyone has ideas of what living abroad will be like, but you never truly know until it happens. I knew that I would be living with a few friends. I knew that I would have to really work at budgeting (a task harder than you think), and I knew that I would be facing a totally new culture. But I did not know how I would adjust. And, of course, the anxiety that comes with finally becoming fully independent was welling up inside my mind. I had never truly shopped for myself and prepared meals. Don’t get me wrong, I can cook food that’ll knock your socks off, but I had never really done that every day. When I’m home in the summer I work at a job that gives me meals. When I’m back at Champlain, I have IDX in all of its glory (or infamy, depending on your view). 

I was anxious about shopping and cooking. I was anxious about going to places by myself. I was also anxious about being away from my family. How would I know where to go? How would I get there? How will I fill up my free time? What if I don’t like any of the food? What happens when I meet new people? Will I be awkward and anxious, or cool and calm? Anxieties abounded, but luckily they melted away after I arrived. 

The Halfway Point

In the beginning, I would use Google Maps to make sure I was walking the correct way  to school. But now I confidently stroll, headphones in, to school without an issue. I could do it with my eyes closed. Shopping and cooking by yourself  isn’t so scary after all. In fact, it’s kind of fun. I’ve also made some great friends here. Like I said, my original anxieties have melted away. While I miss my family, I’m excited to see them soon when they visit for fall break. I’m confident now. I don’t mind going to the store or the park or school alone. And in regards to my free time, it’s filled up with potluck dinners, Lord of the Rings marathons (drinking game included), clubs, pubs, lots of homework (of course), traveling to other countries, and much, much more. 

How Game of Thrones should have ended. On tour in Northern Ireland you get to visit the village of Ballintoy, where many scenes in the series where filmed.

Speaking of traveling to other countries, that was my main goal while abroad. I wanted to visit as many places as I could.  I visited Barcelona over a four day weekend. It was phenomenal, but a bit nerve wracking navigating another strange city. I have trips planned for Milan in Italy and Amsterdam in the Netherlands. I’m counting down the days until both! I’ve also explored a great chunk of Ireland, but there’s still much more to see here. I plan on exploring it with my family when they arrive soon.

Barcelona stretching out before me.

While life is filled with many what ifs and anxieties, you have to keep moving forward. Every second is filled with a possible learning moment. Seize any opportunity that comes your way, and always face a challenge head on. I’ve grown a lot while I’ve been here for two short months, but I know I have more growth coming.  I’m looking forward to exploring what else this great world has to offer, while continuing to learn and grow at the same time. 

To 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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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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I’m Flyin’ Solo – Independent Travel

Liberating.
That’s the single best word to describe independent travel.
In planning my semester with Champlain Abroad, I decided that I wanted to take one solo weekend trip (to my mom’s initial disdain). And the more reading of independent female travel blogs that I did, the more the idea solidified in my mind and became not a want but a need. As long as I did my research and chose somewhere that would put everyone’s mind at ease in terms of safety, there wouldn’t be an issue.
I flip flopped between destinations; and when my first long weekend, still open, began approaching, I asked a professor for a recommendation on regions in Ireland to visit.
“The Dingle Peninsula,” He said, no hesitation in his reply. So came the studying of how to get there, what to do, where to stay and eat, and who needed cash over credit. Reflecting back on it, the process was long—five hours spent one Sunday afternoon, poring over my ninety open tabs and scrolling through articles furiously—but not as painstaking as I imagined it would be. Two days later, a trip for Dingle and Killarney was completely booked and the excitement to go was insurmountable.

Cycling Slea Head. A fantastic way of exploring what Independent Travel is all about.

Cycling Slea Head. A fantastic way of exploring what Independent Travel is all about.

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