01 May, 2014

Oh Dublin, how good you have been to me!

This past semester has been one of the most memorable and incredible learning experiences of my life, if not the most. I wish I could encompass it all in such a short piece, but I will do my best to communicate to you the most critical points! During my time in Dublin I have learned so much about myself, different cultures (especially the Irish culture), and much, much more.  Coming here for the semester was one of the best choices I have ever made for myself.  I am very sad to see it coming to a close.

The academics were spectacular.  The professors that I had at the Champlain Abroad Dublin program were among the best professors I have ever had.  They are some of the brightest people that I have ever met and were able to give so much insight into the Dublin/Irish culture, as well as the rest of the world.  They’re teaching styles accommodated most everyone’s needs and I took more out of those classes than any college course I have ever taken. 

On top of being experts on the topics that they taught, they were very willing to guide students at their request, and they were able to give us so much advice about travel around Ireland as well as around the EU.  Seamus White and Stephen McMahon were like travel guides for the EU, and even the whole world.  They have so much experience in other cultures, how to maneuver yourself within them, and the best places to visit.  Kelli Malone was one of the most knowledgeable, interesting teachers that I have ever had.  She made Northern Ireland history like listening to a gripping, feature length story.  That class was one of the highlights for me each week.  I learned so much about Irish politics, the troubles in the North, their effects on life in the republic, and even things as far back as the protestant ascendancy and medieval Ireland.  It is a truly amazing core class that puts all others I have taken to shame.

Aside from academics, the places that I have visited and the friends from Dublin that I have made are what made this experience so valuable and fantastic.  If there is one thing I can suggest about studying abroad in Dublin, or where ever you so choose, is to find an interest and use it to meet local people.  For me, this was rollerblading.  Meeting these people, first, gave me a sense of belonging and acceptance into the culture.  I actually made over twenty friends here that I will continue to keep in contact with and hopefully see every now and then through out my entire life.  

Myself toghether with two of my best friends in Dublin,
Colm and Adam. 
                            
These kids showed me Dublin in a new light, they gave me the full experience of what it life is like living here and the best craic to be had.  From them taking me around to all of the various skateparks, urban rails, ledges, etc., to them inviting me on excursions to their birthday parties, great food spots in the city, introducing me to their friend groups, showing me around Eindhoven in Holland, I gained experiences through these people that I never could have on my own or with other American students.  This only touches on what they have given me throughout my time here, there are also the simple things, the lingo I have learned, the weekly, bi-weekly, or even tri-weekly skate sessions that we had, the crazy nights out, are things that, whether they realize it or not, made and defined my experience.  This has been the hardest part about preparing to leave Dublin, saying goodbye to my new, lifelong friends for an indefinite period of time.  In a nut-shell, please, if you decide to study abroad in Dublin, or anywhere else, make it your goal to meet as many local people as you possibly can.  By this, I do not mean go out to the pubs, have drunk conversations with no common interest, and never see them again.  I mean strive for true friendships with common grounds.                      

Skating in Dublin with my new friend Sean Michael, on the right
in black t-shirt and blue hat.

I have already blogged about my experience in the Netherlands so I will spare you the repetition, but I would like to note some of my other travels over here. When you come to Dublin, make it a point to travel around the island of Ireland!  There is so much more to Ireland that the city of Dublin.  The entire west coast is absolutely one of the most stunning places I have ever been to.  There is everything from the Cliffs of Moher, to the college town of Galway, to quiet, incredible, coastal towns like Lahinch that have some of the best surfing in the entire world.  Even traveling just outside of County Dublin to places like the Wicklow Mountains, Glendalough, the Wicklow Mountains National Park, one of the most naturally stunning places in the country.  Even just take the DART (commuter train) a half an hour to Howth, or Bray, and you will find some of the most incredible coastal landscapes in the world.

View from Howth Cliff Walk

I am very sad to say that I will be leaving here in about 48 hours time.  I have to give special thanks to everyone who has helped make this experience as incredible as it was.  I feel as though I am coming home a better, more mature, and a much more knowledgeable, worldly person than I was upon my arrival.  Looking back now I have done Dublin right, and I hope that some will take this advice to heart if you plan on studying abroad.  I will miss you Dublin, the people you have led me to, the secret havens of your city, and the new perspectives and knowledge you have provided me with.  Slan (Gaelic), or farewell, you will always have a place in my heart and I will return to you one day.  Until then, Dublin.

Henry S Schwartz
Champlain Abroad Dublin, Spring 2014
Champlain College, Environmental Policy and Business Administration 2015
           

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