Well, to start off, it already feels like I’ve been here forever, and I absolutely love it. I arrived one week ago today, although quite a bit earlier in the morning. Two of my roommates arrived with me; the third had caught the flight the day before and was still sleeping when we arrived at the St. Augustine Apartments. After a quick nap due to jet lag—well, I passed out for five hours—I was ready and excited to start exploring my new home.
The apartments are cozy, small compared to the Spinner Place lodgings I am used to, but are very nicely furnished and arranged. Our kitchen is sensible, our living/dining room comfortable, and our balcony overlooks a community playground and socc—oops, football—field, and provides a lovely view of Dublin’s skyline, especially at dusk. But the apartment is the last thing I am worried about.
Growing up in Vermont, and spending the past few years in Burlington, I am used to “pockets” of interesting things, which quickly vanish into fields and cows within just a mile or two. Dublin, however, is a vast area, with a wonderful mix of history, modern development, and hidden gems. Just yesterday a little novelty store on my way to the Academic Centre caught my eye; I had passed by it almost every day for the past week, sometimes twice in a day, never quite noticing it. Yet, as I stopped at the window this time, I realized it held some of the most bizarre and fascinating antique sculptures, clocks, paintings, lamps, and knick-knacks I have ever seen, and it’s hidden there in plain sight, waiting for people like me to stumble onto it.
In the middle of orientation we hopped a train out of the city and headed south along the coast to a beautiful town called Bray. As soon as we stepped off the train, Stephen Robinson, the director of Champlain College Dublin, pointed us toward a mountain in the distance with instructions only on where to enter the hiking trails, and where to meet for dinner afterward. Some of the most captivating views of the countryside awaited us when we reached the top; the ocean at our backs, we took in a beautiful panorama of quaint seaside villages to our right, rolling hills and green pastures to the left, split down the middle with farms and fences. It was well worth the relatively brief hike, and was a fantastic indicator of the diverse environments Ireland has to offer.
The surrounding views and bustle of the city constantly urge me to get out and see what is going on, to explore what fantastic experiences are in store for me if I take a left out the front door rather than a right. More importantly though, I discovered the more you walk, the more you discover. So I think the first lesson of my semester abroad is just to keep walking. The handbook recommended bringing “comfortable walking shoes,” but as far as I am concerned, they will literally be on my feet at all times, because there should never be an excuse to avoid taking a stroll around this stunning country.
Champlain Student Blogger Fall 2011