Finding Your Unique Way to Engage As a Student Abroad

News of traveling abroad can elicit amusing responses from friends and family. When first hearing a student’s plans to travel, loved ones often summon a common image in their minds of constant hopping on and off planes and gallivanting from one happening party to the next. While this is definitely the case at times, especially during the recent spring break, Champlain Abroad students have learned there are more ways to become involved in the community of Dublin.

Two students currently studying abroad in Dublin have discovered ways to do become engaged in Irish culture and hope their experiences inspire future students to get to know the city just as fondly as they have.

Meghan Neely Champlain College
Meghan Neely’18, Professional Writing, Champlain College

Meghan Neely, a Professional Writing major, is currently studying for her second semester in Dublin. She wasn’t ready to let go of the city when the previous semester came to a close, and it is obvious that the city was not quite ready to let go of her either.  Neely has been very active in the Repeal the 8th Movement, a motion to end the illegality of abortion laws in Ireland as well as advocate for other women’s rights as well. Since her arrival in Dublin in August 2016, she has taken part in marches and protests throughout the city in support of the Repeal the 8th movement.

“In Ireland, abortion is illegal under the 8th amendment of the country’s constitution. This means women seeking abortions within Ireland, regardless of the circumstances, can face up to 14 years in jail (even for something as simple as taking a plan B pill). A lot of women have had their lives destroyed because of this, and some have even dying. As a result, a lot of Irish women are looking to repeal the 8th amendment from Ireland’s constitution, and the movement has gained a lot of momentum recently.” said Neely.

This news can be very shocking to hear, especially when coming from a country such as the United States where the opposite is true. It was this shock that initially ignited her interest in the campaign.

“I first found out about the movement online before I even left the States. I was trying to do some research on Dublin when I stumbled across it, but I never thought it would be as prevalent as when I actually got here.”

Crowds at the Womens March Dublin. Photo credit: Meghan Neely

Neely says one of the most memorable moments of her time spent studying abroad was joining the Coalition to Repeal the 8th which was part of the Women’s March that took place in Dublin as well as various other cities throughout the world.

“It was so awesome to see people coming together the way that we did, and I really do think we’re making a difference. In a few days, I’ll be joining the March for Repeal as well, and I’m really looking forward to it.”

As far as advice to future study abroad students, Neely has one piece of advice: get involved.

“It’s so important to realize that people from all over the world share similar passions, and I’m not just talking about activism either. I know activism isn’t everybody’s thing, but the action of going out, doing something, and sharing ideas with people from backgrounds completely different from your own is an amazing opportunity. It helps you to grow and definitely creates memories to last a lifetime.”

Alan Barlow’18, Management and Innovation, Champlain College

Alan Barlow is another Champlain College student spending his spring semester in Dublin who has found his own way to get involved with the culture through Common Purpose and their Frontrunner Programme. This is an organization designed specifically for third year college students which offers leadership courses. The entire program was made with the intent of promoting leadership roles in students in schools wherever these courses are offered. Champlain College offered to sponsor the enrollment cost for 3 students and Alan was successful in securing his place on the program. 

“The entire four day program was an unforgettable experience. One highlight included meeting other students who are currently studying in Dublin, some Irish while others were international students. This gave me a personal perspective into Ireland as well as many countries around the world,” said Barlow.

The program itself, which Barlow dedicated an entire weekend to attending, was packed full of interesting and noteworthy contributors, most of whom he was able to interact with on a one-on-one basis.

Alan Barlow’s Common Purpose Certificate

“I was able to interact with some business and community leaders that I would never have been able to meet if I had not participated in Frontrunner,” recalled Barlow. “The perspectives that the contributors gave will stick with me for the rest of my life. Overall, I was rejuvenated as a leader and more able than ever to work with diverse groups of people with varying perspectives.”

Barlow said he would recommend any student takes part in the Frontrunner Programme or any similar organization they are able to find in the Dublin area.

“Attending Frontrunner or a similar leadership program while abroad allows for a great platform to not only grow intercultural intelligence as a leader, but to also meet other students in Ireland.

I developed relationships with many of the participants in the program that I know will last beyond my time in Ireland.”

Other Champlain Abroad students connected with their study abroad city through the Creative Minds Hackathon events. In this blog post you can read all about how Kelsey Hanneman’18 (Criminal Justice), Michael Roberts’18 (Digital Forensics) and Tyler Bedard’18 (Graphic Design and Digital Media) got on when they studied abroad in Dublin.


Champlain Abroad
More Dublin
Irish Culture: Books, Movies, and More!
Getting Through Immigration
Course Highlight: Advanced Art History – Creative Dublin