CAPA Dublin Study Abroad Alum Interview: Jeff Vinton
CAPA alum Jeff Vinton from Arizona State University finished his last college semester on a study abroad trip to Dublin. (Congrats on your graduation, Jeff!) Below, he talks about how he learned how to see the world around him through a different lens, lessons he took away from being in Paris on the night of the November terrorist attacks and how he found a welcoming local church community to be involved with while he was in Ireland.
Photo: CAPA Dublin jumping at the Cliffs of Moher (Photo courtesy of Erin Shippee)
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
JEFF VINTON: Well, first off, hello to all of those reading this! My name is Jeff Vinton. I am originally from Fort Collins, Colorado, which is situated about an hour north of Denver and about 30-40 minutes from the Wyoming border right along the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains. I studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland, and my home university back in the US is the amazing Arizona State University where I am a journalism student with a minor in religious studies. I will actually graduate at the end of my study abroad trip, which is the week that I am writing this!
Some of my major hobbies revolve around sports, as I want to go into sports journalism as a career. I love to play, read about, watch, study, and write about sports. I also love reading (spy novels seem to my go-to as of late) and I am an absolute cinephile (who else is excited about Star Wars Episode VII?)! I love going out on the town with my girlfriend, Julia, when I am back in the States. Going on hikes is also a major hobby of mine as I grew up going to the mountains all the time.
Photo: Bus tour around Dublin during the first week abroad
CW: Why did you choose the CAPA program and why Dublin specifically?
JV: I chose to study abroad with CAPA because it seemed like a program that would honestly provide an amazing experience for all of the students that studied with them. It looked as if CAPA had some amazing programs set up in Sydney and London, so I had a good feeling that Dublin’s would be fantastic as well! I know that many people choose to study with CAPA because they offer international internships, but that was not an option for me, as I had already finished my journalism coursework back at ASU and was not allowed to take journalism credits while abroad.
I chose to come to Dublin because my family on my mother’s side has Irish roots (my grandmother’s maiden name is McNeil) and Dublin has been a city that I have always wanted to visit after reading James Joyce’s novel, Dubliners. So when I was choosing where to study abroad, Dublin was pretty much a no-brainer for me!
Image: Jeff's blog
CW: You kept a blog while abroad to document your travels. Why was this important to you? Would you recommend it to other students as a worthwhile activity?
JV: I did keep a blog while I was in Dublin, that is true! I did not update it quite as much as I originally planned, but I really felt that it was important because I feel those posts are a way for friends and family to see what is happening in my life and understand it from my point of view! It’s a great way of showing pictures in context, and I love writing, so I felt that keeping a blog was something I really wanted to do. I have many other friends who have studied abroad and kept blogs about it as well, so I wanted to follow in their footsteps. You can check it out here. All of my Dublin posts have titles in Irish (as I felt that would be creative) and there is a soon to come goodbye and wrap-up post of this trip!
Photo: Jeff at the Cliffs of Moher
CW: Give us an example of an activity you pursued outside of CAPA activities that gave you a better understanding of the material you learned in one or more of your classes.
JV: One of my favorite classes has been my “Analyzing and Exploring the Global City: Dublin” course. In this class, I have learned to just walk around a city and look at what is around to learn more about it through the signs and symbols around me. When I traveled to London, I decided to walk the Thames Path from Greenwich to Westminster. During this walk, I was able to stroll through many different neighborhoods looking at things like apartment blocks, cars, street signs, street art, shops, the people walking around and more to learn about who lived in that neighborhood, what income level they were, and if the area had started to or had already become gentrified. Being able to do this really expanded my understanding of the material I was learning in class and now I end up doing the same in every city that I go to!
Photo: At the Killary Fjord during a bus tour around Connemara
CW: Describe an area of the city that surprised you and tell us what it was about it that you didn’t expect. How did this change your perceptions of the city as a whole?
JV: An area of Dublin that surprised me was the area of Dublin known as the Liberties. When I walked through the Liberties, I honestly felt as if I could have been shopping somewhere like 30-40 years ago. Going into the shops around the area made it feel like I had stepped into a time machine. The signage all felt very old, the shops themselves were old and some were even filled with clothes that would have been fashionable in the 1970s and 1980s. I did not expect this, especially after going to areas like Grafton Street, Henry Street and O’Connell Street, which are very hip and posh. It was honestly a surprising, but very cool experience!
Photo: In Amsterdam
CW: Tell us about a moment when you faced a particular challenge and how you were able to turn that into a learning experience.
JV: This is an absolutely easy question. On November 13, I was in Paris with four other CAPA students for our Assignment Week trip. If anyone doesn’t remember the significance of that date, it is the date when ISIS attacked the Stade de France, some street cafés and the Bataclan concert hall. That day we had done some sightseeing and when the attacks began, we had just returned our hostel after doing a night bus tour to see why Paris is called “The City of Lights.”
This was a terrifying experience for me. We were situated a two to three minute walk from the Louvre, one of the major symbols of power in France, and I felt that if the terrorists really wanted to make a statement, they would come our way. We were also about 25-30 minutes away from the Stade and 15 from the Bataclan, and knowing that those places were so close scared me to the bone. During this time, Darby Vance, the CAPA Dublin vlogger, and I worked to keep everyone in Dublin, along with our friends and families back home aware that we were safe and we began to plan what our moves the next day would be.
This was definitely a learning experience for me as it taught me to keep a level head when times are scary and, as I am a Christian, to trust in God that He will protect me and get me back where I need to be safely. I will be honest though, that experience made me a little wary of traveling. My next trip after Paris was to London the next weekend, and with London being also one of the most targeted cities in the world, I questioned whether I should go or not.
I ended up going and London ended up being one of my favorite trips that I have taken this entire semester! That taught me to just not let fear weigh me down and keep me from going somewhere. It taught me that it is supremely important to carry on and show those who are trying to instill terror that they have failed and will never succeed in keeping people down. Going through Paris was definitely scary at the time, but it taught me many lessons that I will carry into my future.
Photo: Jeff near the Louvre in Paris, the morning of November 13
CW: Give a few examples of ways in which you were able to tie the knowledge you’ve gained in your CAPA classes into the way you understand your host city.
JV: One way I have been able to tie the knowledge from my classes into how I understand Dublin is much like what I said about London before. I am able to walk around Dublin and see what years the cars come from in certain neighborhoods (it’s on the license plates!) and read the other symbols around the area to learn about that part of the city and get to understand it more!
I have also taken an Irish history course this semester and because of it I have gained the ability to look at Dublin from a historical perspective and imagine areas of the city as they would have looked in different eras. My creative writing course, along with my Global Cities course, has also given me the ability to look at those around me and imagine what their lives must be like based on their clothes, how they carry themselves and to imagine a story for them.
Photo: With Big Ben in London
CW: Define MyEducation in your own words. Which MyEducation event was most memorable for you and why? How did your participation in this event change your understanding of the city?
JV: MyEducation was honestly one of my favorite parts of this program. Before the program began, every CAPA student was sent a calendar full of events that students are able to do throughout their time here. Many were field trips that the history class went on, and I loved being able to do all of those events as part of my studies. Many others were just amazing things that were happening in Dublin. Our first week we had Culture Night, which was highlighted as a MyEducation event, and it was this night where museums, art galleries and more were all open, free of charge, to let people experience what was inside. There were also events like the Bram Stoker Festival and the GAA Football County Final (which Dublin won! Up the Dubs!).
MyEducation is really a way for students to tailor their education of Dublin to what they want to do and to learn about the city how they want to. I am so thankful that MyEducation is there because I would not have known about most of these events if it were not for MyEducation. I learned about leprechauns and fairies because of this, along with the history of Dublin and Ireland as a whole. MyEducation really helped me a lot with my education of Dublin and I know I would not know this city half as well without it!
Photo: Jeff at Croke Park - home of GAA sports, the week of GAA final
CW: Where were the places you carved out as "Your Dublin" - the places you found outside of the tourist sites, the places that were most meaningful for you? What was special about them?
JV: Some sites and places that I have carved out as “my Dublin” are the Camden Street - Aungier Street - Georges Street corridor and the area right around Trinity College as I feel like I walk these streets almost every day and I have become so familiar with them that I can almost imagine what restaurants and stores are on them without even having to look it up. Griffith College has also become a huge part of “my Dublin” as it is my home here and where my friends and where I spend most of our time.
But the place that is totally off of the beaten path that has become the center of “my Dublin” is St. Mark’s Church on Pearse Street. As I said earlier, I am Christian, and it was hugely important for me to find a church here in Dublin. I found an amazing one in St. Mark’s. It is an Assemblies of God church and future CAPA students who are Christian should absolutely make their way over to Chapel Group. It is on Wednesday nights at 7:30 and the people there are extremely friendly and so glad that you are there to worship and experience God. I met so many amazing people there, both at Chapel and during Sunday services and I am very sad to be leaving that church! I looked forward so much to every Wednesday night and Sunday morning. Plus, the fact that it is in an old stone church that used to be Anglican is so cool! I cannot speak highly enough of this amazing place!
Photo: Prague Castle and the city of Prague in the background
CW: What changes have you seen in yourself since you began your study abroad program? Did your experience in Dublin influence your professional goals in any way? What has your experience taught you about yourself and the world around you?
JV: One of the biggest changes I have seen in myself since coming over to Dublin is that I am not afraid to travel somewhere by myself, even if it is halfway around the world! Darby, who I mentioned earlier, is also a student at ASU, but I had only met him once before coming over here, and we hadn’t spoken much before the trip. I also was the only CAPA student on my flights from Denver to Chicago and Chicago to Dublin. My flight to Dublin was my first trans-Atlantic flight, which was scary for me, but I made it, and here I am in my final week about to begin a much longer journey back to Colorado!
I was also on my own when I journeyed to London, which was scary, as I had to navigate that huge city on my own, along with the fear of being only a week removed from the events in Paris. But, as I said earlier, that trip ended up being one of my favorites and I am so glad that I went. Going on a solo trip while studying abroad is actually something I would recommend. It is awesome to get to explore somewhere and do what you want to do, not what the group wants to do. If you see something, you can do it. If you see somewhere that you want to eat, you eat there, no big deal! It was so nice to do that once, and I recommend it highly.
And the last big change I have seen in myself is the beard I grew while studying here, as I decided to leave my razor at home and see how long my facial hair could grow over the semester (something my girlfriend is not excited about seeing soon).
But, honestly, this trip has been amazing! I am so glad that I chose to study in Dublin with CAPA and I know I am going to miss this place a ton when I leave. It has been one of the most amazing trips of my life and I know I will never forget the amazing people I met here and the memories I have made. I hope future students enjoy this place half as much as I have!