In one week, I will have been in Ireland for a month. The thought of that is absolutely insane to me. It feels like I got here yesterday. I don’t feel like I’ve been away from home and my everyday life at Penn State for that long. The time has just been flying by.
But I can see the changes, telling me that it indeed has been longer than a few days here. Galway is starting to feel like home, and campus and the city are starting to feel familiar. On Saturday morning, as I was on my way to catch a bus to go to Parkrun, a man asked me for directions, and I actually was able to help him, which felt super great.
So what has happened in this almost month? A whole lot of things, that’s for sure. I’ve explored Galway city, gone to pubs, experienced a tour of Connemara, and have gone on some of the most scenic runs of my entire life. It’s hard to complain when your runs are so pretty that it’s almost impossible not to stop every two seconds to take a picture. I’m getting quite good at taking pictures while still running at the same time, the best of both worlds.
Classes have started, and while the teaching style is very different here, I am fascinated by all of my classes. I am taking a lot of Irish studies modules, and even an Irish language class, which is equal part intimidating and exhilarating.
Last weekend two of my roommates and I discovered the farmer’s market in Galway city. They have the most amazing fruit there that I have ever had, and I also was able to sample some very tasty gluten-free cakes. That’s another thing… Ireland is AMAZING for people with Celiac, a gluten allergy. Everywhere I go seems like they have gluten-free options, and I’ve spent so much more money on food than I thought simply because I have found so many things in the stores that I can usually never eat at home. And it’s not even just options, it’s quality too. Gluten-free bread is way better here than in the U.S. It actually stays together and doesn’t have huge holes in it. I’m definitely not saying that everything is perfect, and I’m sure there is gluten-free food here that isn’t all that good, but the options are incredible.
Branching out from food, there have just been so many new things to try and experience here. On Friday, my friend and I took a bus tour of Connemara, an area right outside of Galway. If you picture typical Irish landscapes, you’re probably picturing Connemara. It’s gorgeous, and it was a great way to see part of the country. Our bus stopped in a few places, including Cong, the village where The Quiet Man was filmed, and Kylemore Abbey, a former castle turned abbey turned school. I got to stand on the county line between Galway and Mayo, see incredible views from on top of a mountain and of a fjord, and explore ancient buildings on the way. I know I definitely want to see more of Europe while I am here, but getting to know more of Ireland is definitely at the top of my list.
Through all the last few weeks, I’ve realized that doing what you love is the key to staying happy. If you do something back home, a sport, an instrument, whatever, plan to do it while abroad. I brought all of my running and gym clothes, and running has not only been my constant, but it has also been a great way to see Galway and meet new people. I’ve been going to Parkrun, which is a free timed 5k at a local park each week, and I’ve met some super friendly locals. My roommate and I also did a run to Salthill, which was a great way to see not only another part of Galway, but also a gorgeous sunrise on the way. There’s a running path right by our apartment, and that is my absolute favorite because whenever I have a free bit of time, I’ll lace up my Brooks and head out for a gorgeous run along the river.
This experience is still so surreal, sometimes it’s hard to believe that this is all reality. I definitely still feel like a dumb American sometimes, I’ve definitely had my bouts of homesickness both for my family and my friends at home, and I’ve had probably more nights in than out, which is totally okay. Every moment isn’t perfect or Instagram worthy, and that I think is where you learn to grow when going abroad. There are definitely ups and downs to studying abroad, and I have been pushed very far outside my comfort zone this past month, but I wouldn’t change this experience for the world and I still feel like the luckiest person out there.