I have been living in Ireland now for 6 weeks, and it still feels a bit unreal. The idea that Galway is my home has just begun to set in. Walking around the city isn’t a maze anymore, and I don’t have to use Google Maps for every place I want to go. I have even been able to help several visitors that have asked me for directions to places around the city. I feel very accomplished!
Even though I am considered a “visiting” student, NUIG (National University of Ireland Galway) is now my campus. The buildings are familiar; I have my favorite study spots, and I actually know quite a few people! While walking around on campus, I may run into someone I know from one of the student societies that I’ve joined: the NUIG organic gardening society, or the NUIG VegSoc, or maybe just someone I have met in class or at the student pub!
Academics have been an interesting part of my study abroad experience. NUIG is very different from my small liberal arts university in Texas. The classes are bigger, more lecture-based, and focus on final assessments rather than continuous assessment. Most of my English modules only have one graded assignment: the final essay, while my Coastal Dynamics class has a small quiz each week, but mostly focuses on the end of semester presentation. Overall, the classes are extremely interesting, informative, and creative. All of my classes (some more than others) have allowed me to understand and learn about Irish culture, academics, and politics through our studies. A few of my classes are: Contemporary Irish Writing; Coastal Dynamics; and Literature in a Digital Age.
Not only have I become more familiar with Ireland and Irish culture, but I have fallen in love with Galway. The city is bright and lively, people are friendly, and there is so much to do all the time! The myth that Ireland is a magical land, shouldn’t be taken lightly. Over the past few weeks, I have realized that going to the Saturday farmers market is still one of my favorite activities, but I have discovered so many other fantastic places. Some of my favorite places in Galway include the Spanish Arch, the Long Walk, the Galway City Museum, Coffee Club, Coffeewerk + Press, Busker Brownes, the Galway Town Hall Theatre, and the TGO falafel bar. A few of my favorite places outside of Galway include the Aran Islands, Connemara National Park, and County Wicklow.
My roommate and another two girls we met here at NUIG took a spontaneous day trip to Inishmore (the biggest island in the Aran Islands). It took about 40 mins by bus and another 40 min on a ferry boat to get there, but it was worth it! We ended up renting bikes and riding the length of the coast to the other side of the island. On the way, we stopped at the goat farm, where this lovely man gave us free samples of their fresh goat cheese! (of course, I ended up buying some to eat later!) We ended up having just enough time to walk up and explore the largest of the prehistoric stone forts of the Aran Islands: Dun Aonghasa.
Connemara National Park was also a beautiful, magical place. My boyfriend and I took a CityLink bus from Galway to Clifden, the capital of Connemara, and spent an hour or so in the city. Then we used a taxi to get to the national park. We hiked Diamond Hill, ate a zero-waste lunch at the top, and took some amazing pictures! While in nature, we kept in mind one of my favorite quotes: “Leave nothing but footprints. Take nothing but pictures. Kill nothing but time.”
Lastly, my trip to County Wicklow. Arcadia organized a weekend away for all the program students including Galway, but also students in Cork, Belfast, Limerick, and Dublin! The location was absolutely breathtaking. We stayed at a family camp located right on Blessington Lakes. We were introduced to Irish dancing, music, and table quizzes. Saturday was by far my favorite because we spent all morning doing ridiculous camp games in small teams. I was on the best team, obviously. Our team name was the Raining Men... (we were an all-girl team with the best theme song) Hallelujah. We won every single challenge, by the way. Activities included: Horseshoes, turf stacking, wellie chucking (aka rain boots), wheelbarrow racing, and a canoe racing! Overall, it was a really awesome weekend in a beautiful part of Ireland!
Already 6 weeks down, 10 more to go! I’ll be back soon to keep you updated on my life in and around Ireland!