Settling in to Galway: Much to Learn

Lizzie Hjelle NUI Galway, Ireland


January 13, 2016

As I sit in my flat enjoying a cup of coffee and a gorgeous sunny morning in Galway, I can’t help being grateful for how well these first few days have gone. As many of my friends and family were aware, I was a ball of nerves before my arrival in Ireland. I was constantly being bogged down by imagining the worst case scenario for every aspect of my journey. If that’s where you are at right now, the best advice I can give you is this: Calm down. It is more than likely going to be just fine. If there is one thing I have learned while getting used to the Irish way of life, it is how to just relax and go with the flow. There will be bumps in the road, and that’s okay. Things won’t always go as planned, and that’s okay too. As one of my fellow Arcadia students put it, studying abroad is “learning to be comfortable being uncomfortable.”

However, for those of you like me who love planners, lists, and preparation, I’ve compiled some brief advice to ease your transition.

  1. Go to as many orientation events as you are able
    1. It was during some of the most unlikely events that I garnered some of the most helpful advice. Go on the campus tour, take the walking tour of Galway even if it’s pouring rain, and be sure to ask the students your questions. The academic sessions for each department were particularly helpful in relieving my anxieties about registration and the unfamiliar academic system.
  2. Take advantage of being here a few days early by exploring the city and your campus
    1. Check out all of the grocery stores so you know where to find the best deals. Head over to shop street and take your time exploring the shops and pubs. Stop and actually listen to the music that fills the streets each evening. Take an afternoon to walk through campus and find all of your lecture halls and classrooms. Identify some landmarks that will help you orient yourself as you get to know a new city.
  3. Get to know your Irish housemate(s)
    1. Your Irish housemates are an incredible resource. Whether you have no idea how to work the immersion or you aren’t sure where your lecture hall is, odds are your housemate will probably be able to help you out. Take the time to get to know them, ask to tag along when they go somewhere, take their advice, and perhaps you’ll even become friends.
  4. Some things I brought that are really useful:
    1. Of everything I packed, I’ve found that some reusable bags are the most useful. Many grocery stores have a ‘bring your own bag’ policy and charge for plastic ones, so it’s definitely worth bringing a few sturdy canvas bags. A few other less obvious things to pack are some wool socks and warm slippers. Evenings can get pretty chilly and there is a good chance your Irish flat won’t have carpet.
  5. Some things I wish I had brought:
    1. I knew that it rained quite a bit in Ireland, but I don’t think I fully understood what it would be like to live in the rainiest city in the rainiest country for a semester. With that in mind, I wish I had brought more waterproof outerwear like actual rain boots and an insulated waterproof jacket. Also, there is a really big difference between water resistant and waterproof. Trust me when I tell you that water resistant isn’t going to cut it all of the time.

Studying abroad is a bit like being a freshman all over again. You feel a little lost and bombarded by all of the new information, but you’re still enjoying every new opportunity thrown at you. You keep remembering that you only have one semester to do all these things on your list, but it’s also important to see the other side. You have an entire semester to do all of the things on your list. When in doubt, I recommend sharing a pizza with some good friends and enjoying every moment. Ireland even has Dominos!