Hello from Galway, Ireland!
Many people know that my decision to leave Marist for an entire semester was not an easy one. But after these past few weeks, I know it was the right one- so thank you to everyone who encouraged me to go!
For those of you who may not have heard of Galway before, it’s a small city located on the West Coast of Ireland. It has been given the nickname of “Ireland’s Cultural Heart” for its numerous festivals and events throughout the year. But really the best part is that on any given night you can walk down Shop Street or Main Street and find street performers and traditional Irish music. You can’t have a night without a live version of “Galway Girl” the song made famous in the U.S. by Gerard Butler in PS. I Love You (warning: listen to it once and you wont be able to stop signing it for the rest of the day).
College life at National University of Ireland at Galway (NUIG) isn’t much different then life at Marist. I live in a townhouse with 3 Irish students and 2 American students. My Irish housemates have done an amazing job of helping us figure out the do’s and don’ts of Galway. Things like where to shop, where to find the best deals on mass transit, and what clubs and organizations we should join. NUIG is a much larger university compared to Marist. Going from Marist’s class size of about 25 to NUIG’s lecture classes of about 200 has been a little bit of an adjustment for me. I was so surprised the first day when my English Lit professor was using a microphone!
Being immersed into the culture of Ireland has been my main goal here, and thanks to my program directors through Academic Program International, I really feel like I’ve been able to experience things I never would’ve been able to do on my own. Our program directors, Kevin and Finn (also, husband and wife!) have treated all of us likes an extended part of their family. They act as our official Ireland tour guide, travel agent, parent, mentor, and friend all in one. From the moment we met Finn at Shannon airport she told us to prepare to see Ireland “Finn Style”, and that we definitely have! The first week here we got the opportunity to volunteer at the Galway Ironman, which was a great way to experience something completely out of the ordinary. I thought it was great when all the participants would say “cheers!” when you handed out wates or gel packs! We’ve also been able to see all the main spots on the West Coast like Cliffs of Mohr, Aran Islands and Connemara. All of which were absolutely beautiful!
I’d be lying if I said studying abroad wasn’t challenging. A whole new environment far away from everything that you are accustomed to and not having those familiar faces just around the corner anymore is difficult at first. But just like when we all first arrived at Marist on the hectic and crazy (but always fun, especially in a hurricane) Freshmen Move In day, you have that mixture of nerves, excitement, desire to find that place where you feel most comfortable, and most importantly- find the right people to enjoy it all with! I have been lucky to meet amazing people since I’ve been here, people I know will be friends long after we say goodbye to Galway. And even though many of my Marist friends are scattered through out Europe studying abroad we’ve planned multiple trips to visit to each other and to explore other parts of Europe together which gives us the opportunity to share in this experience together.
The poem “Magic Carpet” by Shel Silverstein has been stuck in my head ever since I’ve started this whole experience. Some of you may recall hearing the poem from First Year Program’s Director Robin Torres at Freshmen Orientation (some of you readers will be hearing it in the future at your own Marist orientation!) It’s one of those things that makes you realize life is what you make of it- so for those of you thinking about studying abroad, or even thinking about going away to college just remember that its up to you to make it happen!
“You have a magic carpet
That will whiz you through the air,
To Spain or Maine or Africa
If you just tell it where,
So will you let it take you
Where you’ve never been before
Or will you buy some drapes to match
And use it on your floor?” – Shel Silverstein