I have officially been living in Galway for 4 days. WHOA. It feels like it’s been much longer than that, but with the help of our wonderful residential directors, everyone in my study abroad group feels extremely comfortable navigating ourselves through the exciting streets of Galway, taking our fascinating Irish studies classes at the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway), and living in the student village among a few dozen other American students who here with other programs or independently.
I’m not gonna lie, my first impression of Galway was, “wow, this is much better than Dublin!” Not to hate on Dublin, but Galway is the place to be if you want to experience thriving Irish culture. Dublin was extremely interesting, as it has so much historical significance and just happens to be the capital of Ireland, but I felt like it was a very typical European city. I’m really glad I’m in Galway for the month because I feel like I’m getting the ideal study abroad experience. Throughout the course of the past 4 days, I have conversed with the locals at pubs, listened to authentic Irish music, and strolled through the streets, just enjoying the beauty of the colorful shops and restaurants (most aren’t chains) and listening to the music being played constantly by street musicians. Speaking of street musicians, apparently, anyone can jam out anywhere on the streets! I know that in the US you have to have a permit to do that, so when one of my friends, Gabby, found out anyone could play (she’s a music therapy major), she went to a music store and rented a beautiful acoustic guitar. She split the money with two of my other friends who wanted to jam out with the guitar during the course of the next 4 weeks for only about a couple euros a week each! Everyone in the program was saying Gabby and the others should play on the streets, so today, after we visited the Galway farmer’s market (I got a wool hat and ate a delicious crepe!), they sang and played the guitar on Shop Street, the most populated/touristy street in Galway. They made 12 euro in just 45 minutes- it was so impressive! I was thrilled because one of the songs they played was “Blackbird”, and I’m a huge Beatles fan. I took pictures of them and had them take a picture of me holding the guitar, even though I don’t know how to play. Then we used the money to buy gelato!
I’m happy to report that my first week of classes went really well! NUI Galway is a very innovative university- it’s not very old, but according to the Summer School program director, it’s ranked the best university to study Irish studies. I’m taking Irish History and Irish Music and Dance, and I highly enjoy both of the classes. Unfortunately, I have had a hard time paying attention in class because 1) I just finished school two weeks ago and I’m sort of in summer/vacation mode, 2) both of my professors have thick Irish accents, and so I find myself listening to the accents rather than taking in what they’re actually saying, and 3) the style here is more of a “go at your own pace with the readings assigned” rather than the more strict approach to assignments I’m used to in the US. I’m hoping on catching up with the readings tomorrow, after I tag along in a field trip the Literature and Film class is going on. They’re visiting an Irish author’s old house, and it sounds like the area they’re going to is gorgeous, so I’m going to join them. The rest of our weekends are planned for excursions to other parts of Ireland, so I’m really looking forward to those!
I think it’s pretty blatantly obvious for the locals here that I’m American, but for my sake I’m trying to act like a real Galway Girl (look up the song if you don’t know it!) here in the prettiest town I’ve ever set foot in. Honestly, the closest thing I can compare Galway with would be the Busch Gardens amusement park in Virginia, which is European themed.
So, hopefully I’ll catch up on the readings and pay more attention to the actual material rather than the awesome accents, but until then, slán go fóill (Irish for “goodbye for now”)!