Before I get started, I wanted to apologize for my typo last week. The UK consists of several countries including Wales, not Whales. (Very BIG difference – get it? Whales are big, so punny!)Anyways, I should probably apologize for the lateness of my post this week too. I’ve been travelling for the past few days in Ireland, which means I’ll take a break from Scotland this week for the other Gaelic/Celtic nation.
Ireland is absolutely beautiful! I spent most of my time visiting a friend in Galway, but also got in a bit of time in Dublin and other parts of the west coast near Galway. It was my first time traveling outside the UK and I was traveling on my own until I got to Galway, so admittedly, I was feeling a bit nervous. But, luckily, it was a smooth journey, with no hiccups. I flew into Dublin early on Friday morning and after a few hours to explore, I took a three hour bus to Galway, which is a seaside city on the western coast. As I mentioned, I was visiting a friend who is studying aboard this semester at NUI Galway. In addition to my excitement to be in a new place and see an old friend, I was also really interested to see how other study abroad experiences were.
Much more interesting though were the differences I noticed between the cultures. Before going, most of the people I had spoken to had mentioned that Scotland and Ireland were quite similar, and perhaps living here has just made me more attuned to the subtleties of Scottish culture, but I thought there were several very distinctive differences between the two. Namely, Irish people were much more open and approachably friendly. Don’t get me wrong, people in Scotland are incredibly nice and welcoming, but that is usually when you engage with them. But in Ireland, people will just come up and have a full on conversation with you in the pub or even on the street. It was certainly a shift from the more reserved principles of British interactions. Galway was also a bit more lively than Edinburgh, which is definitely fun, but admittedly, people in Edinburgh do tend to have more of a serious professional or studious approach or attitude about them, whereas Galway seemed much more laid back and carefree.
At the end of the day, the trip was a refreshing change of pace and helped me to better reflect and refocus on my experience thus far. The differences that make your study abroad experience are not just the differences between your location and GW or America, but also the differences that make your location or program or school unique from any other experience out there.
So on that note, I’ll leave you with my top 5 highlights from Ireland, in case you get the chance to visit:
1. Cliffs of Moher: We went to visit for an afternoon as part of a tour and they are AMAZING. You will literally feel like you are walking around in front of a green screen because it just seems too beautiful to be real.
2. The Tour Guide (Des aka “The King of the Burren”): He was not only an awesome tour guide who seemed to know everything about the area, but also the epitome of Irish friendliness.
3. Live music in the pubs: Galway had some of the best live music I’ve heard since being abroad, and that’s saying a lot because Edinburgh has great music. But something about Galway’s blend of traditional Irish folk, bluegrass and modern covers was just so impressive.
4. Getting a tour of Galway from my friend: It is always nice to see a friend, but it is even better when they can share their experience with you. It offers such a great perspective to your engagement with a new place.
5. The soup: So probably not the most exotic food source in the world, but let me tell you, the Irish know how to make soup and the traditional brown bread definitely does not hurt. I probably shouldn’t admit it, but while I was there, I ate almost exclusively soup. Travel Hint of the Week: Soup is the secret to eating out on a budget. At least in this part of the world, it is usually pretty hearty and filling and almost always one of the cheapest things on the menu, and the very best part, it never seems to let you down in terms of flavor.
Until next week!