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Ta me go maith: Getting Used to Galway

Time February 13th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I thought that living in a country as literary as Ireland would light the proverbial fire under me. I thought I would be writing up a storm, jotting down each amazing or ordinary thing that occurred with fervor. But I’m finding more and more that the words I write hardly explain this place. They feel so useless when I feel like I can’t even adequately convey the spirit of this place–not enough to do it justice anyway. That isn’t to say, however, that I won’t try.

I just returned from my trip to Northern Ireland, and I’ve gotta say, IFSA chose an excellent place to take us. I got to see Giant’s Causeway, an amazing geological formation with a wonderful back story. I also took a black cab tour of Belfast, and got to see both Protestant and Catholic sides of the city. The guides were informative about the religious Troubles that used to take place in Northern Ireland, and it was incredibly moving.

But, one thing I love about traveling is getting back home. Galway is feeling like home more and more every day, except for it feels like a home that I have to work at. I’m not used to walking everywhere, and I’m not used to cooking all of my own food, and I’m not even used to the cloudy weather yet! But, I’m getting there. Our apartment is very nice, though. Laundry and hot water availability have been the main problems we’ve experienced, but as long as the heat works I’m happy to work around the other two!

One thing I love about Galway more than everything else, however, is the friendliness. People here are so welcoming, and you could meet someone in a pub or in a coffee shop, and ten minutes later they will treat you like their best friend. But, it seems to me that it is easier to meet people out and about or in social societies and clubs than in class. People tend to be pretty focused in class, so focused that it seems too quiet at times. But, once you get out of that context, it becomes a lot easier to meet people and make friends. It never hurts to smile and be friendly!

It seems too easy to feel at home in a place like Galway. The city resembles a big town, it reminds me of Fort Collins, Colorado. The town is very much  a college town, but there are lots of other folks around. My favorite thing is all of the live music that is always going on in the streets, or maybe the market that runs on the weekends. I’m so happy to be settled enough to have favorite things–they make you feel like you know a place and have been there forever. They make it seem like home.






T-minus 8 Hours Until I Leave for Ireland

Time January 3rd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

In roughly eight hours, nine minutes, and fifty eight seconds, I will arrive at Denver International Airport and begin my journey to Galway, Ireland with IFSA Butler. But who’s keeping track, right?

The closer my journey comes, the more excited–and, naturally, nervous–I become. I can’t seem to control how eager I am to leave. Between all of the packing I’ve done and the errands I’ve had to run to prepare for my semester abroad, I’m finding that I’ll have little free time to really consider my expectations of Galway and my entire study abroad experience. However, one thought has been repeatedly popping in and out of my mind, lately. It has to do with the old idea of expectations vs. reality.

For those of you unfamiliar with the meme of expectations vs. reality going around the internet, I’ve included an image that basically captures the spirit of the internet sensation: [SinglePic not found]

As you can see, sometimes the sandcastle you build isn’t quite the one you had in mind. I keep on thinking of my semester in Ireland in these terms, especially as my departure date nears. I keep on thinking to myself, “What if you are only expecting to have a great time? What if you have a lousy time? What if every single individual in the country is mean to you for no apparent reason?” What if, what if, what if… I’ve bombarded myself with what ifs dependent entirely upon my expectations of Ireland–that I will have a wonderful time there–versus the bizarre realities that I can imagine replacing those expectations. And lately, I’ve actually been visualizing myself in one of those expectation vs. reality pictures: the expectation is me smiling and joyful in a wonderful country, the reality is me sitting in the rain, probably weeping. Perhaps the surrounding people point and laugh at my misery. The image is totally absurd.

My goal for the rest of my preparation–besides packing and making my plane successfully– is to replace my bizarre expectations vs. reality thoughts with thoughts of what is idealistic vs realistic. A situation doesn’t have to be perfect to make it meaningful. I may not instantly receive the gift of gab after kissing the Blarney stone, but I can sure as heck have a good time going there and having an experience. And I may feel homesick, or I may feel lonely. But that doesn’t quite mean that everyone on the island despises me and wishes me to leave. As much as I love extremes, they seem to be useless in this capacity.

My real goal? I’d say it is to experience this amazing opportunity, regardless of expectations vs. reality. Because, unlike all of my nightmares or dreams or expectations, living this experience is totally real.