Finally, the day came when I would get to go to Galway. We woke up early and had breakfast at the hostel. It was a modest breakfast, toast and coffee and cereal, but it was free and it was delicious. I sat alone, as there was no room at the table with the rest of my group by the time I got down there. As luck would have it, however, a very attractive young man came to sit down across from me, introducing himself and telling me he was from St. Louis. It seems many St. Louisans love Ireland. He had quit his job and was backpacking across Europe for two months with no plan and no direction. He was set to head to Amsterdam that day. I bid him good luck and went to grab my belongings, as our bus was leaving soon after.
I slept on the bus through the winding Irish countryside, only waking every so often and spotting cows lounging by the side of the road. One thing I did notice were the toll lanes. It was the only toll road I saw, and after our family trip to Michigan, I have to say, even in Ireland there are more toll lanes and a smoother toll process than there are in Illinois. Step up your game, IL. Anyway, it was a nice 2.5 hour trip from the heart of Dublin to our accommodation, the student village of Gort na Coiribe.
We got our keys, six of us per apartment, and were turned loose for a half hour to unpack before we were to gather and trek to campus for orientation and registration.
The apartment is lovely, and it is from my room with a gorgeous backyard view that I am composing these blogs, trying to catch up from my intense week. The first floor is my room, a bathroom without a shower, the kitchen, a dining area, and a living area with a television. The second floor has 3 more private bedrooms and a spacious bathroom with a shower. And the third floor has one massive 2-person room and a big bathroom with a shower. I got the first floor room, tucked into a corner and overlooking a small plot of green lawn with a wooden fence and yellow wildflowers. The Wi-Fi is poor but the room is big and bright, and more comfortable than it has any right to be.
We once more dumped our bags and rushed to meet Aisling by the reception office. From there, we took the shortcut path and made the 25 minute trip on foot to campus. We stopped at a small corner store and bought deli sandwiches from a very attractive young man to eat on the go while we toured around. We had our orientation in a massive laboratory classroom and then hiked to the quadrangle, the oldest part of campus and literally Hogwarts, to receive our official student IDs (written entirely in Irish–the language is Irish, not Gaelic here) and information about our summer school excursions. We also received a really nice bookbag, pen, and NUIG notebook.
And just like that, I was officially an NUIG student.
My feet were killing me by this point, but I still walked down with the group to the city center of Galway. Ash told us stories about the famous Claddagh ring, the 12 founding families of Galway, the Browne door, the place Ed Sheeran used to set up and perform on the street before he was famous, the oldest Church in the area and the site of the first official same sex marriage in Ireland, and other local lore as we toured around. We visited the Spanish Arch on the River Coiribe and then headed back to the main road to stop at a grocery store and grab dinner for the night.
We all decided to buy frozen pizza. Of course, the oven in our apartment is faulty, and though we followed the cooking directions exactly, 118 nearly burned our apartment down and managed to burn a pizza after only 2 minutes in a 200º C oven. Still, we were all hungry and tired and it was all we had so it had to do.
We all sat together around the table and talked and laughed hysterically for a while, bonding even more than we had in the hostel. It was hard to believe this was just our second day in Ireland and already we were rapidly becoming close friends.
I ended my day with a video chat with my family. The time difference was extremely jarring. It was dark here, but only about three in the afternoon at home. Still, I am grateful for the time difference. I do the bulk of my traveling about (usually without Wi-Fi and therefore without means of communicating) while my family is still sleeping or at work. Then, by the time I’m free to talk at the end of the day, they’re awake or getting home from work. It works extremely well, even if it is strange.
It also helps that it doesn’t get dark here until 11 at night. There’s so much time to see and explore and do before nightfall.
Classes begin Tuesday with an introductory lecture and the equivalent of a syllabus day, and I could not be more excited to be attending this university in this place I’ve only ever dreamed about.