June 21, 2017: NUIG, the Place for Me

Today was just as jam-packed as the last few days have been. Aisling picked us up around 9 a.m. to get to campus for our Induction Day activities.

I got my first cup of European coffee (finally!) at this adorable little café on the concourse called Smokey’s. It’s run by a few French women and the mocha was amazing.

The day then began in the Kirwan Theatre of the Arts and Sciences building on NUIG’s campus where we listened to the keynote address, delivered by Dr. Louis De Paor. Ash called him King Louie, and I understand why. For one thing, the guy had the most flowing hair I have ever seen on a male human. I’m talking golden blonde, curly, and down past his shoulders. For another, his lecture was rousing and reminded me why I chose to study here in Ireland as opposed to anywhere else: the rich cultural history and the stories. He went over time on his lecture a little bit, but I didn’t really mind. It stirred me and reinstated my excitement and determination to make the absolute most of this trip.

I had a short break after that and then went for my first introductory lecture for my Representing Ireland in Literature and Film class. My professor for that class looks a lot like Indiana Jones, and he informed us that we actually have 3 other professors besides him. All of them are highly educated and accomplished doctorates, and I am looking forward to learning from them. He also gave us a bundle of required reading that I’m not sure I’ll actually get through while I’m here. There’s just too much to do to have a moment to sit down and read for classes, so I may have to be a bad student and skim before lecture. The good thing is the class is normally lecture style and instead of tests, we have 2 1500 word essays, which I can crank out in a little under 2 hours if I really put my mind to it.

After class, I followed the crowd downstairs to the little cafeteria for lunch. I got another sub sandwich, and I’m starting to wonder if I’m just going to turn into meat encased in a baguette from how many sandwiches I’ve eaten in the last few days. I sat with the rest of my friends from ISA–I really wanted to get to know them better, seeing as we will be living together and studying together this whole time.

I went to Creative Writing after that in the D’Arcy Thompson Theatre. The first thing that struck me when I sat down was how small the class was. I guess I envisioned many more people would sign up for a creative writing class in the world’s cultural hub for storytelling. I was pleasantly surprised to find it was far more intimate than that. The second thing that struck me was the professor. We are being taught by a man named Kevin Higgins, a flamboyant eccentric who bears a striking resemblance to Barry Manilow.

The third and most important thing that struck me, though not until the introductory lecture had begun, was how much I was in my element. This had been what I was waiting for. I came to Ireland to be inspired and to write, and this was my chance. Class was to be a bona fide workshop where we could test our work, receive constructive criticism, and work on our major projects, like novels or, in my case, a screenplay. Mr. Higgins was incredibly kind and funny, and I immediately fell in love with his class and the idea of writing a little bit every day in Ireland. I’m hoping to get his advice and continue to talk writing and life with him after I finish the program here.

I left class feeling bubbly and uplifted, which was perfect. I had a chance to sit down and write my first assignment out by hand, another thing I hadn’t gotten to do in months (if not longer). By then, it was time to meet the group and walk over to the student center, Sult, for our welcome reception.

The student center here is insane. It’s essentially a pub. They serve food and alcohol and are open for students to visit during the day between and after classes. Upon arrival, we were presented two drink vouchers, good for a free pint, a glass of wine, or a soda at the reception. I got a drink called Orchard Thieves, which is essentially apple juice. It’s actually fairly good (though I only drank about half the one).

I sat with the group you see pictured above from ISA and finally felt like I got close to them. We laughed hard, met students from other American universities, and cemented friendships that had been tentatively brewing since we arrived in Galway.

They served us finger food, potato wedges and tiny sausages, and there was a traditional Irish dance demo for us to participate in. It reminded me a lot of the Tarantella. Olivia, the former Irish dancer, put the rest of our group to shame.

After the reception, a group of us decided to go grab some groceries so we could have food for the month. We walked to Aldi, and Casey had the brilliant idea of borrowing the shopping cart to get our stuff back to Gort na Coiribe. At first, Hallie and I sort of laughed it off, but we soon discovered she was not only serious, but also fully intended to pay for and push said cart.

(Side note: The Aldi’s here makes you put in €2 to rent the cart. That’s absurd.)

We must have looked absolutely ridiculous pushing that overloaded shopping cart down the road and back to our apartment. But there was simply no other way to get all our groceries back, especially when all of us bought cases of water and fresh produce. It was certainly an adventure, just as exciting as I’m sure bringing the damn thing back to the store and getting Casey her €2 back will be.

From there, Hallie decided to cook chicken goujons (which we found out just means tenders and does not allude to something sinister, like chicken gizzards). Everything was fine until the oven decided to rain hellfire upon the poor, unsuspecting chicken. They burned after just 7 minutes of the 16 minute cooking time, turned to shriveled, black pucks. Most exciting, two of our smoke alarms went off, screaming at us for a solid minute before calming down. If nothing else, all this just solidified how much I love these girls and how excited I am to be on this journey with them.

I had a shower and went to bed early after that. Classes officially have begun, and despite being here for school, I’m having an incredible time and making some lasting memories. Sláinte!

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