Galway Girl

Without a doubt, one of the highlights of your gap semester will be the time you spend exploring your new surroundings.  Examples of your host country’s culture are waiting to be found around every corner!

Molly spent a semester at the University College Cork.  Here’s a post from her study abroad blog, describing some of her favorite aspects of Irish culture, and how she discovered them during a weekend trip to Galway.

Study Abroad Gap Year Program in Cork, Ireland - Galway




Last weekend, Jocelyn, Katie and I took a bus to Galway for a weekend away from Cork. Galway was one of my favorite places I had been the last time I came to Ireland (during a family vacation), and that held to be true this time as well. I think the reason I love it so much is not because of the city itself, but because of the feeling that the city gives to anyone who visits.

As soon as we got off the bus, the girls and I grabbed a map. Looking like complete tourists, we held the map two inches from our faces at each street corner, looking for our hostel. An 8-minute walk (according to Google maps) took about 35 minutes, but finally we made it to the hostel and dropped our bags off. We immediately headed for the city center, and although we had no specific plans, we knew we’d find adventure wherever we went.

First, we explored the city a bit. We walked the streets, window shopped, found a church to go to for Sunday Mass, and eventually made our way down to the river, where we saw the Spanish Arch and the Galway Museum. Free admission meant we were going in! Inside, there were artifacts from when JFK visited Ireland, tricycles from the 1800’s, letters from soldiers in WWII, and Irish fishing boats called carachs. I was surprised to learn that people started settling in Ireland about 9,000 years ago, and started using the hide-covered boats soon after. Once again, I became aware of a sense of time. I tend to think that the signing of the Declaration of Independence, or the Civil War, or even the existence of the Beatles as being a long time ago. But 9,000 years. That’s a long time. The Irish have such a rich history; such a tragic history, really. Looking at the carachs, I pictured the fisherman carrying them up the beach after a long day at sea, and it made America’s history seem so young. We wandered a bit more, looking at old pictures and artifacts, and decided soon after to leave.

Study Abroad Gap Year Program in Cork, Ireland - Tea TimeWith no plans, we went where the roads lead us, and stumbled upon a tea shop. It was overcast and chilly, so we decided to go in for a nice cup of tea. As soon as we entered, I was immediately amazed and tickled with delight. The place looked like it came out of an English movie, and I half-expected the queen to stroll through at any time. Mostly, it reminded me of the tea parties we used to have at my Nana’s house, with all the special and unique teacups that everyone got to choose from–I always chose the teal one. Our tea came, and the three of us sat for about two hours, having wonderful conversation and appreciating how nice it was to not have a schedule, and to come and go as we pleased. The three of us also realized in that time why people here use the word ‘lovely’ so often…there was no other word to describe a place like this.

The next day, again, with no plans, we headed back into the city. Because it was Saturday, there were people in the streets playing music, ranging from accordian soloists to five part bands. For hours, we walked through the streets, going in and out of shops, and stopping at every performer we could find. We clapped and sang along if we knew the words, and just listened if we didn’t. The thing that struck me most about the musicians was that no one was doing it for fame or money. Of course, people were throwing change into their guitar cases and they weren’t turning it away, but it seemed to me that most of them were playing for pure enjoyment.

Galway is a city with meaning, depth and history. Music literally flowed through the streets. I’ll always remember my visit there–in just one weekend, I got to take in so much of the spirit of Ireland!
Study Abroad Gap Year Program in Cork, Ireland - Galway

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