Green with Envy – #studyabroad in Ireland

By Kaitlyn NolanAPI Grenoble Peer Mentor

When I arrived at college, I had already made the decision to study abroad and that I would spend my semester in Ireland. I visited the country for the first time I was 15 and fell in love. As I’m of obvious Irish descent (hello, Kaitlyn Nolan anyone?), Ireland seemed like the most natural fit. But then an API representative came to my French class second semester freshman year and introduced me to Grenoble. I knew right then and there that I was going to spend my semester in France.

I spent my sophomore spring break traveling around Ireland with a class and this reinforced my decision to spend my spring semester junior year in France. I felt that France would provide the challenge I was seeking in terms of language acquisition and cultural immersion. However, when fall semester junior year rolled around, I was in panic mode as I looked at Facebook photos of friends in Ireland. Was I making the wrong choice? Should I be going back to my mother country where I belong, and would clearly fit in?

In the end, I stuck with my decision to go to Grenoble and never looked back. At the end of my semester, I spent ten days traveling around Ireland which confirmed that my decision to study in France was the right one. This was my third time in Ireland and I was comfortable. I knew my way around and spoke the language. With my dark, wavy hair, light eyes, and even lighter skin, I easily assimilated into the crowd around me. Ireland was safe and even though it is my favorite place in the world, it wasn’t the right place for my one semester abroad.

However, I just spent spring break in Ireland working as the teaching assistant for the class that I traveled with sophomore year. As I wandered through the grounds of Trinity College in Dublin, I was kicking myself for not spending a semester there. When I was NUI-Galway, I wanted to cry from jealousy as I listened to a study abroad advisor explain to my students the courses they could take that involved Irish music and culture. I left the university sad that no one (including myself) had the foresight to tell me to spend an entire year abroad and study one semester in my beloved Grenoble and another in my beautiful Ireland.

My spring break begs the question: If I were able to spend a semester in Ireland, which city (and of course, API site!) would I choose? I suppose a little comparison is in order.

Me and friend at Trinity College Dublin

• Dublin: Ireland’s capital has the cool, metropolitan vibe of a city, but also has a unique warmth. I’ve always likened the city to Boston, especially with the amount of history that has taken place within the city. You can stroll down O’Connell Street and pass the General Post Office where the 1916 Easter Rising occurred. Or, you can hike over to the neighborhood of Drumcondra and visit Croke Park, not only home to Irish sports such as hurling and gaelic football , but also the historic event of Bloody Sunday that took place during the Irish War for Independence. Dublin has a great nightlife, which can be found in the more touristy area of Temple Bar or by taking in a play at Yeats’ beloved Abbey Theatre. One also cannot forget the great shopping on Grafton Street. And last, but not least are the universities: picturesque and prestigious Trinity College, NUI Maynooth, and University College Dublin, a renowned research university.


• Galway: There’s a saying that goes that the further west one travels, the more Irish it becomes. Galway is no exception as it is a hub of Irish cultural life. One need not wander far from the city center to find plenty of plays and Irish music. The Latin Quarter boasts quaint cobblestone streets filled with shopping and pubs, such as the famous King’s Head. Galway is a much smaller city than Dublin, and one’s destination is never far. The city is also located in a perfect location with the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands only 2-3 hours away. The National University of Ireland at Galway has its own picturesque quadrangle, as well as plenty of modern buildings to fill the growing needs of its students.

View of Galway Bay

Even after my fourth visit, I still cannot say for certain which city I would choose. I have a passion for Irish history, politics, and culture and I know any of these universities would satisfy that need. But which atmosphere would be right for me? I feel going west would be the right decision, but I would love to be able to say I studied at Trinity. Maybe I would disregard both of these cities, and decide to study in Cork, a city I have never been to. Sadly, I do not actually have to make such a difficult decision as my window of opportunity to study abroad again has closed. I can only look forward to when I visit Ireland again, and maybe find my own way to stay permanently.


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