By Andy Nicoletta
The first difficulty I encountered upon arrival in Ireland was the slang. In an orientation panel, the speaker asked the American visiting students whether or not we knew what the “craic” was. He quickly reassured us all that it wasn’t what we thought it was. “Craic” is a slang term for “fun” or “good time,” that is usually used in the phrase “what’s the craic?” meaning, “what’s good?” When traveling, and especially when studying abroad, it is vital to learn and properly use the local’s slang terminology in order to break down the language barrier.
Since I am only spending one semester here in Galway, Ireland, I’ve had to take a basic crash course in the culture of my Irish peers, although I have found that I’ve learned more by spending time amongst the locals and my new friends than what I was taught in orientation. Slang hasn’t been the only challenge; National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) follows the European school structure, and is vastly different from Saint Martin’s. Most classes are lectures, which are held in two one-hour sessions per week with optional tutorials held on multiple days. These tutorials provide students with a smaller class setting to get more familiar with the information. Most students also take seminar courses, which are smaller than the lectures and are more interactive. This allows for the weeks to be less class-oriented, allowing students to interact more outside of class during the week.
Because students have more time during the week for activities, most students go out to pubs and clubs during weeknights.
Karen Dunleavy, first-year NUIG student, says that “most people go home on the weekends to study or to visit their family, so everyone goes out on the weeknights.”
One popular pub that students frequent is the Quays, pronounced keys, and the King’s Head, as they both often have live music and cheap drinks. The pub scene is a main hub of student social activity, providing students with food and drink, social interaction, music, sometimes dancing, but most importantly, good company. The likelihood of entering into a random conversation upon entering a pub is quite high, as, for the most part, everyone inside is social and looking for good conversation.
Not only is it a different experience for me and other visiting students to study and live here, but it is a new experience for most of the Irish students as well. A lot of the student housing complexes mix international students with the domestic Irish students. Jacqueline Whelan, NUIG first-year student, is excited about living with Americans.
“It’s grand, it’s nice to learn about a different culture, but it’s also crazy how similar we can all be,” smiles Whelan.
Studying abroad in Ireland is not for those who despise cold weather. With near constant cloud coverage, harsh winds, and persistent rain, the weather matches the Pacific Northwest without the beautiful spring and summer. Even with this though, everyone manages to keep warm and keep good company.