Generic Update

Hello again, world, and yes, I know – long time no see.

While I know that writing a blog regularly is (or should be) just a matter of discipline, I have a feeling that trying to update weekly was a bit ambitious with everything that’s going on. In short, I won’t make any further promises as to how frequently I’ll post, except that I will make a serious effort to doing it a bit more often over the next few months. Speaking of which, I woke up a few days ago suddenly realising that one month of the four I’ll be here is gone already!

Honestly, it’s hard to keep track of everything that’s been happening since the last time I posted, so consider this a more generic update of my stay in Galway so far. I’ll probably get into more detail on some of these later (hopefully).

The Classes

Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way first – although I’d hardly consider many of my classes boring so far. 🙂 After a last-minute scramble on my first day, I’ve cobbled together a timetable, though it required some changes from my initial plans. As a result, I’m now taking six classes this semester, each worth 5 ECTS and consisting of two hours of classes a week, usually. Because of scheduling conflicts, I decided to cut out any planned English courses – with the unusual result that I’m now an English student in Galway, studying everything but English. But since all of my subjects abroad are in my ‘free room’ (which I can fill up with whatever I choose), this isn’t a problem. So in absence of any English courses, I’m doing a lot of stuff from History and Celtic Civilisation, namely:

  • Early & Medieval History of the Celts
  • Society & Social Institutions of the Celts
  • The Stories of Medieval Wales
  • Medieval Ireland, 5th to 9th century
  • Social History of Ireland, 1850 – 1922
  • Irish for Beginners

Long story short: I’m definitely enjoying most of the courses here. ^^ Gaining some greater insight into Irish/Celtic history and culture was one of the reasons I was interested in studying in Ireland in the first place and trust me, I’ve been getting A LOT of that – in fact, as much as I’m liking it here, I have the sneaking suspicion I’ll be a little sick of talking about tuadha, honour-prices, and rí’s and raths by the end of my stay. I’ve only had two classes of Irish for Beginners thus far, but as I suspected earlier, to say that the Irish language is a challenge is an understatement. The tongue-twisters don’t end there, as on top of the confusing Irish terms, I also get my healthy dose of slightly-less-confusing-but-equally-unpronounceable Welsh names twice a week, during Stories of Medieval Wales (seriously, who could forget such names as Pwyll, Lord of Dyfed, Rhiannon and Arawn, from the world of Annwfen?).

Those points are all meant in good fun, however, since I do really like the classes so far. 🙂 I think Early & Medieval History – and Social Institutions of the Celts are particularly interesting, in no small part thanks to one of the wonderful teachers (for my fellow English students – think Anita. 😉 ) The same goes for Medieval Ireland.

Though I feel like Utrecht is still the more beautiful university, there’s no doubt that the campus and services in general of NUI Galway are excellent, and everything well-managed. There’s also a huge amount of societies* you can join here, offering everything from Drama to Dancing and Anime to Accounting (not to mention all the sports), which is something virtually absent from universities from the Netherlands. Plus, the uni’s only a 15-minute walk from my appartment in Corrib Village – and that’s definitely a different experience than the 1,5 hour by train I’m used to! So all in all, I’d say the ‘student’-part of my student-life is well taken care of. 🙂

*Fun fact: one of the guys from the International Student Society that I signed up with had studied in the Netherlands last year – in Utrecht! (He also instantly knew I was Dutch – does that say something about my accent or his perceptiveness?)

And everything else

But what about the rest?

Theres so much (potentially) to tell, it’s hard to find a way to start, but no summary would ever do justice to my experience in Galway thus far without mentioning the people: undoubtedly the most valuable experience I’ll take away from Ireland is the sheer wealth of different people that I’ve come to meet over the last few weeks, from such a wide array of countries, universities and studies and walks of life. I’ve noticed that the past month, a bit of a ‘group’ (what’s a better word for it? Since we’re in Ireland, shall we stick with ‘clan’?) has been forming among international students, slightly divided between the Europeans (all united under Erasmus) and the other nationalities (such as the Americans), though obviously there’s a lot of mixing going on as well. Particularly thanks to means like Facebook, it’s been easy to organise some events together and even if we each tend to be further split up among our own group of friends, I still feel like there’s a wider sense of community between all the foreigners – so much so, that (to my great embarassment) I haven’t actually met all that many Irish students yet!

I might get more in-depth about some of my friends here later, but my immediate circle mostly consists of my house mates, Jan (from Poland) and Uwe (from Germany), and a few others, most of them staying in Corrib Village as well. There’s been quite a bit of partying (by my standards anyway 😛 ), but whether we’re spending time out in Galway or at home, it’s always fun. 🙂 Oh, and for the beer-drinkers among you, I’ve tried Guinness, but I personally wouldn’t recommend it. I’ve also tried some Polish vodka, however, which I do.

Those that are following me on Facebook will already know this, but we’ve also taken two trips, both guided tours, one to the Cliffs of Moher and the other to Connemara and both totally awesome. The cliffs themselves were spectacular, but it wasn’t so much the destination as the journey: credit has to be given to the busdrivers on both tours, who shared a lot of interesting facts and history as they pointed out the sights, and were often hilarious to boot. Below you’ll find some of the sights in questios. Likewise, Connemara was an incredibly beautiful place with an absolutely stunning landscape and some interesting spots, like an old friary, and ending with the impressive Kylemore Abbey.

As I find wordpress to be a bit of a bitch when it comes to uploading pictures, here’s the gallery of the two tours and assorted pictures. I think the only thing left for me to say is, slán go foill! (“Bye for now!”) Hope everyone else back home is having a good time as well and here’s to the next few months of my stay in Galway!

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Change

For the past week, as I moved across countries, explored a city entirely new to me,  met new people, checked out a different university and settled into a new home (for the time being), I was wondering how best to start this little journal I hope to be keeping over the next few months. Today I realised that the best way to sum up my experience so far was simply: change.

Change in country, change in language, change in university, change in people, change in climate, change of housing and change in me. Hell, there’s even the inordinate amount of small change currently in my wallet. And don’t get me started on the ever-changing Irish weather.

Yes, Ireland. I’ve currently moved from my humble home in the Netherlands to my humbler home in Galway, Ireland, as part of Utrecht University’s exchange programme with NUI Galway. For a semester, I hope (more on that later) to take a variety of subjects here on English, Celtic and History, in addition to the BA in English I’ve been taking in Utrecht for the past two years. Though I cannot make any ironclad promises, I will try to update this blog at least every week: more often, and I can’t guarantee my entries will remain particularly interesting (if at all); any less, and I’d be unsure whether I’ll have the time or discipline to keep it going. But enough with the introductions! Without further ado, let’s get to my actual experiences in Ireland over these first 7 days!

A journey of a thousand miles… Well, more like a few hundred.

After being dropped off and saying good-bye to my family, my flight to Dublin departed from Schiphol Airport at 9:30. There’s little of note to say about this part of the trip except two things.

1) I’m getting increasingly frustrated with the ridiculous safety measures at airports: aside from the usual checks of being searched, checking the baggage and presenting ID, etc., I couldn’t even take a regular (not a large) bottle of water with me on the flight – after buying it from a store beyond the security check! Forget bringing your own fluids, now you can’t even take a normal container with you. If we are that much in danger of having our planes hijacked/blown up, they might as well just strap in and gag all the passengers for good measure.

And 2) I have developed a fear of flying. Having flown little throughout my life, I had never encountered any issues with it so far. Last year, however, a flight back from London must’ve left a minor trauma. Not only was the plane shaking considerably all the way back to Rotterdam, but not too long after take-of, there was a huge lurch. Not a little bump, but more like the kind that presses you into your seat and gives you the impression that the plane is crashing. Obviously, the plane recovered, but the more disturbing thing was the fact that the pilot never said anything about it, nor why it was shaking that much. The attendants were all smiles, but they looked more like the kind to keep the passengers from panicking while the engines burn or something. As you can imagine, I was not too thrilled about flying again and what little turbulence we experienced on our way to Dublin didn’t help. So yeah. Not looking forward to that part of the way back.

Luckily, the plane landed perfectly safe, and (after a minor scare over my suitcases, which took a long time to arrive), I stepped outside on Irish soil, greeted by something I would be getting intimately familiar with over the next few days (and probably months): streaming rain.

Dublin Airport and the start of a new chapter. After arriving in Ireland, this quote sprang to mind: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

I thought Dublin Airport had a pretty well-ordered lay-out. Nonetheless, I had some trouble finding the busstation for my ride to Galway, but then I came across that other famous Irish trait: a very friendly attendant came up to me almost immediately and showed me the way. Although I’ve only been here a week, so far, I can confirm that the Irish are all very kind people. At about 12:20, the bus departed for Galway.

What followed was an approximately 3,5 hour journey across Ireland, which (while not particularly stunning) was still quite beautiful. Again, I hate to bring up all the cliché’s first, but Ireland really is very green: it’s not just the rolling hills and fields, but all the trees and grass just seem somewhat more lush and verdant compared to the Netherlands and other places I’ve been to. It undoubtedly has everything to do with the weather, which turned from dry to wet and back again in a manner of minutes on the road. I finally arrived in Galway around 16:00 and cabs were already standing by. A few minutes later, I was at my student residence in Corrib Village, where I’ll be staying for the semester, the first arrival of my apartment.

View from my room shortly after arrival. Is there any more fitting way to start my stay in Ireland? 🙂

Getting unpacked and settled in took quite some time, and while I had no problem getting to the Galway city centre to get a bite to eat (The Cellar Bar is a pretty good restaurant, by the way, if you’re looking for something a little cheap), thanks to a convenient bus service that unfortunately only ran until the end of summer. Getting back without it was a different story, which meant that I immediately enjoyed my first time getting lost at Galway at night (it wouldn’t be the last time). With some help from the local citizens, however, I found my way back eventually and tucked in for the night after a very long day.

What came after…

Since this first entry is getting rather lengthy, I won’t go into details about the rest of the week right now, but suffice it to say, that there’s been plenty to do and a lot more of it in the future. In short, over the past week I have:

  • taken some time to explore the NUI Galway campus on Tuesday (which is huge, I will definitely get more in-depth on this one later)
  • still got lost on campus the following day for the library introduction session (I hope that impresses upon you the size of the campus, not my poor navigational skills 😉 )
  • met my roommates! (whom I’ll introduce a little bit, as long as they’re okay with that 🙂 )
  • met a lot of other Erasmus students! (Germans, Germans everywhere!)
  • had my Orientation (for international students) and Advisory (for our subjects) sessions on Thursday and Friday. Information overload.
  • went out with some of my new international friends (and subsequently got lost again late at night, but this time I can pin the blame on the other two I was with 😉 )
  • checked out Galway a bit over the week, both on my own and on a city tour on Sunday, and learned a bit about its history
  • finally figured out my timetable and the classes I’m going to take this semester (again, more on that next time)
  • had my first History lecture on Medieval Ireland. ^^

As I’ve said, there’s a lot more to tell, so keeping with the saying, “a picture says more than a thousand words”, I’ll just end this first blog entry with some of the sights I’ve seen in Galway. 🙂 Hopefully, until next week!

All those banners make me think of Game of Thrones. XD I’ve now realised that these banners are the family sigils of 12 merchant families that once held a lot of power in Galway.

The river Corrib.

Galway Cathedral, not very far from Corrib Village.

Outside the Quadrangle Building.

River Corrib again.

Galway Cathedral from the other side of the river.

Close to the harbour.