Something in undergrad that I was very conscious of, but not too proud of, was my tendency to get caught up in whatever I had going on at school and forget to take part in the world around me. Undergraduates at Penn would joke that we would get stuck in the “Penn Bubble” and not explore the city around us. This year, however, I have made it a point to better balance my time doing work with the opportunities beautiful Ireland has to offer. From going on runs around Galway, exploring the quaint stores on Shoppe Street, taking bus tours to Connemarra and the Cliffs of Moher, or visiting fellow Mitchells in Cork and Dublin, I have taken every opportunity to get to know Ireland beyond just my studies.
One Saturday afternoon, after finishing up an essay, I was looking for things to explore in Galway as a study break. It was a (surprisingly) very sunny day and since Azza and I have taken up leisurely bike riding since moving to Galway, I decided to look for interesting sites on Google Maps to take a ride to. Usually, I bike along the River Corrib or the promenade lining the Galway coast because of the beautiful scenes they offer. Never did it occur to me (before this), however, that the River Corrib that runs into Galway Bay must stem from a pretty large source of water. Thus, this time I decided to scroll North instead of South on Google Maps and found that there was a HUGE Lough (pronounced “Lock”) just several kilometers north of campus – the largest Lough in the Republic of Ireland, in fact!
Azza and I promptly hopped on our bikes to go explore this newfound realization. To get there, we rode through all of the greatest parts of Galway — we began in city center, passed through NUIG’s campus, rode past sheep farms and rock quarries, and finally ended up at the Lough’s edge. Not knowing that this Lough was even here just an hour before, Azza and I were both blown away by its beauty and the fact that something so gorgeous was just on the doorstep of our city. Experiences and explorations like this make me so grateful for Ireland and everything it has to offer. Though a small country (about the same size as Indiana), Ireland has a lot of breathtaking places to explore.