Though this fact probably reflects poorly on my research methods, a little over a year ago when Trina and Dell informed me that I would be studying in Galway one of my first sources of “information” on the city was the song “Galway Bay.” Despite the surprising fact that the song does not provide too much insight into life in Galway, it did inspire me to move into my current apartment overlooking Galway Bay. When I look directly down from my third floor window I see the Corrib River rather than concrete and just beyond that I see the bay. Since moving into my current apartment I have watched many a moon rise over Cladagh and everyday I see the sun go down on Galway Bay. Knowing that just outside my window there is a scenic horizon and tourists taking pictures makes it infinitely easer to get out of bed in the morning. I do not look forward to contrasting these mornings with the weather and landscape that await me in Boston next fall.
I have also grown to love other aspects of life in Galway in addition to my idyllic living situation. For starters, I am now a regular at several local establishments. And I am not even using establishments as a euphemism for rowdy pubs. When I walk into several of the local coffee houses I do not even have to place an order anymore. And though I have not performed the requisite statistical inference procedures to verify this (do not fault me for trying to provide evidence of attending my economics classes), I am fairly certain that I receive larger portions at my regular lunch spot.
I have also managed to travel a great deal since my last reflection. I recently visited Holland, Belgium, Germany, and France and will jet off to the Czech Republic and Latvia shortly. In the process of experiencing such a diverse range of cultures I have gained a new appreciation for art and exploring the museums in the various cities I have visited has been one of the highlights of the year. Although I would not characterize my newfound appreciation for art as anything more than simple and unrefined, my visit to the Musee d’Orsay motivated me to begin reading about Impressionism and I even have a few favorite artists now. My undergraduate course in sculpting also paid dividends on a recent trip to the Rodin Museum in Paris.
Although I have broadened my horizons in countless ways this year by experiencing some of what Europe has to offer, I have also managed to have a very rewarding experience studying the Irish health care system, which is what I had hoped to accomplish when I applied for the scholarship. The Irish and British health care systems provide a great opportunity for cross-national learning despite the fact that the difficulties that exists here are very different from the primary issues in the US. The theoretical background I have gained from my electives in health economics as well as my other policy and evaluation classes will be an invaluable tool when I return home at the end of the year to pursue graduate work in health policy. Perhaps more informative, however, has been the anecdotal education that I have received through interaction with my friends and classmates. Hearing firsthand about how the Irish perceive their health care system has framed my academic research and provided a perspective that I could not have received simply by reading about it from a library in the US. As the semester starts winding down here in Galway (classes end at the end of March), I will be looking forward to seeing more of the Emerald Isle, including an upcoming trip to Belfast.