I knew that I could look forward to my time in Ireland when, upon landing at Dublin’s shiny new airport, I was greeted by free luggage carts. That’s right: when moving to a new country, a free luggage cart (are you reading this, O’Hare?) is exactly what a jet-lagged passenger desires. Famed Irish friendliness at its best.
After the nearly seamless trip to Galway–made all the more comfortable by the waterproof jacket and backpack I had been advised to procure–I finally met my fellow Mitchell Scholar and flatmate, Katie Van Winkle. Katie had done an extraordinary job in finding an apartment during the preceding week (all I could do to contribute was look at classified ads online and scope out places with Google Street View), overcoming quite a bit of bureaucracy along the way. Katie wrote on Facebook earlier that week: “I cannot rent an apartment without putting down a large deposit. I have a housing stipend in check form, but I cannot deposit it until I have a bank account. I cannot open a bank account until I have an Irish address–which I won’t have until I rent an apartment.” In graph theory, we call that a cycle. How Katie solved this particular riddle is still a mystery to me.
My experiences so far in Galway have exceeded expectations. My program is interesting, with great classes and great students. The small class size means that students can really get to know each other well, whether working on class projects or over a pint in the bar. Further, I was allowed to sit in on an course titled “Irish Economic Policy” and taught by Alan Ahearne. Prof. Ahearne had just returned to Galway from Dublin, where he was a top adviser to the previous Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan. Prof. Ahearne was in the room when momentous decisions were being made about the Irish economy; his commentary really helped me make sense of the current euro zone crisis. Indeed, my coursework in Galway has made me feel like an economist for the first time.
I’ve also used my time in Galway to get involved with several clubs, including the school paper and Labour Youth. For the school paper, I wrote extensively about the October presidential election and was even able to secure an exclusive interview with Martin McGuinness, the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland and the Sinn Fein candidate for president. McGuinness supported the Mitchell Scholarship at its inception while he was Minister for Education in Northern Ireland.
But I’ve hardly been stuck in Galway. Whether traveling with a friend through Northern Ireland (thanks for letting us room with you at QUB, David), meeting and hanging out with the Mitchell Scholars over two great weekends in Dublin, meeting up with friends in London, going to an economics conference in Kilkenny, or attending the Labour Youth conference in Cork, I’ve ventured out across most of Ireland (Limerick, you’re next). A big “thank you” to Irish Rail for making travel this easy by providing rail passes. Though the accents may vary (noticeably so, for such a small country) and the crewcuts may differ, the Irish I’ve met have been kind, open, and engaging.
Stay tuned for my next post. There’s still so much to do–join a student protest in Dublin, camp out at Occupy Galway (though there are ominous signs that the Galway City Council will be kicking the occupiers out soon), write up more hard-hitting news stories for the school paper, and visit Limerick, the Aran Islands, the Burren, and the Cliffs of Moher. Oh, and pass finals, spend winter break with family at home, and finally visit the Continent. Onward ho to new adventures!