Getting Distance on Galway

It seems hard to believe that the first semester is already over and that we’re all about to stumble into a new year here in Ireland. Currently, I’m officially in exam period, writing final papers and tying up the odds and ends of classes and projects. But in reality, I’m in Morocco visiting my college roommate and writing this post on a train from Casablanca to Fes (thanks, Mitchell travel stipend!). The weather’s been balmy, and there are palm trees everywhere. I couldn’t ask for much more.

The rolling countryside outside the train has considerably fewer sheep than I’m used to, and the distance from Ireland has allowed me to think about Galway and what my experience there has meant. Galway feels like it’s always about to flood. I mean this literally, of course. There is water everywhere. The Corrib River has risen greatly in the last few weeks and the canals all trickle down into Galway Bay. The tides bring the ocean right up to the edge of the Prom in Salthill and on windy nights, the waves rise up, soaking the passersby. All of this makes for great, cinematic views and keeps you constantly on your toes, as you need to dodge puddles.

But there’s another way that Galway seems ready to flood its banks. The place is brimming with a special energy. You feel it walking down Dominic Street on a misty night as folks practice their céilí steps at Monroe’s. You hear it as both the didgeridoo player sitting outside on Shop Street and as the musicians at the trad seisiún inside Tigh Chóilí play their hearts out. It’s the “Go on! one more pint,” and the hours and hours of conversation, many of them spent beside warm fires. It’s the students protesting their causes and causing a clamor. Whatever it is, Galwegians seem to be very present, very involved.

For me, it’s been a nice lesson. A natural planner, I easily find myself looking ahead to what’s next, and it’s easy to miss the vibrancy all around. Galway has been a great lesson in getting lost. Lost in a new language and community. Lost in the byzantine streets. Lost among the books at Charlie Byrne’s. Lost looking out over the bay to the Burren and County Clare. Lost in conversations and stories. All this is to say, Galway can feel like you’re getting swept along, always going somewhere new.

I think this has been the biggest gift that the Mitchell Scholarship has given. You have the opportunity to break with the patterns that have governed your life and to think carefully about how you structure your time. It’s a true privilege to experience all this and to do so immediately after finishing as an undergrad. As this Mitchell year starts to veer towards the beginning of the end, I hope I can stay in this mindset and not worry too much about the next step. I hope I can keep finding myself on trains going to new places and meeting new friends along the way. All right, next stop Fes. Till soon!

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