Today marks my third full month in Ireland. I must say, August 10th seems like a lifetime ago. Although semester feels like it has flown by (especially as my final essay due dates creep closer), the days of scrambling around Galway trying to convince prospective landlords to rent their apartments to me despite my lack of an Irish bank account are long gone.
When I first arrived in Ireland, I created a mental list of the things I looked forward to the most about living abroad. Naturally, the prospect of visiting famous European sites and trekking through the Irish countryside excited me. I couldn’t help imagining the places I would visit and the things I would see. And, thus far, I have not been disappointed. I’ve been fortunate enough to walk to the edge of the Cliffs of Moher, hike through the Burren, enjoy a pint at one of the three pubs on Inis Oírr, and utterly lose my way trying to find Barcelona’s awe-inspiring Magic Fountain of Montjuïc (totally worth the hour of aimless wondering). But for all the time I spent focusing on the places I’d visit, I overlooked the most impactful aspect of my time abroad: the people I would meet.
Truly, the people I’ve come across and new friendships I’ve made over the past few months make the Mitchell year so special. First off, the other Mitchell Scholars are an incredible group of people. How a group of folks my age could amass such accomplishments is beyond me. Yet everyone is incredibly kind and down-to-earth. I do not know how the selection committee does it, but I could not have imagined a more fun and genuinely interesting group of people to spend a year abroad with. Be it discussing educational policy over dinner in Dublin or dancing at the Roisin Dubh to an Irish alt band whose lead singer wears a lampshade as a hat, my greatest memories of Ireland center around the time I spend with my Mitchell Family.
In addition to the Mitchell community, my classmates and professors at NUIG could not have made me feel more at home. All of my professors have been eager to take me on a sampling of the many restaurants around town or offer tips on the must-sees of Western Ireland. Although Galway is home to over 200,000 residents, it still retains a small-town feel. I can walk from my apartment on the famed Long Walk to NUIG’s campus across town in just under thirty minutes, and each time I do, I seem to run into a familiar face who insists on buying me a “cuppa tea.” Just last week, I spent an hour at a cafe overlooking the River Corrib with a professor discussing the history of Brehon Law and comparing it to traditional forms of tribal governance.
As for my classmates, I don’t think a week has gone by without someone asking a variant of, “How are you getting along in Galway?” Everyone goes out of their way to make sure I am making the best of my time in Galway and exploring everything West Ireland has to offer. With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I had a recent craving for cranberry sauce. Not homemade cranberry sauce with whole cranberries and orange zest that someone spent hours carefully concocting, but canned cranberry sauce. Something about that jiggly, artificially flavored mound tastes like the Thanksgiving season to me. Unfortunately, it’s nowhere to be found over here. One classmate, however, upon hearing about my craving, somehow found and gave me a can of cranberry sauce before my Advanced Legal Research course.
I’ve also found that one other American tradition has made its way across the Atlantic. Luckily for me, I found a group of classmates who follow the NFL almost as obsessively as I do. My Sundays are spent at Garveys Inn in Eyre Square watching my Dallas Cowboys do their best to take years off my life, consoling Galway’s resident Jets fan over Geno Smith’s most recent interception, and arguing that the read option is still a viable professional offense. Timing can be a problem as games do not kick off until 6PM over here, and the late game generally lasts until 4AM. Thankfully, the inn owner regularly lets us finish watching the day’s action long after the bar officially closes.
Here’s to many more interesting experiences over the next eight months.