Journals from National University of Ireland in Galway
2012-01-22 Greetings from Galway
Out and about during our first week.
I want to take the opportunity on this calm Sunday afternoon to share some thoughts on my arrival in Ireland and my initial settling-down experiences here. Later this evening, I'll probably go to Tesco for my groceries for the week, and maybe later still I'll go to a pub or two. For the moment it's quiet here and I almost feel I have the flat to myself. It's a good time to try to paint a (brief, hopelessly incomplete) picture of the last twenty days.
First there were three flights, each of them long, boring, and hard on my back, but they were also such an experience. There was this moment, for instance, as we left Chicago: out my plane window a meniscus of clouds stretched to the edges of a world of sunshine, and I felt so strongly that Tolkien was right when he wrote in The Lord of the Rings that “above all shadows rides the sun and stars forever dwell.” I haven’t seen the sun much this entire winter, but in the sky it feels like summer… gorgeous. It was a good feeling to carry with me as I stepped into a foreign country.
We landed in Shannon at last, got through Customs at a little after six-thirty or so, and took a bus to Galway. The sun doesn’t rise here until after 8 am in the winter, so I watched it shake off the grey dregs of dawn as best I could with a head too heavy to lift from the back of my seat.
Once in Galway, I had the shock of discovering that it is cold here — not cold temperature-wise, but because of the wind. It is a very, very chilling wind. I walked into a cold apartment, full of heaters I didn’t know how to work and windows that whistled in the wind (and let in quite a draft), and wondered how I was going to manage to be warm at all. I bought bed sheets and a duvet and a softy fluffy fleece blanket (most of us in the apartment have one; they’re marvelous), and as it turns out, the heaters were simply recalcitrant and needed a bit of prodding, and now it’s plenty warm. Now I sleep on the duvet, and even with the heat off, the fluffy blanket seems to be enough with my alpaca blanket from home.
I live with three other people, one from Linfield and two both from another college, and I really enjoy having them around. In the evenings, we gather in the living room to watch American shows (Big Bang Theory, That '70s Show) and talk while we each cook our dinners. Sometimes we go out in the evenings and other nights we gather with the people from our neighboring flats, and during the day we often shop together or explore different parts of the city. Even though we've only been flatmates for just about three weeks, I think we've all grown accustomed to our new, brief shared time with each other.
Tomorrow, I will join the rest of the international students in the registration process and formally declare which classes I intend to take. Navigating how the system works has sometimes been difficult, and I know all of us will be glad to have things arranged at last. I've had my classes picked out (more or less) for almost a week now, but even so, I've appreciated the opportunity to 'shop' for the classes I want by attending lectures without committing to them. While NUIG certainly has a different feel from Linfield, the campus is fairly small and not too difficult to navigate (an important feature for a woman like me who manages to get lost in Galway's straightforward downtown area on a daily basis), the lecturers are friendly and helpful, and everything starts to feel a bit more like home once you go to classes. I look forward to settling into the routine of being a student again – while still leaving time for adventures, of course – and I look forward to sharing more about both aspects of my life here.