William & Mary

A First-Hand Report on Study Abroad in Galway, Ireland

The Corrib River running through Galway, Ireland.

The Corrib River running through Galway, Ireland.

Annie Cox ’09 was one of 28 students participating in the July 2007 W&M study abroad program at the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG).

Students earned six credits in courses chosen from sociology (W&M Professor Kate Slevin), English (W&M Professor Thomas Heacox), and geology/ecology (NUIG faculty). The program was scheduled to coincide with Galway’s annual arts and film festivals. For more information about study abroad opportunities offered for students, visit the Reves Center website.

I was extremely excited to be studying in Ireland. It was a place and culture I’d never experienced. I would be studying something I loved, literature (I’m an English major), and something new to me, geology. I didn’t really know anyone on the program – a great opportunity to make new friends. And did I mention it’s Ireland, and not the alternative of sitting or working at home all summer?

But I was not excited about traveling. Turns out I like being in a foreign country but not actually getting there. First there’s packing. Am I taking too much, not enough? Will it meet European regulations? Will I be prepared? (The answer, a very optimistic “no.”) In the end I had my sister pack for me (I am completely serious). Then everything and everyone had to make it to the same place at the same time through air, over sea, and airports (I had a seven-hour layover in JFK airport). By the time I got to Galway I was fairly pathetic.

And you know what? It’s worth it. I don’t think I can say this without sounding cheesy, but studying and being abroad is a great opportunity. I’ve included a lot of information here about what I experienced. You can use these links to hop around:

Week 1 Excursion to Seaweed Factory and Coral Strand Beach
Week 2  |  Excursion to Dublin
Week 3  |  Excursions to Cliffs of Moher, Sligo, and the Aran Islands
Week 4  |  River Tour on “The Corrib Princess”
Things You Need to Know
The Setup

We stayed in an apartment complex called Corrib Village, which is used as dorms for first-years at the university. It’s a 10-15 minute walk to campus and a 20-30 minute walk to town. From noon to 7 p.m. every day there’s a free shuttle service to the center of town, driven by a lovely Hungarian man.

We lived 3-5 people in each apartment, and most people got their own room after some initial rearranging. I arrived in my apartment to someone moving out – so before I unpacked, I helped someone else re-pack. But in the end it all got sorted out. The apartments included kitchen utensils, plates, cutlery (but no dish or hand soap); all linens (towels, sheets, blankets), changed daily (depending on your preference or much how much housekeeping likes your group), and toilet paper (always essential).

Our class schedule was:

8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., Survey of Irish Literature
10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Joyce and Yeats Seminar or Sociology
11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Irish Geology

Classes ran Monday through Thursday, and there were field trips on every weekend except the first.

Professor Heacox taught the survey and seminar classes (the English classes), with pretty similar grading requirements: 20% class participation, 30% presentation, 50% paper (5-7 pages). The presentation involved teaching the class an assigned work, and not necessarily by yourself. I had two other people in my group, plus Professor Heacox contributed.

Professor Kate Slevin taught the Sociology class. I believe they had a presentation, paper (6 pages), interviews (they had to interview two employed people in Galway), and a final. It might sound like a lot of work, but I think taking the Sociology class really helped people understand the literature better.

Three NUIG professors taught the Geology class, and it was probably the most lax. They weren’t going to test us at all until they were told they had to give us a grade. So in the end we had two assignments: (1) a diagram of the rock cycle and (2) a “tour of Galway in stone.” The latter was an exercise showing what stones were used to construct some of Galway’s buildings – I thought it was really cool.

Our program didn’t have a meal plan with the host university. Instead, we got a weekly food stipend of 100 euros to spend however we wanted. We also got an “event” allowance of $190, which came in very handy for tickets to events at the Galway Film Festival and Galway Arts Festival going on while we were there. This budget also covered any tour or building entrance fees we had to pay for. All we had to do was get and produce receipts for reimbursement. The program paid for any group transportation (e.g., bus to Dublin), including taxis to get to the bus station, again as long as we had receipts. Moral of the story? Get (and keep) receipts.

By Annie Cox '09

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