Ch. 1: Going away to Galway

“You want some good craic?”

That was my introduction to Irish slang when I first arrived in the Emerald Isle a month ago.

To the untrained ear, it sounds like a stranger’s offer to try their drugs. But, in reality, it’s the Irish way of asking if you want to take part in a fun time.

It’s experiences like those that have epitomized my first month in Ireland. I fully expected my first month abroad to be academically heavy, filled from dawn to dusk with studying for third-year courses. But the first month of school seems to be tailored toward extracurriculars, socializing, and, most importantly, domestic beer.

I must admit, it was a welcome break from the grades-focused atmosphere that I was used to at the University of Ottawa.

It seems like a dream that instead of having assignments due every week and the threat of an early October midterm, professors go a little easy during the first month and encourage you to get involved in extracurriculars and the community after you have completed your day’s work.

While it hasn’t been formalized by all the professors in Ireland, that seems to be the academic culture they’ve adopted. It offers students a chance to try out clubs and societies, and to get to know their new surroundings.  

It was a lot to take in. An average day in September for students would have them waking up late, going to class for a couple of hours, returning home for a late dinner, attending whatever societies were available that evening, and then meeting up with friends.

Similar to the U of O, it’s the societies that make up the heart of university social life, but I was unaware of just how big of a role social activities would play in everyday student life.

At the beginning of the school year, I was invited to attend the society fair. Unlike the U of O, however, the National University of Ireland in Galway has to use two large gymnasiums to fit all of the societies and clubs that want to be represented.

I was taken aback by the sheer quantity available to me. There was a world of possibilities.

The university has many of the more common societies and clubs, like debate, soccer, and political groups, but also has a ton of unique ones, like the Irish Gaelic society, fencing, a Harry Potter society, windsurfing, and countless more.

The level of funding dedicated to societies is based on membership. The more members, the more funding they would receive, so groups would walk up to me and give me their best sales pitches in hopes that I would join and get involved in their activities.

It was like walking through a busy market of opportunities and passions. Which, by the way, pretty much sums up Irish student life. The Irish stereotype of friendly outgoingness really reaches the max in university culture, so that everyone seems warm and welcoming toward those around them.

University in Ireland is definitely aimed at having some good craic!