Episode 1 - A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

Hello from Galway!

I have officially been here for almost a week and have had such a smooth and welcoming transition into attending school here- despite a few travel hiccups in the beginning!

3 Things I am Grateful For:

1) My incredibly flexible and accommodating parents who uprooted their plans to get me to where I needed to be

2) Midwest connections

3) Warm socks

3 Things I have learned:

1) It is so easy for me to avoid wheat in a country that has been genetically affected by Celiac's. Go gluten-free options!

2) To walk on the left side of the sidewalk rather than the right 

3) The Irish are unapologetically welcoming and helpful

One thing I am learning very quickly is to never rely on the original plan. The only way to stay afloat is to adapt, adapt, adapt! My original plan to travel was an 8 pm direct flight from Chicago to Dublin- a flight two other girls from my university were planning on taking as well so we could all travel together. Everything after waking up that morning to find out that flight was canceled is a complete blur. I remember springing out of bed and rushing to my Dad, who immediately pulled up O'Hare flights while I called Aer Lingus to find us another route. I was lucky enough to have my roommate, Emily, with me as we panicked to shove items into our luggage. We managed to leave my house by 9:45 to arrive at O'Hare by 10:20 and rushed through security to make our connecting flight at 11:30 to fly out of Logan to Dublin to land at 4 am. Sheesh! Picture that Home Alone montage of the McCallisters rushing to their flight flailing about and you have the perfect image of Emily and I traveling. 

But there was no better feeling than the wheels of our flight finally hitting the ground in Dublin. I teared up a bit as we began to taxi on Irish ground, grateful to be in that moment and recognize all the years of work gone into getting me right where my heart needed to be.

After landing we took a bus with a few other abroad students down to Galway. We compared stories and learned that we were not alone in delayed and canceled flights and quickly bonded with them over new experiences and excitement for the next 4 months. The bus ride from Dublin to Galway was a little over two hours so I got a nap in an in and woke up just as the sun was rising over the farms we passed. Tears definitely welled a bit as we drove past farms of sheep, cattle and the greenest grass I have ever seen in January. I also most definitely woke up Emily to point out the sheep (the most attention sheep in Ireland get has got to be from the suburban city kids).

View of the sunrise from the bus

We arrived in Galway around 10 am and took a cab to campus, which is absolutely massive in comparison to my university's four buildings. I checked into my room and met my three housemates almost immediately.

Quad building of NUIG

My suitemates include a full-time first-year student at NUIG,  an international student from Sweden, and my immediate roommate who is studying at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My Irish housemate has been the greatest host as he took the three of us out to lunch that first day and took us around town. He gave a tour around campus and Galway and pointed out a few of his favorite spots as well.

Galway is right on the coast and the first days we were here we were really fortunate with the weather.

At orientation the next day I played into my family's infamous "5 Degrees of Separation" tendency and met a kid who went to high school with one of my cousins, met a girl who had family attend my high school and then met someone from my hometown and a group of his friends from a high school near me. After connecting an entirely too small world I have decidedly retired that bit for a while! Haha.

I've been in town almost every day since and absolutely love the energy and music. One night we were fortunate to run into an NUIG student who studied abroad at my university last semester who invited myself and two girls from my university out with his friends. An Irish phrase I've quickly learned is: "céad míle fáilte", which translates to: "a hundred thousand welcomes". So many of the students and locals have personified that phrase in their hospitality and willingness to help in any way possible. I have found so much generosity and genuine openness to help make us feel welcome, of which I am so grateful.

Other things:

1) On Sunday I was able to go to mass at the Galway Cathedral, which is an impressive piece of architecture inside and out. 

2) Meeting people you live 5 minutes away from back home all the way across the world is a strange but comforting experience

3) Saying you're from Chicago despite being from the suburbs still gets you in trouble even when you're 3,500+ miles away HA

Exploring this city these past few days has been so rewarding. I am in love with this experience already and cannot wait for all that is in store. I'll leave you with my roommate's Irish phrase of the week. 

Ná bí buartha. Learning to trust myself and the process.

With love from Galway,