University of Wisconsin–Madison

A Student’s Survival Guide to Galway

Wow, a whole semester has gone by in a flash. I finished the fall semester with many hours of studying and writing and then I spent two weeks with my family back in the States. It was a short two weeks, but it was great to spend the holidays among friends and family. Now my sights are set on the new semester, and in the spirit of another round at NUI-Galway, this post will be the top ten tips for international students studying in Galway.

  1. Prepare for the weather: This may seem pretty obvious, but you would be surprised at how many people are surprised by Galway’s weather. It rains quite a bit and, more likely than not, you will be living at least 10 minutes away from the university. You will need at least some variety of waterproof shoes, whether these are fashionable boots or good old-fashioned “wellies”. There is nothing worse than sitting through a day’s worth of lectures in wet shoes. It does not get as cold here as it does in the Midwest, but it is damp and cool, especially in the winter, so pack accordingly.
  2. Look for housing early and diligently: There is a housing crisis in Ireland and it is particularly bad in Galway. With Galway being a big student town, there is not enough housing and the quality of that housing can be hit or miss. I got lucky, I found a house that I share with two other girls, but other students are not as lucky. You need to start looking for housing as soon as you get accepted into the program and continue looking. Ask for help from the accommodations office and look at all your options. Never send money through wireless transfer or through the mail. Every year, students are victims of housing scams in Galway and international students are particularly vulnerable.
  3. Get involved: There are many student organizations and clubs at NUIG and one of the best ways to meet people is to get involved. Many international students find it hard to connect to other students, especially if you come to Galway for the Spring semester. Shop around for clubs or organizations that interest you and try them out. You are bound to find people that share the same passions and interests as you.
  4. Before the first day of class explore the campus: NUIG is not a particularly large campus, but it can be difficult to find your way around the first week of class. There are campus tours during orientation, but even if you opt out of the group tour, look for your classes in advance because some can be difficult to find.
  5. Get your student visa as indicated at orientation: 300 euros is not an unsubstantial fee for a poor college student, but don’t think you can skip the process of obtaining your visa. Any student studying for longer than three months must register with the GNIB. So, even semester students must get a visa after given a temporary permission to stay in the country at passport control.
  6. Attend class and study: This may also seem obvious, but many students don’t attend class as much as they should. It may not seem important early on in the semester, but since many classes have only a final exam or a final essay to determine your grade, it is important to start studying early on. You don’t want to be caught at the end of the term with a whole semester worth of material to learn.
  7. Your backpack is your friend: I take my backpack that I bring on weekend trips when I go grocery shopping. Ireland has a bag tax, so you will pay for any bags you need at the grocery store. Plus, carrying groceries across town in fragile plastic, or even canvas, bags can be a game of luck. I have an Osprey Porter backpack (40L). It is a front-loading pack, which is great for using as a carry-on and for the various trips that I take. It also makes my trips to the grocery store relatively painless. It can handle the weight of heavy groceries and I don’t have to deal mishaps associated with plastic or canvas bags.
  8. Keep in contact with your family: It’s easy to get caught up in life, but make sure to keep in touch with family. They worry about you and miss you, make sure you check in to tell them how things are going.
  9. Explore Ireland: It’s easy to get caught up in visiting the rest of Europe and forget to travel around Ireland. Ireland is a beautiful country with a rich history, make sure to spend some time exploring the country that will become your new home.
  10. Take advantage of every opportunity: The semester will fly by faster than you think. Appreciate every moment and don’t miss an opportunity to enrich your time abroad. Be safe, have fun, make connections, and make your time abroad a college experience you will never forget.