My year in Wild Atlantic Galway

By Salomé Boucher (2015)

Galway is the capital city of Connemara, a region along Ireland’s West Coast, ‘The Wild Atlantic Way’. Connemara seems to perfectly fit our stereotypes of Ireland: green grass, lakes and sheep. However, after having spent the first year of my Master’s there as an Erasmus student, and truly considering Galway as my home, I discovered it was so much more than pastures. I found a country whose history and culture have captivated me ever since.

International students at the National University of Ireland Galway can choose from a wide range of lectures and seminars. As a student of English and the Anglophone World, I attended lectures in Irish literature, Irish medieval and contemporary history, Irish culture, Women’s Studies and translation in order to truly study the country’s culture and make the most of my time abroad. These diverse topics led me to write a dissertation on the role of Irish women in the Easter Rising and the Irish War of Independence that followed.

Illustration billet échange Salomé BOUCHER

Life in Galway and on Campus was an equally important and enriching part of my experience. When I first I arrived, I was a little disappointed in the campus, but I quickly learned that living in Galway would give me endless opportunities. Pictures of the University only show the old building, called the ‘Quadrangle’ because of its medieval castle-like shape, and I was expecting to study in Harry Potter-like scenery. While the rest of the campus was not like the ‘Quadrangle’, it had plenty of other advantages. I discovered places I enjoyed to study, met friends in the College Bar and, after the Society Day that was organised during the first week, joined the International Society, which held events for international students and home students who wanted to meet people from different countries. I also practised modern dance, salsa and yoga, tried boxing and kayaked on the river that runs through the city.

The atmosphere in Galway was both peaceful and exciting. While it is one of Ireland’s main cities, it often felt like a small village. After having lived there for three months, I could not leave my house without bumping into someone I knew. Yet, I always found something to do, even if it was just going for a walk through the city centre and listening to the many bands playing in the streets. As an Erasmus student I also wanted to travel as much as possible. Around Galway and Connemara, the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands are typical destinations, and definitely worth a visit.

Galway is a beautiful and welcoming city. The city and the region are great for tourists. But, for me, Galway has always meant an opportunity for my studies and just a wonderful place to live.

Chichester

By Valentine Oliviero (2015)

“Tom, he was a piper’s son, he learnt to play when he was young,
And all the tune that he could play, was ‘over the hills and far away’.”
(nursery rhyme)

Why travel abroad? Why go somewhere where you may be completely lost and unable to communicate with others? As a student with the option of going on an Erasmus exchange, these are the questions you have to ask yourself. My instinct was to take the plunge and try to make this experience happen. It was worth it. The year I spent in Chichester, England gave me so much, personally and culturally, that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

My year abroad gave me the opportunity to see another culture, speak another language every day and meet new people. I discovered several cities around England, enjoyed drinking tea in a café, and read The Hobbit while listening to The Lord of the Rings’s soundtrack in the park. I also joined several clubs, met other international students who became very important to me, and even watched a (real) Quidditch match! It was life, perfected.

I attended modules that I could never have imagined possible in France. I enrolled in classes on Writing for the Screen and Writing Children’s Literature, and followed lectures about Cinema and Fantasy Literature in which we studied Tolkien, Lewis Carroll and even J. K. Rowling. These normally inconceivable modules gave me the opportunity to work in completely different fields and meet teachers that had different, and sometimes striking, approaches to their subjects. The way they worked with their students contributed to an academic experience that was wholly different from what I had known up to this point.

This year was also critical for my personal development. Chichester was the first place I have ever lived alone. It was a whole new world, socially and academically. And while I loved being abroad, I also learned how much I could miss parts of my own country, even sometimes something as simple as the bread.

I am worried that I cannot fully explain my experience. It is necessary to live abroad to understand it. And everyone that goes abroad encounters the same problems – the challenge of explaining such a unique experience and the surprising difficulty of going back home. After a year that changed me so profoundly, both personally and in terms of how I see my work, I will never be the same.