Maura Hilgar - 2014 Program Participant

National University of Ireland campus in Galway, Ireland

National University of Ireland, Galway

What attracted you to study abroad?

I have always wanted to go abroad, and college seemed like a great time to do it. I love the idea of being able to take courses, therefore achieve my educational goals, while exploring a new country and having fun.

Why did you choose ISA for your international experience?

The National University of Galway had a nice variety of courses that transferred to Rider for credit towards my English Degree, and was in a fantastic location. I chose ISA because of their attention to detail and dedication to their students. The ISA directors were a home base for me in a foreign country; I knew I could depend on them.

What was your favorite part about Galway?

The city was my absolute favorite part. Galway had the population of a large city but the feel of a village; the buildings were all different colors, there were many unique shops, restaurants, and pubs, music was on every street corner, and each cobblestone road winded down to a beautiful scenic view of the water or green land. There was always something to do and something to see.

What makes ISA’s program in Ireland unique?

Our program was unique because we had two irish locals, our directors, there to give us an insider view of Ireland. We saw urban Ireland in Dublin and the parts I've only seen on postcards, such as the Aran Islands. The courses and professors also gave me a new insight into Irish culture.

In what ways did local staff support you throughout your program?

ISA directors Dermott and Mark took us on all of our excursions and tours. They walked us through town and to the university so we would know how to get around. They truly were at our disposal, even to ask stupid questions, such as "how do we work the shower?!" (true story!).

If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?

Packed better! Rain coat, shoes that are all good for walking, and the proper adapters/converters. The best thing you can do is educate yourself on that, because half of our group came with the wrong converters. I also wished I would've done some more physical activities, because water sports were a big deal at NUIG. I've never played water polo but I wish I tried!

What was a normal day like for you as a student in Galway?

I would have class around 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., so I would wake up a bit earlier and make breakfast in our kitchen. The walk to the university was about 10 to 15 minutes, so I allotted time for that. There was a cafe area where all my friends would gather and have coffee before our courses. A lecture could run from one hour to three hours, and was different each day depending on what the professor had planned.

If I had a break between classes, I would go into town for lunch and sit by the Spanish Arch. When class was done, my friends and I would usually go out to a pub after dinner, or our directors might have an activity planned. One day it was a museum, the next day it was learning traditional Irish dancing with the locals! Things never got boring.

What did you enjoy doing on your free time?

I loved when we had free time and could simply go off exploring. Meeting locals and tasting new foods, hearing new music, and finding uncharted nooks and crannies of Galway was when I really felt the most connected to the city.

What type of accommodation did you have?

We had “apartments,” but I would call them townhouses. It was three floors, with a full kitchen, a living room, three baths, and five bedrooms. Four bedrooms were singles and I had the top floor, which was a double. The house was clean, well furnished, and comfortable.

How has studying abroad in Ireland changed you?

I feel like navigating a new country has made me more confident and independent. I also see things in a larger perspective, therefore I don't sweat the small stuff so much. There is literally a whole world out there aside from what is stressing me out at this moment. I also crave more abroad adventures!