Directly west across Ireland from Dublin is the city of Galway, a place that many people call the “cultural capital of Ireland.” Galway is the perfect mix of city and small town in the rolling green hills of the west coast making studying abroad in Galway perfect for students who want to deeply experience Irish culture. It’s a small city with a big heart, lined with cobblestone streets, filled with Tudor-style homes, and it is one if the only areas that you can still hear Gaelic spoken on the streets.
Studying Abroad in Galway
Students can take a broad spectrum of classes at the relatively large universities located in Galway, such as the National University of Ireland, Galway. The universities in Galway pride themselves in making campuses diverse in every way, from the students who attend from all over the world to professors with expertise in many subjects, and of course the hundreds of classes!
Students who study abroad in Galway will have the opportunity to take classes in history and engineering as well as many subdivisions of business, such as accounting and marketing. Galway’s universities also offer general education courses, which most students need to complete any degree program, such as history and math courses. With so many options, Galway is an ideal destination for students of almost any major.
In addition to core classes or major specific courses, service learning and arts or culture classes are a great opportunity for students studying abroad in Galway. Students might even get to volunteer in local elementary schools or take arts classes that include travel to medieval landmarks every week!
Classes in Galway are taught in English, but there are also Irish, or Gaelic, language courses. There are typically two types of classes in Ireland, lectures and seminars. Lectures can be loaded with up to 200 students, whereas seminars are closer to 30 students, boasting closer, more personal interactions with professors.
The school year in Ireland is very similar to the United States, in that it is two semesters with a winter and summer break. Students who study abroad in Galway will also get an Easter break in the spring, that can range from a few days to a whole week. Before finals, students can look forward to a study week, where there is no class or exams, which is set aside to allow students to prepare for final examinations. For most classes, grades are weighed heavily on a final written exams that take place in a large room with up to 500 students.
Life in Galway
On any given day the main street and shopping area in Galway City, called Shop Street, is rumbling with people. There are women in cafes getting lunch and groups of college students sitting outside the pubs for an afternoon drink or meal after classes, while others are walking through town on their lunch break. As a young city with students consisting of 20 percent of the population, amenities for college students are accessible and readily available. There is a wide variety of pubs with live modern music and traditional music, clubs, and cafes all in the Shop Street area for study abroad students to take advantage of.
When the weather is nice, the whole town takes advantage of it and gets outside. Students can play rugby, surf, and many other activities through the numerous clubs and societies provided through the universities. There are also plenty of students who enjoy simply lounging in the grassy areas of town, such as the Claddagh, Salt Hill, and the Spanish Arch down by the bay. When the weather is rainy, there is always a pub showing a sporting game or a cafe to grab a cup of tea between classes.
On weekends, the outside market just off of Shop Street is always busy with people buying fresh eggs and produce, clothes, and other goods. The market is an essential part of the Galway community and exemplifies Irish culture.
Rain is part of life in Ireland, especially along the West coast. To outsiders, the rain can be hard to get used to, but the Irish don't let it bother them. Like they say, “do as the Irish do,” so conquer the rain with a good pair of wellies and a rain jacket.
Costs & Affordability
In general, study abroad programs in Galway are slightly cheaper than Dublin, and programs in other major cities in neighboring countries, such as London. Program costs can vary depending on if housing, university tuition, and other accommodation extras are included. Universities in Galway tend to have tuition on the lower end of the spectrum for Ireland, but will have a slight increase for science and engineering courses, due to the course set up.
The cost of living in Galway is slightly lower than in most larger cities, especially when it comes to rent. Those who study abroad in Galway will be able to go out for a meal at an average restaurant for about $14, and get a coffee for $3 or a beer for $5. Most housing options will include a kitchen, so buying groceries instead of eating out will be the cheaper way to go. Budgeting around $200 to $300 a month for food and $400 a month for accommodation is an appropriate budget for students planning to study abroad in Galway, but individual differences and spending habits should be factored in too.
As far as entertainment, pubs do not have an entry fee and most clubs will, but usually no more than $10. There is a lot of open space to explore for free while studying abroad in Galway, such as Burren and Connemara. Bus transportation is quite affordable in ireland; city to city buses can range from $5 to $25 for one-way tickets.
Accommodation & Visas
Some universities have on-campus accommodation for study abroad students, but most students will not live on-campus. However, there are usually multiple student apartment options within walking distance of university campuses. Students will be able to choose between living with other study abroad students, Irish students, or a combination of the two. Since there is a large student population in Galway, the main form of housing available is student apartments. However, you can also find homestay accommodation in and around the city too.
Before studying abroad in Galway, Americans will not have to get a visa. Instead they will have to register with the Garda National Immigration Bureau, GNIB, upon arrival. Within the first month in Ireland, students must get a GNIB card from the GNIB office located in Galway. To get this card, students must have a letter and ID card from an Irish university, proof of sufficient funds, health insurance, and their passport. To receive the card, there is a 300 Euro charge and students must keep the card with them at all times, especially for re-entry into Ireland if they leave. The card lasts up to a year, but if students plan to stay longer it can very simply renewed.
Benefits & Challenges
Full Immersion. The Irish way of life is right at the fingertips of any study abroad student in Galway. There are numerous festivals that call Galway home, and two of the best national parks in Ireland are right next door. International students will be able to see into the past while studying abroad in Galway, as traditional life remains alive and prominent in everyday life.
The Weather. Part of getting a real feel for Irish culture is accepting the dark, dreary, wet weather. Those who study abroad in Galway are not going to have as many sunny days as students who study in the Mediterranean, but it’s surprisingly easy to adjust to the heavy rain. Luckily, the nice, easygoing nature of the locals helps students forget about the wind and persistent rain quickly.