Galway Travel Blog› entry 1 of 2 › view all entries
I arrived at Galway Airport to find a cool breeze and a sunny sky. After a summer of blazing heat, drought, dead & dying plants in the hot and sticky southern U.S., and longer hours at work than I care to admit to, I knew things were off to a great start.
The purpose of my trip to Ireland was to visit our study abroad exchange partner, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT), see how our three students were getting along, and see if our exchange with GMIT had the potential to not only continue, but expand as well.
While I had visited Ireland before 20 years ago, almost to the day, I was unprepared for the hustle & bustle of the place. Unlike the Ireland of the past, the cars were nearly all new, and the roads outside of the cities were now filled with cars rather than sheep! Clearly, the Celtic Tiger is for real, and I was also amazed to hear almost every kind of European language being spoken not only by tourists, but by students, waiters, cab drivers, etc.
What I like about Galway is that while it is indeed a somewhat touristy in places this hasn't sucked the authentic life out of the place partly because, it has a creative energy of its own, largely due to all the university students who are there, and who seem to be the dominant demographic throughout the town. While there are larger cities in Europe with bigger downtowns, Galway seems to hold its own for arts, music, and a surprising night life.
The GMIT main campus is on the edge of town, and is a surprisingly compact campus. International students (many from Europe) are very consipcuous and seem to really be enjoying their experience at Galway. I found that our Western Carolina Unversity exchange student, Josh, also really seemed to be happy there, and even though he hadn't been there more than 3 weeks already wants to look into extending his semester studying business there to one full academic year.
On Oct. 2nd, I hopped a bus to the GMIT Castlebar Campus to visit our two students on exchange, Beau & Phillip, who are studying there for a year on the Outdoor Education Program. Castlebar is considerably smaller than Galway, but the pubs and restaurants I went to were equally good as those in Gallway, and the students there are within striking distance of Achill Island, and other great outdoor hot spots on the west coast of Ireland.
I also got to meet some of the faculty & staff there at Castlebar and they truly love what they do. Not only do they get to work with students to learn outdoor skills like sea kyaking, wind surfing, surfing, rock climbing, etc., but they also get to share their love of Ireland in all its cultural and natural richness. When I met Beau & Phillip, it was clear that they were really into it, and could not believe that they had already been there over a month.
After a short overnight in Castlebar, I returned to GMIT in Galway to meet with faculty in the Business School, as well as faculty in the Fine Arts, Film Production, and Heritage Programs. What was so satisfying about this day was the feeling of genuine energy coming out of these programs, as well as the realization that our partnership with these departments at GMIT could certainly grow because of our common interests and vision for our universities.
So in sum, while it may have been more entertaining on a superficial level to play the role of the mindless tourist flying out to the Aran Islands, the Connemara, or hundreds of other equally spectacular places, it was really rewarding to meet some of the faculty & students at the core of the palpable creative energy of GMIT and Western Ireland in general.