One of the best decisions of my life was choosing to study abroad in Galway, Ireland during the spring of 2014. I had always planned to study abroad in the spring semester; the only choice left was where. It was almost unquestionably Ireland: I have ancestors from Ireland, but even before I knew that, I was more interested in Ireland than any other country.
I ended up in Galway, Ireland, a beautiful historic city on the Atlantic Ocean. Galway is very cultural and historic, and as a history major, I was in heaven. Then again, I was pretty much in heaven once I stepped foot outside the airport in Shannon. Even at the beginning of January, Ireland was green everywhere you look, lending credibility to its nickname, “The Emerald Isle.”
I studied at the National University of Ireland-Galway (NUIG), and my classes there were amazing. I took Beginning Irish, and we got to go on a weekend-long field trip to Connemara, a predominantly Irish-speaking region just outside of Galway. It was an amazing experience, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I also took a class that taught Irish dance, song and music, and our final was a performance in a pub. The school also encourages international student participation in extra curricular activities. I joined the archery club, decided I loved the sport, and now I am a member of the archery club on campus in Madison.
I made several friend while abroad, and I keep in touch with several, including one of my roommates, a couple of archery club members, and students from my classes.
One of the big advantages of being in Ireland was that nothing was more than three to four hours away by bus, less by car. You could cross it from coast to coast in under three hours, and go to the northern or southern tips in about the same amount of time, which made traveling to other cities very convenient and cheap. Being able to create a schedule where my class on Friday ended before noon made weekend trips very easy.
Not factoring in the amazing friends, classes, and trips I had in Ireland, it was still an amazing country. There is an air about it that resonated with me. The history, the culture, even the landscape touched something unnameable in me. If it wasn’t for money and family, I would have been very happy to have stayed in Ireland for as long as I could. The feeling being in Ireland evoked was and still is indescribably. There is just something about Ireland that made it hard for me to leave, and made it impossible for me to ever forget my time there.
Ireland will always have a special place in my heart and memory, and I cannot wait to return.
Abigail Miller is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in history.