Hi, my name is Jamie Selwood, and I’m a Film Studies student! From August 2023 to May 2024 I was on my year abroad in the city of Galway, Ireland. The city is often referred to as The City of Tribes because “Tribes” (merchant families) led the city in its Hiberno-Norman period. It has even been referred to as the “Bilingual Capital of Ireland”, due to its reputation for being associated with the Irish language, music, and culture. If I were to recommend any city in Ireland to visit I would recommend Galway above all others; the culture and the community are unlike anything I have experienced before. In my blog post, I want to describe some highlights from my two semesters in Galway, detailing my amazing time in this stunning city.

Some highlights of my first semester!

My first semester abroad was a whirlwind! I arrived in Galway in late August and left early December, and the time absolutely flew by. When I arrived I felt very overwhelmed, but I’m so grateful that I had a parent to fly out with me and help me get to grips with things. I arrived a week before university was due to start, and spent that time exploring the city and trying to become familiar with my new home for the next year. I have always loved walking and being active, so I explored the city by foot, learning how to walk from my accommodation to the university and the city. My walk to both led me along the River Corrib, the large river running through Galway from which the city takes its name: “Gaillimh”, meaning stony. I’ve attached a picture below, and I believe it is one of the prettiest things in Galway. On weekend mornings it would be full of rowers and various boats sailing up and down it, and everyday I would see various wildlife like ducks, geese, and swans floating down it. The river opens up into Galway Bay, a stunning sea front with sandy beaches and coffee shops.

When selecting my modules for my first semester I aimed to try subjects I had never had the chance of studying, so alongside various film studies modules I chose a beginners Latin module, and an English lit module about sex, sexuality, and race. I also got involved with the filmmaking module, something I have not been able to try at Southampton as we only focus on theory rather than practical. I loved these modules, and really feel that they expanded my understanding of what I have already learned on my degree.

The Rugby World Cup

Before I came to Ireland, the only sport I was really into was soccer. It was always on the TV growing up, and my family is not really a fan of anything else. However being in Ireland during the Rugby WC inspired a love for the sport. The passion, the fast-paced nature of it, the community. I understood it quickly and, as my friends would tell you, got incredibly into it. Below is a photo of me and a group of friends watching the game.

The Macnas Halloween Parade

Every year around Halloween a local theatre group called Macnas put on a huge parade, with large floats which are vaguely spooky. My favourites were a float made out of iron bars with actors singing and playing instruments while acting like they were in a jazz bar, and a huge puppet modelled as an old creepy woman with blinking eyes and moveable limbs. The picture below absolutely does not do the craftmanship of this parade justice, but I was so entranced by the beauty of the parade I only managed to take one photo!

Coldvember

In the month of November every year the Galway Rape Crisis Charity put on Coldvember to raise money. Coldvember takes place the whole of November, and essentially you go to Salthill very early in the morning and swim in the sea, every morning of November! I and some friends managed to get down there on the final day of November, and I can only say that I’m sorry I wasn’t able to participate throughout the month! The outside temperature was around 3 degrees Celsius, and the temperature of the sea was 8 degrees Celsius. It was invigorating, and has inspired me to look into cold water swimming! The photo below is us after the swim, looking a little chilly.

Christmas

The small time I spent in Galway during the Christmas season was stunning, and I’m still sad I had to leave in December as early as I did to work back at home. The Christmas markets opened 1st of November and stayed up till mid-January, and they were absolutely beautiful. The decorations and displays, the ferris wheels, and the beer tents were some of the highlights. Once again the photo I took really doesn’t do it justice, and I would 100% recommend a trip to Galway during Christmas time!

Some highlights from my second semester!

I arrived back from the winter holidays the night before second semester started, and felt so excited but nervous to enter into my final period of learning in this amazing city. I couldn’t believe the first semester had gone so quick, and made a point to try to fit in as much as possible in my final months in Galway. A new semester meant new modules, and alongside the various film modules available to me I selected another English lit module, a programming module, and a music module! I loved my modules this semester, and taking a risk and selecting experimental modules really paid off as I think I preferred this semester over the last one! I felt so much more settled in and was familiar with the university and the city.

Amsterdam

In my first semester me and two of my friends decided to book a trip to a country we had all never been to in the weekend of our first semester! We wanted to begin the year trying a new experience, hopefully setting the tone for a 2024 full of exploration and adventure! We decided to go to Amsterdam, flying out from Dublin airport and staying in a hostel, something I had also never done before, just outside of the main Amsterdam city. I adored it! We visited various markets and museums, went on a riverboat tour, and tried out various restaurants in the city. We had an amazing weekend, and I definitely want to go back to Holland at some point!

My First Trip To Dublin!

In March my parents and I arranged to meet in Dublin! I had never been for any  long period of time, and my parents had only been very briefly when they were younger. We were only there for one whole day, but I absolutely adored exploring the city, so much so that I took myself on a solo trip to Dublin a month later! We began the morning by doing probably one of the most popular and stereotypical tourist attractions, the Guinness factory. It was rather educational, but the best part was the sky bar, a bar serving all Guinness products sitting atop the factory, with a view of the whole of Dublin. The factory itself had a lot of interesting and educational sections, and the tour was not too busy so we could move at our own pace. Maybe not the best idea to have a pint at 11 am, but it was incredibly fun! Next, we made our way to Trinity College for The Book of Kells experience. My favourite part of this tour was the old library, in which an art installation named ‘Gaia’ was displayed. At this point of the day the sun had come out, and walking around such a historic campus as Trinity in the lovely weather was amazing. A special part of the exhibition was the 15th-century Brian Boru harp, the oldest surviving Irish harp, which was displayed in the library. Outside of Trinity we started our food tour of Dublin, sampling various iconic dishes from iconic locations in Dublin. My favourite place we visited was The Old Storehouse, a pub in Temple Bar, which had an amazing lamb stew. It was an amazing way to explore the city, especially as I find the best way to get to know a country or a city is through food. Finally, we took a trip to the cinema! As a film lover, I had always wanted to visit The Light House Cinema, both because it is a well-known cinema and because its sister cinema Pálás is in Galway. It was a stunning cinema, and a great experience to tick off my bucket list.

I loved Dublin, and visiting it with my parents felt incredibly special. Still, I personally prefer Galway as a city 😉

A Trip To Achill Island, Mayo

A month before university learning was supposed to end, me and my friends decided we wanted to go on a short trip away during the reading week before the start of exams. We chose to go to Achill, an Island within County Mayo. We rented a small cottage in the hills and decided to spend the week relaxing, going to the beach, and playing board games. On our way to Achill, we drove through Mayo, visiting Westport and Newport and exploring interesting places along the way. I had never been to Mayo and thought that the towns we stopped in were beautiful, with busy streets and interesting shop fronts. It was very fun exploring new towns with my friends who had been there before, and being able to recommend restaurants and shops. Arriving at the cottage we were met with a picturesque setting in the mountains with a clear view of the sea. The cottage itself had a small kitchen, living room with a fireplace, and 2 bathrooms along with the bedrooms. It felt so homey and intimate and was the perfect thing to relax us after the packed anxiety-filled semester.

While in Achill we explored the area, going to the beach, visiting Achill’s smallest pub, and exploring the shops and restaurants around town. We also relaxed indoors, watching movies, reading, playing football, and cooking for each other. It was amazing to spend a week with no responsibilities in such a beautiful part of Ireland, especially in a county I hadn’t visited before. I really want to revisit Ireland again in the future, especially Mayo!

My reflections

Looking back on my time in Galway I am so grateful for the amazing people I met there. I felt so embraced and supported by the student community around me, helping me to develop into a more confident and outgoing person than I was before my year abroad. My year away taught me more about independence and time management, the heavy workload forcing me to finally get a hang of scheduling and time organisation. It was no walk in the park, and I feel that I dedicated myself equally to university life and my social life. I met some of the kindest people I have ever met and visited some of the most interesting and stunning places I have ever been. If you are lucky enough to be travelling to Galway for your time abroad, I am so jealous and excited for you. I recommend throwing yourself into the community there, as there is so much to experience.

The City of Tribes: Galway and My Year Abroad

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