Meet Amrita Sood. She's a English Secondary Education major in her junior year. She is studying at NUI in Galway, Ireland for the spring 2017 semester! We asked her a few questions about her study abroad experiences and here's how she answered!
Don't forget to check out her blog!
Gals in Galway
1. ) Since you were involved with service on campus, explain what you are doing in Galway to help the community around you.
At Susquehanna I am very actively involved in community service work. Last semester I worked at the Center for Civic Engagement, while being on the executive board for Habitat for Humanity, as well as a brother in Alpha Phi Omega, the service fraternity. It is very odd to have so much free time on my hands this semester, and I miss having such an active role in the community, but I have found ways to fulfill my passion in Galway. NUIG has an amazing volunteer program called ALIVE, which connects students to various volunteering opportunities around Ireland, and even around the world. The program allows you to find ways to serve the community by finding the best match for each individual. Currently I have only participated in smaller volunteering options, as I have spent a lot of time travelling and exploring Ireland, but I am planning on being part of the volunteer team that helps set up and run the literary festival in April. ALIVE has many opportunities that range from a semester long obligation, to one time projects, with many of them relating to the education of younger children, and I hope to take advantage of that in the future. Unfortunately, it can be a long process for visiting students to get the proper clearances to work with children, so I have been unable to participate in these opportunities so far, but I am hoping that will change in the near future.
2.) What is your favorite food so far from your study away location? (include a picture if possible)It’s really hard to pick my favorite food, as there are so many options and they’re all delicious. If I had to pick one, I would have to say tea and scones. I know that that doesn’t sound very exotic or different from home, but tea is a big part of Irish culture. The best outings are when we go out for tea, my favorite being Cupan Tae, a little tea house. Usually one will have black tea with a little milk and a plain or raisin scone with jam and butter. While I’ve eaten a lot here, I don’t think anything will measure up to a simple cup of tea.
3.) What are some noticeable differences in culture that would differ from the United States?There are a few differences that I noticed right away, which surprised me, as I didn’t really think that there would be any major differences. The biggest one is really simple; the way people walk. In America we are conditioned to walk on the right side, whether it’s up stairs, on a sidewalk, or even in a store. Here everyone just walks wherever they please, which makes everything slightly more chaotic than necessary. Another thing that has really stood out to me is the number of things that students get discounts for. Almost everywhere we go there is a discount for college students, for clothes, meals, and trips. In America I have rarely come across student discounts unless it’s for a museum.
Another big difference can be found in the times that students go out. Many students go home for the weekend, so they go out during school nights. It’s not considered odd to go out every day of the week but Friday and the weekend. This was pretty shocking to me, and it’s still hard getting used to doing everything during the week, and just staying at home on the weekends.
The Irish way of talking is also pretty blunt, especially when compared to Americans. It’s not that they’re rude, they just enjoying teasing people and saying exactly what they mean. Even though they are very blunt in their manner of speech, Irish people tend to be very friendly overall.
4. ) How does the education differ in your study away location from the US?One very big difference that I’ve noticed is how much laxer college seems here. One reason for this is definitely because I am used to a smaller college, so attendance is a requirement. At NUIG, my lectures vary from smaller classes of around fifty students to ones that have around two hundred. That means that some of my classes don’t take attendance, even when it is obvious that many students aren’t present. In fact, it is normal to not attend lectures regularly, though students will keep up with the readings on their own. In addition to this, the semester itself is shorter, with only twelve weeks of classes, with seminars lasting only ten weeks. Not only is the semester shorter, but classes only meet for two hours a week. There is no set Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule that I am so used to, instead classes are scheduled randomly. For example, one of my English lectures meets from 5-6 on Monday, and 3-4 on Tuesday. This has been one of the oddest things to get used to, I still struggle to fully remember my schedule.
Breaks here are completely different than at Susquehanna. We get Easter Break, a week for Field Trips, and then a Study Week in April, one after the other. That means that we have close to three weeks without any classes right before finals. There are no other breaks within the semester like we have at SU, but the more open class schedule makes short breaks unnecessary. Many students go home every weekend, as most of their trips home only last a couple hours each way. So many students go home every weekend that there is a cloakroom open on Fridays for students to leave suitcases and bags while they have class. Many teachers extend due dates for a few weeks at a time, as they know that assignments tend to be given all at once. In this way the education system seems to focus more on the students’ wellbeing and stress levels than on a strict schedule, but the curriculum itself is still challenging.