All around the world, college students find ways to blow off some steam after a long week of dry lectures and musty textbooks. Finding the biggest bash on Greek row, hitting the club with friends, or participating in club events are just some of the ways that students enjoy their reprieve. The National University of Ireland in Galway (NUIG) is no different.
Not only do students at NUIG have the option of joining fifty different sports teams, which they refer to as “clubs,” but there are over sixty special interest societies that range from the Astronomy Society to Trad Soc (Traditional Music Society) to the Potter Society. Upon arriving in Galway, we international students were advised that joining a club or society is the best way to meet people and make friends; given the breadth of available options, it is not surprising that this is the case.
Even off campus, there is a thriving social life. The two main hubs of activity are the dorm complexes and the city center, which have similar college nightlife to the United States. However, the big difference in Ireland is not how they party, it is when they party. When I think of the biggest party nights, I think Friday and Saturday: if you’re lucky enough to not have class on Friday, then maybe even Thursday night.
In Ireland, though, most students go home over the weekend. What with Ireland being such a small country, students’ homes are generally within a two-hour radius; even those who live further travel home to see their families every few weeks. This being the case, they have to get their partying done during the week.
The social calendar of NUIG students unfolds between Sunday night and Thursday night, with those being the busiest nights. Even having been warned of this calendar-shift, I was surprised our first Sunday here when at 4am, there were still people trickling past the bedroom window on their way home from the pubs. Granted, it was the first week back for Irish students after their holidays and they had to break in the new semester with some good craic (pronounced “crack” and meaning “fun and good times”).
My first experience of the Galway nightlife was the evening of the first day of classes. My Irish flatmate took my roommate and me, along with a bunch of other Americans, out to introduce us to the scene. Being used to St. Paul, where everything shuts down around 9 p.m., I was amazed that at 11 p.m., there were college students everywhere in the city center looking for some fun. Though Galway is a small city, the fact that a significant percentage of the population is made up of students means that there are plenty of places to socialize; many businesses even stay open late to cater to the young people.
Barhopping is the trend, we found out, with people leaving one establishment as it closes and heading to the next joint. Luckily my flatmate knew the best places to go, and everyone had a great night of laughter, music, and dancing. It is interesting to note that the dancers at each pub we visited were principally made up of my group and a few other American girls. Apparently Irish girls do not dance as much, because everyone who came up to us or walked by knew we were American and found us quite entertaining.
Although much of the music we heard that night can be found on the U.S. charts, and the idea of a fun-filled night out can be found on any American college campus, my experience abroad is continually showing me how similar cultures can be incredibly diverse in the simplest of ways.