One of the main issues that I see abroad is that Americans only become friends with other Americans. This issue is not isolated to Americans in Ireland; I think its thematic for international students everywhere because of comfort and shared experiences. However, I would encourage any Georgetown student studying at NUI Galway to push themselves to make friends with Irish students because they have a completely different perspective and insight on their own country.
Joining clubs has really helped me foster relationships with Irish students. I decided to join the NUIG Sailing club because I also sail at Georgetown. Sailing at Georgetown, however, is extremely intense; we have 2-hour practices 4 days a week in addition to 2 strength and conditioning sessions and regattas on weekends. Even though a sport at Georgetown is like have a full-time job, I was prepared to give this same level of commitment to the NUIG Sailing Team. Only later did I realize that the NUIG Sailing Team is often less concerned with technicalities and more concerned with having fun on the water.
For example, when I went to my first NUIG Sailing practice, I walked into the marina pretty nervous. I knew I was capable of sailing with this group, but I still wanted to make a good first impression. Fast forward an hour, I was bobbing on the Corribb River, laughing with my sailing partner, and enjoying the incredible scenery, hardly worried about the execution of the drills. Practice the first day literally ended when one of the sailors hollered across the water, “Hey, can we head in and order some pizza?” So, that’s exactly what we did… we sailed back to the marina and ordered some pizza.
One of my favorite memories on the sailing team is our first regatta in Dingle, Ireland. Dingle is about a 4-hour drive from Galway, so the team packed into people’s cars and road-tripped to our destination. For the competition, our team of 23 NUIG sailors rented a house for 2 days, and we had the best time living together. Since I was the only American who decided to go to this competition, this was a great opportunity to form relationships with Irish students. Dingle was not only one of my favorite weekends in Ireland, but honestly one of my favorite weekends in college overall.
This sailing adventure is not specific to sailing; actually, most sports have weekends away with their team. Because of the strong relationships that I built during that trip, in addition to the incredible fun that I had, I would really encourage any Georgetown student at NUIG to join a club and commit themselves to it. What I mean by that is– go to every practice, go to every social outing, and most definitely go to the overnight events. You are only abroad for a couple of months, so you really have to immerse yourself in order to expedite relationships. Committing myself to the NUIG Sailing Team has taught me that the more you put into an experience, the more you will get out of it, and I cannot wait to spend more time with my newfound group of friends.