NUI Galway welcomes large numbers of international students every year, and as Pamela Bump found out, this year is no different…
“I was really nervous. I had never been away from home for so long… I think the biggest fear is really being on your own,” said Cynthia Phan, a visiting student from the United States who recently arrived in Galway to study abroad.
Every year, NUI Galway hosts international students, like Miss Phan, from different countries in their Visiting Students, Erasmus, Undergraduate and Postgraduate Programs.
According to NUI Galway’s International Students’ site; “NUI Galway has a strong international focus, with long established research and student exchange links with universities throughout the world.”
While preparing to make the trip abroad, students such as Miss Phan had chosen to study at NUI Galway for a variety of different reasons. Miss Phan explained; “I chose Ireland because I knew I wanted to go to Europe. Ireland was one of the countries that were best for my major.”
“I had also heard that it was the most cultural place in Ireland,” she explained, adding that she liked how the town was a good combination of both, “city and scenery, which is great for self-reflection.”
Katherine Obudzinski an International Student, added similarly about choosing the University for its Programme. Miss Obudzinski, who had studied abroad as an undergrad, explained that she was now part of a programme called “Atlanta Bridge,” which sent her to Ireland to study Medicine as a postgraduate student.
Both Miss Phan and Miss Obduzinski mentioned that they had only a few similar nerves. “I didn’t know anyone, but I expected it to be interesting,” Miss Obudzinski shared, while Miss Phan noted, “I didn’t really know anyone before coming here.”
Miss Phan added that since arriving she has met many people in class and around campus. She has also joined both clubs and societies. One way students have transitioned to both living in Ireland and NUI Galway, is by joining societies and clubs.
Eimhin McElvoy, Vice Auditor of the International Students Society, explained that “The international students are great although it’s early days yet; they all seem extremely enthusiastic and excited about the society, the university, Galway, Ireland and Irish people in general.
“Although many have complained to me already about the weather and food but there is always the pub I tell them,” he said.
Mr McElvoy also shared that this semester; the ISS gained over 650 new members. After holding over 1200 members after the previous spring semester, it is now considered one of the biggest societies on campus.
He also noted that it is not too late for students to get involved with the society this semester; “You can join up to the society over the NUI Galway Societies page or join the Facebook page NUI Galway International Student Society 2013-2014 and come along to one of our events.”
Brendan Fitzsimons, last year’s outgoing secretary of the ISS added; “People who’ve been abroad know what it is like to be a stranger in a new college, let alone a new country and by working with the ISS we hope to help international students coming to Galway have as good an experience here as they can.
Getting to know new and different cultures, as well being able to show international students around your own country is great experience and from the feedback we got last year, it was well received by our visiting students.”
McElvoy added that with the growing amounts of International students; “The challenge to bring them together is daunting but we have a great committee who have all done exchange programmes themselves…
“The feedback from International students has been great, who otherwise would be a fairly fragmented community on campus and end up sinking back into the comfort of their national comfort zones – a mistake all too easily made while on exchange.”
Mr McElvoy shared advice for visiting students to make the most of their period studying abroad as he concluded that; “Your time as an international student will go by in the blink of an eye.
“What seems like months away now is fast approaching so make the most of your time as an international student in Galway.”
Miss Phan shared that she was embracing cultural differences in Ireland; “People might say, ‘This is weird,’ but things aren’t weird here, they’re just different. Like our registration process compared to theirs. It isn’t weird here, it’s different. You have to just go with the flow.”