By Alice O’Donnell
Water bottles in room
Seriously, this is my golden rule. It doesn’t sound like much, but the relief in waking up with a, er, slight headache in the morning, and need only stretch out your arm to grab some water is indescribable. No matter if you’re staying in digs or Corrib, sometimes serious dehydration is preferable to the prospect of having to face your flatmates. I keep two bottles on the go, and refill them when needed, so there’s always at least one full at any time. A lifesaver, I promise you.
Timetable on phone
Despite my phone being glued to my hand 24/7, it took me a good few months to transfer my timetable to my phone. Instead, every time I needed to check my timetable, I had to rummage through my backpack to grab my planner. It was only when I saw a girl unlock her iPhone to view her timetable wallpaper, did I realise that there existed such a 21st Century hack. Better yet, you can type up your timetable, meaning that any changes in Semester 2 can be simply edited in.
There are a lot of lovely things about Galway, but most of the time, the weather is not one of them. It rains – a lot. There will be many times in the next year when you’ll see friends’ Instagram stories involving sunny afternoons in Dublin, while you sit soaked to the skin on a steaming bus. While, unfortunately, you cannot control the weather, you can control how wet you get. An umbrella is brilliant, as the mini ones fit in the bottom of your bag and don’t add much weight- yet provide a shelter in any sudden downpour. Dunnes, M&S and Debenhams all sell collapsible umbrellas for €15 or less.
The SU Shop
The Students’ Union shop, located under the library, opposite the Bialann cafeteria, is one of the handiest places on campus to know about. Open from 8am to 9pm weekdays, it is like that one aunt you can turn to, no matter how bad things get. From pens to sweets to shampoo, no matter what emergency you might have, the SU Shop can help. It also sells Terry’s Chocolate Oranges for the cheapest price I’ve even seen, which is a massive plus.
Side door into Arts Millennium Building
Maybe it’s only me that took an insane amount of time to realise that there’s a side door on the Arts Millennium Building. Okay, maybe not one of the most revolutionary things, but it is handy to know. If you use the University entrance on the Lower Newcastle Road, it’s on the left-hand side of the Arts Millennium Building. I can’t tell you how many mornings I walked through heavy rain (with an umbrella!), passing such an obvious entrance. Save yourself the hassle.
I discovered the Temple Café shamefully late into the year. Located next to Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop (check that out too!), it seems unassuming from the outside, yet inside is a quirky fun café. Reasonably priced, its menu is full of a mix of healthy options and boasts an impressive selection of vegan and vegetarian dishes and treats. As if that’s not all good enough, the café
gives part of their profit to charities like COPE and the Galway Simon Community, so you’ll not just be helping your healthy, but the community too. What’s not to love?
It was only when researching this article that I discovered it is in fact called the Salmon Weir Bridge, and not just The Bridge. This bridge links NUI Galway to the city, and, no matter what hour you’re on it, is always packed full of a mixture of students, locals and tourists. The most impressive thing about the bridge is how, despite the fact the paths are clearly only wide enough for single file, people will still walk side by side. In what suddenly becomes a gauntlet run, for the next 100 metres or so, you have to dodge shoulders while trying not to get clipped by cars. An extreme sport in itself.
Yes, he/she really does exist. The stumpy pigeon seems ageless (I haven’t talked to anyone who can remember NUI Galway without the pigeon) and, at this stage, is fully integrated into Galway lore. For the first month of college, I assumed it was a stuffed toy or something, but no, the Smokey’s pigeon is a breathing, flying pigeon who graces Smokey’s Café, in the concourse. I firmly believe you can’t call yourself a student of NUI Galway if you haven’t tried taking a photo of the Smokey’s pigeon pecking around at least once.
First year is intense in a lot of ways, but it’s also full of great times. You meet so many new people, grow up so much and will have so much fun. Although obviously it’s important to keep up with study, experiencing the social aspect of NUI Galway is also just as vital. Join clubs and societies, participate in classes, explore Galway. There’s so much on offer here, you only have to reach out and take it.