“Why the hell did you choose to study abroad in Ireland?” That is a question I am frequently asked about the journey that has changed my life. I had next to no expectations for my trip other than the fact that I was going to drink Guinness and kiss the Blarney Stone (which I didn't even end up doing).
I didn't even study in Dublin, the only city in Ireland I knew about before I went. I stayed in Galway. For all I knew, Galway was going to be what I imagined the rest of Ireland to be like: rich green mountains, never-ending stone walls and maybe a pub or two every few blocks.
Galway is mostly flat. The stone walls stop about four miles before the city, and there are 10 to 20 pubs on every block. I was utterly unimpressed when I visited Dublin. All I wanted was to go home to my tiny apartment in Galway with my newly made friends. Here are eight reasons Galway is the most underrated city in the world:
1. Its inhabitants are the people are the nicest in the world.
Since I was going to a pub on any night of the week, I made several new friends. On our first night there, these three guys gave my friend and I a bucket list of things to do with our time there. After a few drinks, they walked us home to make sure we got back safely. I figured I had gotten lucky after meeting such sweet people on my first night, but boy was I wrong.
A week later, we met a guy who ended up driving us to go biking in the mountains. Another day, a guy saw me limping home because I twisted my ankle, and he offered to drive me home. In America, this would be seen as a creepy thing to do and a possible death sentence, but in Galway, it's a genuine gesture.
2. The accents are wonderful.
English accents? Please. Talk about overrated. The beauty of an Irish accent blows English accents out of the water. Hearing the men — and women, for that matter — talk caused me to swoon like never before.
3. People go to cafes by day and pubs by night.
Thirsty and craving a bite? Great. There is a delicious cafe on every single block. Getting a cappuccino and a scone or quiche became a daily ritual, and I didn't even gain a pound from all the walking I did. Later in the day — and by that, I mean 4 pm — it's time to hit the pubs for a pint of mouth-watering beer or cider.
4. The music scene is amazing.
On the best night of my time there, my friend and I walked past a crowded pub and heard blaring music and a ton of yelling. With our curiosity churning, we couldn't help but check out what it was all about. We were immediately welcomed into the crowd who was listening to some sort of pirate-sounding music. The audience was laughing, dancing along, drinking and chanting. It was the most fun event I've ever stumbled upon.
5. The street artists are incredible.
Everywhere you turn on Shop Street, you will see musicians, obscure acts, ventriloquists and many other street performers. They're all so talented and usually attract an audience. One time, my friend and I tried our hand at street performing by forming our own pan flute band. We made about the equivalent of 10 cents.
6. You feel cultured when you use the jargon.
For example, "What's the craic?" means "What's up?" or "What's going on?" "Take the piss" means to make fun of someone. The Irish also say "Cheers" instead of "Thank you." The list goes on forever.
7. There's the Galway International Arts Festival.
The Galway International Arts Festival has tons of obscure exhibits, awesome bands and lots of drinks. They even have farmer's markets with the best doughnuts of your life. Need I say more?
8. There are silent discos at Rósín Dubh.
Once a week, Rósín Dubh (a super hipster club) hosts silent discos where you and your friends can meet awesome people while dancing with headphones on. The DJs are great, too.
Galway is by far the most underrated city. Even if you don't spend six weeks there, going for a few days is worth it. You'll easily discover what's "the craic."