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Notre Dame expands presence in Ireland with Galway program

| Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Notre Dame International is giving students a chance to be their own “Galway Girl,” or “Galway Guy” if you prefer, with a new study abroad program in Galway City, Ireland. The first cohort of Fighting Irish, nine students in total, will be on the west coast of the Emerald Isle this coming fall.

“You’re blazing this comet,” Lisa Caulfield, the director of the Notre Dame Global Center at Kylemore Abbey, said to the inaugural group of students. “You guys are on this first comet into Galway.”

The Galway program immerses students directly into Irish society and culture. As in Dublin, students will take classes in the heart of a scenic Irish city and live on-campus at an Irish institution, in this case the National University of Ireland — Galway (NUIG).

“The college itself is in the city of Galway and you’re basically on the Atlantic,” Caulfield said. “When we go up to Kylemore [Abbey], if you climb the mountain behind us, you’ll be looking over the Atlantic.”

NUIG also offers classes for students in the College of Science, who have historically had fewer options for study abroad due to the limited programs that offer science courses. Students are taking advantage, with members of this group majoring in neuroscience, biology and pre-health, among other things. But besides classes, Caulfield says Ireland itself will teach the students a lot.

“You’ll learn through the soles of your feet,” Caulfield said. “You’ll be immersed with the Irish culture and the landscape, and the two are really intertwined.”

Studying in Galway will present a unique opportunity to explore the vibrant green landscape and culture of western Ireland. Cultural excursions include a “famine walk” that follows the paths of those devastated by the Great Famine, visiting a sheep farm, hiking the Aran islands and “pony trekking” on the famous Connemara ponies.

“It’s these beautiful white ponies that dot the countryside,” Caulfield said. “They’re a social and economic contribution to that area that have been there for millennia. That’s true immersion, because you’ll be riding a pony that’s been reared in Connemara.”

While the Galway study abroad program is new, the picturesque Kylemore Abbey Global Center, about 77 km outside of Galway City, has been a part of Notre Dame students‘ experiences in Ireland for the past few years. However, this will be the first time the castle will be close to a semester-long program.

“The University of Notre Dame decided to partner with these amazing women of the Benedictine order that run the beautiful Kylemore Abbey, and we have renovated 10,000 square feet of this castle space,” Caulfield said. “The University is a part of this beautiful castle, and we’re really lucky that we have this anchor out west now.”

NDI’s Dublin Global Gateway — the famous blue-doored O’Connell House — already attracts around 50 students a semester to Ireland, but Galway has its own charm, and a castle, Caulfield said.

“It’s such a dramatic landscape. It’s very different from Dublin.” Caulfield says. “I feel like Galway is actually very different from any other city, and it’s been named the European Capital of Culture for 2020, so the whole of Europe has recognized Galway for being this very cultural city.”

After doing the Ireland Inside Track, where she got to see a little bit of western Ireland and Kylemore Abbey, sophomore Jenna Koenig decided to go back for a whole semester via the new Galway program.

“In Galway, it’s really easy to feel comfortable there. It feels more intimate.” Koenig said. “I wanted to study abroad somewhere I could get to know and somewhere I could be comfortable.”

Koenig and others will be initiating the new program next fall, leading the way for other Fighting Irish to enjoy and engage in the distinct western Irish culture.

“You’re actually making history for Notre Dame,” Caulfield said to the group. “In 20 years of offering a study abroad program in Dublin, you will be the first group out west.”

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About Abigail Piper

Abby is a senior majoring in English and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She also speaks French, as long as you don't ask her something that requires the subjunctive. Primarily running on coffee, she enjoys St. Louis sports, water-skiing, running and watching/listening to/reading true crime.

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