Ready to Go?

Spoiler alert: I was not (nor did I ever feel) ready to go home from Ireland.

If you asked me what I loved most about being in Ireland, I wouldn’t be able to give you one straight answer.  I loved getting to know the other HC students who also came to Galway.  I loved meeting new people with their various Irish/French/German/Canadian/etc. accents.  I loved taking classes outside my theatre curriculum and learning more about Irish culture.  I loved finding new theatre and choral opportunities and getting involved in the community.  I loved getting a feel for the pub scene and dancing on Shop Street with several talented performers.  I loved sitting near the Spanish Arch and relaxing by the water as seagulls and swans went about their day.  I loved every downpour of rain, and I loved every sparse sunny day when everyone in town went outside to enjoy the weather.  I loved everything there is to love about Galway, and will continue loving it even when I come back to Holy Cross.


My Final Days

For the last two weeks I was in Galway we had the incredible fortune of having beautiful, temperate sunshine.  Shop Street and Eyre Square were crowded with people walking around and running errands at all hours of the day. If there’s anything that brings Irish folks together, it’s a welcome change from the usual rain spells to an early glimpse at summer.  It was a little disappointing to be cooped up in the library studying for exams when the weather outside was so nice, but as soon as exams were over I spent as much time as I possibly could outside.

I walked to Galway Cathedral for my last mass and took a final gander around the inside, which was filled with several shrines (including one to St. Therese, my late grandmother’s Confirmation saint) and displays describing the short yet elaborate history of the cathedral.  I still find it hard to believe that such an iconic landmark is only about fifty years old!

I also took one last look at the swan that has made her home outside the cathedral.  I haven’t seen any of her babies in person, but I did get a peek at a few more eggs underneath her as she sat on her nest.  Meanwhile, her partner swan fended off some neighboring ducks and seagulls as a few passersby tossed their bread in the water for the swan.  I’ve seen other swans take people’s food, but this swan would have none of it.  I almost wish I took a video of the action, but I had so much of the city left to explore.

Galway Cathedral in the summertime.


If you look closely you can see several eggs beside the mother swan’s neck!


One of my favorite places in the city is St. Nicholas Church, the nearly 700 year-old medieval church where I rehearse and perform with the Choral Scholars during the semester.  Every weekend they host a market where local vendors can sell their homemade wares and yummy food.  You can find just about anything on the short road beside the church: from jewelry to paintings and from pottery to produce.  I bought a couple magnets of paintings of Shop Street and of the Claddagh, the area in the west end of Galway from which the famous Claddagh ring originates, and had a nice conversation with the man who painted them and handmade frames for his paintings and magnets out of scrap wood.  I would also highly recommend buying an 80¢ donut from Boychik’s Donut stand – 80¢ seems too low for a donut that is fried and covered in sugar before your eyes by one of the friendliest fellows in Galway.

A sign for the weekend market outside St. Nicholas Collegiate Church of Galway (PC: Aaron Katz).


Always a treat to see this guy on the weekends (PC: Laura Lippstone)!


After picking up a falafel meal from one of the other food carts in the market, I made my way towards the Spanish Arch.  On my way down Shop Street I couldn’t help but hear jazz music playing in the distance.  Sure enough, one of the local bars had left their doors open – inside a jazz band played some classic tunes while their audience sipped their drinks and swept their partners off their feet on the dance floor.  It was almost as if I had taken a step back in time into a 50s sock hop, and I loved it.


Lunch was well worth having by the water before I ventured further along the coast towards Salthill.  I passed by a huge flock of swans, a game of soccer, and plenty of beachgoers.  I decided to dip my toes in the water, but it was much colder than it would be back home.  It baffled me to see people actually swimming in it.  Even so, it will be hard to beat the West Coast sea breeze.

A lovely view of the water from the promenade.


Seems that summer came early in Galway!


I walked down the promenade to a park I had seen in passing when coming back to Galway after a trip, but never actually got to visit: the Circle of Life.  This is Ireland’s national commemorative garden dedicated to organ donors and their generosity.  Inside is a lovely pathway around a pond and through some greenery, with stones from all over Ireland and from all over the world.  At its epicenter lie five standing stones that all represent different symbols and stages in the journey of life.  Of course, I had to take pictures.

A welcoming rock at the entrance of the park (fáilte means “welcome” in Irish).


Entrance to the rock garden in the center of the park.


The original cornerstone from Eyre Square!


A panoramic view of the park.


You can read more about the park and download a leaflet about it here.

I had plenty of time to make it home before sunset – which began around 9:30pm – but after a solid 3+ hours of walking I wanted to pick up a snack on the way home.  So I made my way back along the coast and got a little something from a new ice cream shop that had just opened recently.  Not only did they deliver handmade ice cream all the way from Dingle (a town in County Kerry, Ireland), but they had quite a tasty assortment: from Dingle Sea Salt to Caramelized Brown Bread.  I got the chance to sample these and other flavors (the brown bread flavor was surprisingly yummy!) and bought a cone with Irish coffee and cookie flavors to enjoy in Eyre Square park.

A local treat from Murphy’s Ice Cream!


There’s always something fun to do and see around Galway, and no matter where you go or how bad the weather can get you’re bound to find great food and company as well.  I was half-expecting a good Irish thunderstorm to bid me farewell, but I’m so thankful for those final, sunny days.


My Final Thoughts

It’s been a week since I came home from Galway. While I’m happy to be home in the Florida sunshine, I’d take another day of Irish rain in a heartbeat.  I already can’t wait to come back someday.

Looking back on everything I’ve seen and experienced while studying abroad, to say that I’ve learned a lot would be a severe understatement.  Not only have I learned so much about Irish culture and history, but I’ve also learned quite a bit about living on my own in another country for about nine months.  I had to adjust to living in an apartment for the first time, attending the majority of my classes in huge lecture halls with students whom I’d rarely see around campus (much less around town), finding and having to say goodbye to new groups of friends, acclimating myself to the physical and social climate, and most especially trying to figure out what I’m going to do with my life after Holy Cross.  In other words, I faced a lot of challenges and anxiety that made junior year my toughest year at Holy Cross (or, rather, away from it).

But my time in Ireland also made it the most fulfilling.  In my very first blog post I set out a few goals that I wanted to accomplish: stretch out of my comfort zone, meet new people, try new things, see more theatre, and so on.  At the end of the semester I can honestly say that I’ve accomplished these goals to the best of my ability, and I’m proud of how much I’ve learned about myself and the Galway community.  I sincerely encourage those thinking of studying abroad to explore your options and apply during sophomore year.  Studying abroad – no matter where you go – is an experience unlike any other.


What’s Next?

As much fun as it was to live in Galway, I’m already excited to return to the Hill for senior year.  I’m also beyond excited for next week when I start a Maymester program in London!  The Maymester, called “British Theatre in Perspective”, plunges us into English art and culture and London as we explore several museums, galleries, and exhibits and watch theatrical productions all over London.  I aim to continue blogging about my experience in London and try my hand at writing theatre reviews for the shows we’ll see.  Until then, here are a few parting photos from Galway.

One of my favorite views of what’s called “The Long Walk”


So many swans!


Hello, neighbor!


Eyre Square in the evening.


Found a rainbow over one of the old structures near where I walk to class.


A painting of the Latin Quarter of Galway.


And of course, I can’t ignore the topicality of this video, which shows a good number of places in Galway that I’ve seen:


I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my travels throughout Ireland and that you continue to enjoy your summer!  Take care, everyone, and I’ll see you next semester!




Ready To Go!

Hello all!

Welcome to my blog!  My name is Alison Christovich (Ali for short), and I’ll be writing as often as I can about my adventures in one of the most beautiful cultural centers of the world: Galway, Ireland!  I will be studying at the National University of Ireland in Galway and living just 10 minutes away by foot from both campus and the center of town.  So a little bit about myself: I am a theatre major from Florida who enjoys long walks on the beach (and on campus), chocolate, avocados, taking pictures, grammar-checking, performing in shows, and singing with the College Choir and Chamber Singers.  Most of all, I love traveling, and I can’t wait to travel to Ireland for the first time!

Exciting as it all may be, I am a little nervous about leaving tonight.  I do get a little anxious when I have a lot of packing to do for a long trip — I restricted myself to only one checked bag and a carry-on! — but once I get there I’ll buy everything else I need, including my bedsheets and basic toiletries.  At the very least I have all my staples: my passport, my paperwork for the Irish Immigration Office, some cash Euros, my handy dandy travel purse, a pair of walking shoes, a pair of rain boots, and — of course — a Holy Cross rain poncho (thank you HC Bookstore for putting it on clearance!).

This trip won’t be my first rodeo though: I’ve traveled to India and Argentina by myself and with a group, and even being at Holy Cross for months at a time before coming home to Florida has been relatively easy for me.  Still, being in a foreign country for nine months will be a huge first for me.  People have asked me if I ever get homesick, but to be honest I really only get homesick before I leave home!  Thankfully, my family has been really supportive with helping me prepare for Ireland both emotionally and financially.  I won’t be alone in Ireland either: a group of about 12 of us will be in the program together, and most of us have been in communication with each other about travel plans and other trip-related questions.  I’ve also had the good fortune of being able to stay on campus for a week to sing with the Chamber Singers and staying with my cousin Ashlee in Bedford, MA.  Yesterday we ended up going to a national park in Concord, MA before having a very New England dinner: clam chowder and a lobster roll.  I’m so glad I got to see my friends  and cousin and say goodbye to them before I’m gone for the year!

Chaplain Norm Gouin directing the Chamber Singers during Mass of the Holy Spirit (that’s the back of my head on the far right).  (Photo credit: Tom Rettig)
A beautiful shot of the bridge in the national park in Concord, MA
My cousin Parker had a lot of pictures taken of him at the park!















Me outside a garden at the park. I wonder if I’ll find places like this in Galway!


One of the things I’d like to focus on in my blog is allowing readers (and myself!) to watch my progress in making this adventure I’m about to undertake a spectacular one.  With that in mind, I have a few goals I’d like to achieve over the next few months:

I have my Celtic Knot journal and bracelet ready!
  1. Stretch out of my comfort zone a lot more (which will be somewhat inevitable!)
  2. Meet new people and building relationships
  3. Try new foods, classes, and activities
  4. Find new places to spend time with friends — both in and outside the country
  5. Do and watch as much theatre as possible — both on and off campus
  6. Sing as much as I can, whether I’m with a choir or in the shower
  7. Find sources of inspiration – music, landscapes, people, etc.
  8. Write, write, write (so I can blog, blog, blog) in my new journal!


I am incredibly excited for what will unfold in the coming months and I can’t wait to share my experiences with you all!  I will be writing again as soon as I get settled in my apartment and begin orientation (which starts Thursday).  Until then, so long America!  Galway, here I come!