Erin Koontz is the Assistant Director of Student Services for Interstudy and the ISA Site Specialist for Ireland. She works with students studying in Galway, Dublin, Limerick and Cork.
While studying abroad is a fantastic way to learn about a new culture and experience a new way of life, it can sometimes be difficult for students to progress from your “tourist” status to the coveted role of “honorary local.” Students often come to the National University of Ireland, Galway, in search of that traditional Irish experience only available in a small but vibrant university town like Galway. Really, though, the best way to make that tourist-to-townie transition a reality is to get get involved.
Luckily, NUI Galway makes this easy for study abroad students. All you have to do is remember to take advantage of the opportunities around you! Here’s a little help:
1. Volunteer Opportunities through Student Life – NUI Galway has a program called ALIVE, which helps ISA and other study abroad students find volunteering opportunities for a Semester or Academic Year term. This allows you to work alongside locals, and strengthens your connection to Irish life. Opportunities are available in many sectors, including education, elder-care, social justice, environmental conservation, animal rights and culture.
2. Earn Academic Credit through a Service Learning Course – Visiting students can also enroll in NUI Galway’s Literacy and Learning in the Community, a Service Learning course. In addition to attending academic lectures, students participate in weekly seminars and 20+ hours of service in local community homework clubs. This course offers a great opportunity to learn about literacy acquisition and the Irish educational system, while at the same time applying newly learned skills to your work with the schoolchildren.