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I did a year at University College Galway (or the National University of Ireland, Galway depending on who you ask) as an undergraduate. My University in Canada had no formal exchange program with the university, but UCG is used to foreign students (and the huge fees they have to pay) and were quite happy to accomodate me. It was largely a pleasant experience and I have largely good things to say about the college. My husband spent about a decade of his life either attending UCG (doing a BA followed by a long drawn out MA) or else pretending to attend (while secretly working on the MA) and also expresses fondness for the place though with a few qualifiers. 1: UCG has an excellent library, but it is not nearly big enough to accomodate the amount of students who wish to study/borrow books/read the books this is problematic and although the library is being enlargened and refurbished, it is likely that the library and its size will continue to be a feature of UCG for some time to come. When I attended the librarian used to police the reading desks asking suspicious people to display their cards. Small notes were also left by evil people with phrases like 'I don't go to UCG but you can't catch me' which infuriated the librarian further. You may also find that some departments like archaeology have their own libraries. 2: UCG has an excellent history department. We're talking world class here. We're talking shows Trinity and UCD the door and laughs at the them in a threatening manner. Dr. Steven Ellis is the Editor the Longman's History of Ireland and has produced some of the finest works of history in recent times on the Tudor period in Ireland. This guy knows his stuff. There is also Nicholas Canny (more Tudor Ireland) and Dabhi O'Cronin (another lovely and intelligent man, but likes his students more if they can speak Irish). 3: Accomodation is a major problem in Galway now, possibly worse than in Dublin. The
local newspaper has had to open a new office and every wednesday long lines of people crowd around the door of it just to get the accomodation list. If you're thinking of going to UCG and don't have insider knowledge on where you're going to stay, then be prepared to be sleeping on some floors, living in a hovel or paying a fortune. Not so nice. There is some University Halls type accomodation, but is largely filled with foreign students and Americans. If you try hard enough though you will find a place to stay that is not too dreadful, don't lose heart. 4: Societies are excellent here. There are tonnes of them. The Debating Society is one of the best in Ireland and is very active (and good fun). There is also an Archaeology society which goes on several field trips to interesting places throughout the year. 5: There is free internet access in the college for all students. You are also allocated an email account. 6:Beware of the Administration. Many departments are helter skeltery in terms of forms, handing in things late, attending course etc. It really depends on the lecturer. But amid the confusion you get a lot more flexibility then you would in other institutions. My husband came down to Belfast in his final year of his MA to live and quite contentedly exchanged chapters of his thesis with his supervisor for a good 9 months. My MA supervisor in Queen's University Belfast was not nearly so accomodating (but then that's because he wasn't a very nice man... really he was horrible, the stories I could tell you would make your hairs stand on end). Galway is one of the fastest growing cities in Europe, if not the fastest and University College Galway has had to keep up with that. And is doing quite well. It has added a number of new buildings since I went there, including a new students union building and some new physical education buildings (that include a pool) which really brought it into line with
other major universities. The social life is incredibly lively and there's always a good time to be had. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in UCG and with a good social life and excellent academics I'm sure sleeping on a floor isn't that bad.