If you’re reading this, you probably live here. Maybe you’re a leaving cycle student, doubting that the college closest to home is far enough away. Maybe you’re already neck-deep in a degree and losing faith in the place. Don’t worry. The article isn’t going to beg you to stay. It won’t meander on about the famous old Claddagh or glorify the old person stench of certain local well-established taprooms. These are no more than an outsider’s observations on a town he chose to study in.
I know for certain that even if there were a university in Kilkenny town, it wouldn’t have been within an ass’s roar of my CAO choices. Fortunately for the world, Kilkenny town still awaits its university, so here I am, a third year NUIG English and Media Studies student on my first work placement.
I’ve heard it too many times - young natives of townlands and cities across the country, Galway included, echoing; “I can’t wait to get out of this place.” Maybe how often I’ve heard this idea is a scathing indication on the life of the young Irish person. Maybe every generation says that.
What can be said for certain is that an outsider’s perspective is valuable here. This sentiment, this longing for greener pastures is one I’m more than familiar with. It’s one I’ve experienced first-hand. The truth is that that there’s no such thing as a greener pasture. Every city has its slickers, (almost ) every album has that song to skip, every bog has its standards. And as far as bogs go, you could do a lot worse than this one.
You could define Galway by its history – both ancient and ever-contemporary. You could define it by its scenery – my hometown is landlocked, please do not take the Prom for granted. You could even define it by its nightlife – whether that night is wine, song or plant-based. But, what you should define Galway (and everywhere else ) by, is its townsfolk.
I may be young, and I know I risk accusations of naivety from members of the old guard, but the people of this city are the without doubt what separates it as different. I’ve been here since September 2019. Six months of first year flashed by without anyone noticing before it happened. But it is honestly a major part of why I think Galway is worth our faith. The vast majority of the time I’ve lived here has been under the influence of it, and because of that, I believe I’ve seen enough to know that this place has something quietly beautiful at its core.
The COVID pandemic has made us as young adults ask questions of ourselves. Our isolation, for many, has turned us to introspection – what do we actually want from life? What do we value in a friend? What are the things that make us genuinely happy? – and when you remove the distraction of regular socialising and school, these questions can snowball into greater questions surrounding the self. It’s been a sort of terrifying thing.
And yet, even this known pessimist has found answers in this town. Keep your eyes and ears open for them – they’re found in people, in moments; moments of unexpected generosity, moments of musical mayhem, moments of youth and growth volatility and calm. Trust me, a walk can do a lot when it’s through an 800-year-old settlement and ends over Galway Bay.