“Hiya, Case. How’s the craic?”

Rachel Craft, Full Irish Breakfast

That’s the Irish way of saying “What’s up?” “Craic” (pronounced “crack”) means fun, “grand” means fine, and “deadly” means awesome. So a really great time might be described as “deadly craic.” And no, hard drugs are not common in this country.

I’ve spent the past month in Galway, a medium-sized city (by Irish standards) on the country’s western coast. I’m studying abroad at the National University of Ireland Galway, or NUIG, which is situated on the bank of the river Corrib and is only a 10-minute bus ride from the ocean. It’s pretty cool because NUIG students can easily participate in a water sports like rowing, kayaking, scuba, and surfing. NUIG has a huge selection of sporting clubs and “socs” (societies), which are a great way for new and visiting students to meet people. I joined the dance soc because I want to learn Irish dancing. My roommate joined the Harry Potter soc because she wants to learn Quidditch.

Galway is in a Gaeltacht area, or a place where Irish (they don’t call it Gaelic here) is still commonly spoken. All the road and building signs are bilingual, which is kind of neat. But as I discovered last week, when I had my first beginner’s Irish lecture, the Irish language is much less friendly when you’re trying to learn it. The major difficulty is the pronunciation. Irish words tend to have a lot of letters, and a lot of superfluous letters. For instance, the word for “writing” is “scríbhneoieacht.” Don’t ask me how this is actually pronounced. From what I’ve seen, much of the pronunciation is sort of intuitive (to native speakers, not to me) – they see three, four, or five vowels together and just spit out a noise, and somehow they make it sound natural. When I try to replicate said noise, it sounds like I’ve got a sore throat and a mouthful of marbles.

But there’s more to the Irish culture than the language. In the states, we think of the Irish people as a very happy, very rowdy, very drunk (yet lovable) bunch. I thought that after living here for a few weeks, I would be able to tell you that this is an exaggeration. But it’s not. The Irish love their booze, and they’re not afraid to show it. It’s very socially acceptable to talk about drinking, and being drunk, even with your elders and your family. Most Irish students go home on the weekends, so Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are the big nights to go out drinking. This means I have to listen to drunken Irish laughing, yelling, and singing in the street during the wee hours (did I mention they say “wee” a lot here?) pretty much every night of the week. One of them even tried to climb into our window – but my roommate and I sent him packing with some colorful American insults.

And the Irish drink almost as much tea as they do beer. They have it with every meal of the day. And it’s no wonder; the rain, wind, and general dreariness here make for good tea weather. Good soup and hot chocolate weather, too. It rains here quite often, although not usually very hard; most of the time it just mists. And by most of the time I mean at least five days a week.

The rain is what gives Ireland its famous 40 shades of green. It’s not an exaggeration: the Irish countryside is really quite breathtaking. And the country is green in more ways than one – they’re very eco-conscious here. Probably because energy costs are much higher – gas (or petrol) costs something to the tune of nine dollars a gallon. And the recycling system is more effective because people can put all their recyclables together into single-stream bins located around campus.

It’s taken me a month, but I feel like I’ve finally settled in – and I can honestly say that I don’t miss CWRU one bit. It’s going to be a grand adventure. Sláinte!