GALWAY, Ireland – Delayed two years by the pandemic, the Department of Communication-led study abroad project to Ireland concluded in late July this summer, generating more than 20 stories relating to the fundamental changes afoot in Ireland and in Irish society.

Among the changes the student journalists investigated are evolving faith practices after centuries of Catholic dominance; the recovery of post-pandemic tourism, housing, and retail sectors; the reviving arts and festivals scene in Galway; growing filmmaking and animation industries; expanding museum and history curation in Galway; and this coastal city’s success in and passion for its sporting teams.

The students were housed at National University Ireland Galway developing story ideas and chasing down sources. The course taught multimedia journalism by allowing the type or form of the story to determine the media choices, rather than the other way around. Students became facile with narrative, video, photography, audio, and their combinations.

“The experience in Galway was so unique and empowering,” said Jasmynn Innis, a junior Communication major. “During this study abroad, we got to talk to locals daily, and this was truly one of the best parts. We got to hear their stories and what Galway all is about. I felt like we got to experience Galway much more fully and authentically than we could have simply as tourists.”

After six class sessions at Berry during the Spring semester, 10 students and three faculty parachuted into Galway for the month-long project. Surviving a spate of COVID cases among the group, a heat wave that included the hottest day in recorded Irish history, and chaos and confusion in London’s Heathrow Airport, the resilient and intrepid team of student reporters earned six credit hours of coursework toward their Communication major or minor requirements.

“Every student should consider study abroad,” Innis said. “It allows you to grow in your independence, take classes for your major, learn about another culture and create memories you will remember forever.”

The Project Galway Team, from left, Mike Myers, Kitty Nichols, Katelynn Singleton, Phillip Walker, Abby Grace Shrader, Laura Barabas, Parker Luellen, Julieanne Kucera, Caroline Cleland and Jazzy Innis.

The month concluded with two days in Dublin, where students explored the history of Ireland’s sectarian strife; visited sites such as Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the Guinness brewery; and dreamt of air conditioning and Chick-fil-A waffle fries back home. (Like most hotels and homes in Ireland, the group’s Dublin accommodations at the Belvedere Hotel did not have A/C.) The experience concluded with an evening of Irish music and dance, featuring two of the faculty and one student, Laura Barabas, clogging and foot-stomping with veterans of Riverdance.

Participating students were Laura Barabas, Caroline Cleland, Jasmynn Innis, Julianne Kucera, Parker Luellen, Mike Myers, Kitty Nichols, Abby Grace Shrader, Katelynn Singleton and Phillip Walker.

The study abroad experience would not have been possible without the invaluable support and hospitality of the Campus Living staff at NUIG; the perseverance and patience of our all-star travel agent, Jenny Scott, at Fellowship Travel; the generosity of time and expertise of Declan Varley, group editor at the Galway Advertiser; and the flexibility and even friendship of Bernadette, Sinead, and Gina at the Aran Islands Hotel.

Special shoutouts also to the brilliant bus drivers from Reaney’s of Galway (Gerry, Michael, Joe and Francis); Tara at Friars Café on campus, Danny, bartender at the on-campus Sult Pub; the welcoming staff at the Belvedere Hotel; the many pharmacists on Quay Street in Galway; and, of course, the good people of Galway.

No shoutout to the new mayor of Galway, Clodagh Higgins, who ghosted us after giving every indication that she would meet with our students, and nothing but rotten tomatoes also to the reservations staff at British Airways. (The BA flight crews, however, were wonderful.)

‘Project Galway’ multimedia elements:

What is Gaelic football?

Sports and Pubs Unite Fans in Galway, Ireland

Galway’s touristic trade roars back from pandemic

Irish film industry in the midst of a boom

Natural, Cultural and Structural: How Galway negotiates its past

Church attendance in Galway altered by Covid

Galway’s houses of worship adapt as church’s influence wanes

‘Project Galway’ Travel Blog

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