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The College Guide To NUIG: Insider tips, Insta hotspots, and the story of the Big Yellow Thing

What you need to know about the college known for its craic.

Image: infomatique/Flickr

BASED ON THE doorstep of Galway city centre, NUI Galway (NUIG) is one of Ireland’s oldest third-level institutions and has deep roots in the Gaeltacht regions of the west.

The university has a reputation as the ‘craic college’. Its official Rag Week is no more, something that’s used by current and former students as a badge of honour to prove that point.

If you’re off to NUIG this September, here’s a quick guide to help you find your way around and settle in quickly.

What’s the campus like? The downpours of rain make NUIG’s campus so beautifully green. Here you are outside the entrance to the quad.

What’s the most Instagrammed place on campus? Not even a contest – people love to take snaps of the courtyard in the middle of the quad.

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What’s the best spot for a chicken fillet roll? G&L Centra up on Upper Newcastle Road takes the crown, but let it not go unsaid that Wards, located just beside the main campus gate, do some mean sandwiches.

When the weather is good and you have some time on your hands, make the trek into town. Galway is a tourist hotspot, and that means lots of eateries are dotted about the city centre.

Where are the best study hideouts? The main library is big, but it’s by no means perfect, so pitch yourself up in the reading room. The study spot in the basement of the library is open for longer hours and most importantly, you can bring in your coffee. But be warned, the reading room fills up quickly.

It’s worth checking out the silent zones on the first and top floor of the library as well. If you’re prone to the slightest distraction, these spots are meant to be for absolute silent study – that means not even headphones are allowed.

Is there a bar on campus? Some NUIG veterans will know it as the College Bar, now it’s called Sult and it’s the main social hub on campus. There are DJs and live bands in house on a regular basis and the big match will always be on the TV.

It’s a nice spot to kick off a night on the town – most people migrate into Galway city cenrte after a few drinks since it’s on the doorstep.

How can you sound like a final year? There is one surefire way to quickly show everyone you know your stuff about NUIG, and that’s by dropping some knowledge about the sculpture popularly called ‘the Big Yellow Thing’.

The piece of art by Brian King, used as a popular meeting spot, is actually called ‘Galway Yellow’ and is based on a Celtic knot. And there: you now know more about the sculpture than 99.9% of all Galway students.

Another way to fit in is to be the one educating your fellow fresher friends about Donegal Tuesday – one of the biggest days in a Galway student’s calendar. It’s an annual event where students arise early, about 7am, so they can queue to get into The Hole in The Wall pub.

Rag (Raise and Give) Week has not been a thing, officially at least, in Galway for years. Donegal Tuesday marks the Tuesday of the unofficial Rag Week celebrations.

What do NUIG students love about it? That home away from home feeling, says biomedical engineering student Lisa Barrow.

NUIG has a real family feel about it. About 75% of students aren’t originally from Galway, so personally I feel that everyone is up for meeting new people and making new friends.

It’s a melting pot of different cultures and people, says law student Connor Penrose. And the city is on your doorstep.

NUIG is really close to the city centre so it makes it very handy to pop into town if you need to. The nightlife in Galway is also really great, I feel there’s something for everyone. For example I perform in Galway as a drag queen and I’m having a blast.

And… what do they NOT love about it? If it’s not already raining in Galway, it’s about to, says Lisa.

Galway rains more than the rest of Ireland. Get some decent waterproof gear.

Connor says pesky repeat fees can catch students unaware.

Some exams can only be passed in one sitting which is quite unfair. Also should you fail, you have to pay hundreds of euro to repeat.

What should freshers know? It’s okay to take a while to find your feet, says Connor.

It really isn’t that easy at the start to settle in. I think it took me nearly all year to feel comfortable there. Know where to go if you’re in a pickle. NUIG has a range of pretty great facilities if you’re ever in trouble, like free counselling and an academic writing centre for help with essays. Never be afraid to ask for help if you need it, there’s always help on hand.

And start mapping out the library, you need to know where you’re going come study season, says Conor.

Make sure to get familiar with the library and how to use it as early as you can, it can be a bit daunting at first but it gets a lot easier to use after a few weeks.

Who should I follow? The university has a habit for being a breeding ground for Irish political leaders – both President Michael D Higgins and former taoiseach Enda Kenny studied there. So you never know if you might be brushing shoulders with a future leader.

One person worth a follow is senior engineering lecturer John Breslin, who has had his fingers in many successful startup pies. A current project of his is co-working space the PorterShed, which he helped set up in a renovated Guinness building.

Boston attorney and law lecturer Larry Donnelly also has some interesting tweets to share. The man from across the water posts insight, with a transatlantic slant, into most current affairs issues as they happen.

Meanwhile, if you want to get your fix of local student news, Sin Newspaper has what you need.

What’s the accommodation situation? There are two main University-owned complexes and competition for rooms is fierce – there’s already a waiting list for this coming academic year.

There are a selection privately-owned locations like Gort Na Ceibhe. It’s just one windy, and we mean windy, walk over the Quincentennial Bridge from campus. But prices are going up in this student-only accommodation and it’s a similar case in other pockets of the city. Here’s a look at rentals in the area on Daft.ie.

NUIG in numbers

  • 68: The number of students who attended NUIG when it first opened in October 1849.
  • 115: How many nationalities grace the campus every year.
  • 400: That’s how much, in millions, the university has invested in new buildings over the past two decades.
  • 6,500: In square metres, that’s the size of the on campus sports centre, which includes a six-lane swimming pool.
  • 17,000: Give or take, the number of people who converge on NUIG to study each year.

Are you going to NUIG this coming semester (or is it your alma mater)? Share your opinion in the comments!

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