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University of Galway (Ireland)

Located in Europe's Capital of Culture (2020), the University of Galway has one of the most picturesque campuses in Ireland.

I was blown away by all it has to offer -- from its facilities to its housing options to academic opportunities -- and I especially loved Galway as a city.

Here are more of the highlights from my visit to campus in June 2022!

The Quadrangle building, built in local limestone in a Tudor Gothic architectural style, is modelled on Christ Church at the University of Oxford
The Quadrangle building, built in local limestone and modelled on Christ Church at the University of Oxford

Galway, Ireland

Made famous recently after Ed Sheeran's 'Galway Girl' (I personally prefer the Steve Earle 'Galway Girl' version), this city is Ireland's third largest and home to 75,000 residents (20 percent of whom are students).

Galway city centre

With both the Dublin and Shannon international airports within a 2.5-hour bus or train, it's easily accessible with many flights from the U.S. and is a coastal city surrounded by stunning scenery.

Spanish Arch
Spanish Arch
The River Corrib, the fastest-flowing city river in Europe
The River Corrib, the fastest-flowing city river in Europe
Ireland's west coast

It's most notable for being city of festivals, culture and art, and according to the New York Times, is Ireland's friendliest and most charming city, full of cobbled streets.

Our group! Highly recommend the Galway Girl drink here!
Our group! Highly recommend the Galway Girl drink here!

But it's not all song and dance; Galway also happens to be a global hub for the medical technology industry.

Eight of the world’s top 10 med-tech companies are based here, and the medical devices

designed and made in Galway are saving lives all around the world.


The University of Galway was established in 1845 as one of the three Queen's Colleges and is known for its courses in medicine, drama, marine biology, law and hospitality to name a few.

University of Galway main building

Notable alumni include the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, and Nicola Coughlan, star of Derry Girls (my fav!) and Bridgerton.

With 19,000 students, Galway is about 10-15 minutes from the centre of town and is made up of four colleges.

It's particularly unique for being the only bilingual university in Ireland, so if you happen to speak Irish, you can choose to study your degree in this language.

If you don't speak Irish, you'll have no trouble hearing it around campus.

The quad at University of Galway

Speaking of campus, Galway also has the most biodiverse campus in Ireland and is fifth in the world for sustainability, committed to responsible consumption and production.

Green space on campus
Picnic benches near the engineering building

Driving its sustainability priorities is the Ryan Institute, the largest research institute at the university, which is focused on four thematic areas: Marine & Coastal, Energy & Climate Change, Agriculture & BioEconomy and Environment & Health.

With more than 100 research groups, it accounts for 20 percent of the research income.

Martin Ryan Building

Inside the building, we got to view an extensive collection of skeletons and animals, some of which were alive!

Collection of skins and skeletons in the Martin Ryan Building
Eek! A student holding a live snake
Martin Ryan Building

But one thing that really stood out was the fact that 80 percent of Galway courses offer some sort of internship or study abroad component.

And with every new building that has come in its 175+ year history, the university has been able to implement architectural designs that seemingly preserve its historical roots, such as the Human Biology Building below, which ties in modern design with stone walls.

In some ways, it just seems that this building has been here forever.

Human Biology building, which fits right in with the stone elements
Human Biology Building

University of Galway: Medical program

One program at Galway that attracts a large number of U.S. students is the professional medical degree.

It's one of few medical schools abroad with dedicated support for passing the USMLE's and for the residency matching process in the U.S. (12 of the 13 current students matched in 2022).

The program, which is five or six years depending on the student's background, is taught in three phases: 1) normal body structure, 2) abnormal body structure and 3) clinical.

It also offers students the opportunity to intercalate a PhD or engineering degree (the first of its kind in Europe, created by an engineer who worked at NASA) and is one of the only universities that still does dissections on cadavers (forget the frogs!).

All medical students will spend a full calendar year in a regional medical academy on the west coast of Ireland, but they can also take advantage of a 3-month exchange program if they speak French or German.

Finally, another highlight is their one-of-a-kind clinical simulation centre, which is at the heart of their simulation-based education.

Drama and Theatre Studies

Given Ireland's strength in the creative industries and Galway's artsy vibe, drama also happens to be an area of strategic importance for the university.

Around 20-25 students are accepted each year into this course (no auditions required), and students stay with this cohort throughout the duration of the degree, allowing them to form a tight ensemble.

Charlotte McIver (Head of Drama) - originally from the U.S.
Charlotte McIver (Head of Drama) - originally from the U.S.

This department also views theatre as an important tool for social change, and as such, they create performance pieces backed by government funding and private philanthropy with the aim of influencing policy change.

One topic of great importance at the moment is active consent.

Within this degree, however, there is a big emphasis on business skills and entrepreneurship, and they also house the largest collection of Irish theatre archives in Ireland.

But one of the best highlights is their partnership with the Galway International Arts Festival.

Students undergo an application process to participate, and if selected, they get to see most of the productions and meet with the producers/theatre artists to network and learn more about their careers.

I really loved their purpose-built drama building though, which opened in 2017.

In World War I, it was actually used as a munitions factory, and those historical elements can still be seen inside.

Drama facilities
Drama facilities
Student theatre
Student theatre
Loved to see these historical features incorporated
Loved to see these historical features incorporated

Elsewhere on campus

We also got to view Galway's modern facilities for business, law and engineering.

Students who undertake the Business Information Systems course in particular have a 100 percent employability rate and are highly sought after.

Galway's Business School

Law degrees are four years with the third year spent abroad or in a work placement.

Brand new moot court
Brand new moot court

The engineering department is doing a lot of research in autonomous-driving cars.

Galway's autonomous driving car

Students also build and compete in the Shell Eco-marathon Europe, a 16-km street-circuit race where the winner is not the fastest car but instead the car that uses the least fuel or energy.

The GEEC (Galway energy-efficient car)
The GEEC (Galway energy-efficient car)

University of Galway housing

Galway has some of the most impressive housing options for a university outside the U.S. that I've seen.

Corrib Village is home to 3- and 4-bedroom flats in small little buildings set up like a village near the River Corrib; these are the older options, though some have been renovated inside.

But it was Goldcrest Village, which we got to tour, that really shined.

Opened in 2018, it has all en-suite bedrooms, which even have heated towel racks -- luxury!

Student housing courtyard
Student housing buildings
Common area
Common area
Shared living area with lots of natural light
Shared living area with lots of natural light
Modern ensuite bathroom with heated towel rack!
Modern ensuite bathroom with heated towel rack!

University of Galway: Summary

It's no surprise that the University of Galway was named this year's 'Irish University of the Year' by the Sunday Times Good University Guide.

It offers students a serene campus experience in a lively cultural city that's more affordable and more manageable than a bigger city like Dublin.

American students will love having their own bedroom and bathroom in the modern on-campus housing, as well as the dedicated 24-hour international student support.

And with research and courses that are socially relevant and emphasize workplace readiness, graduates will have excellent employability prospects both in the U.S., Ireland or elsewhere in Europe.


Interested in applying for college or grad school abroad?

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G'day! My name is Sara, and I'm the founder of College Apps Abroad and a Certified Educational Planner (CEP), one of only 40 CEP's in California and 300 worldwide. I have more than 10 years of experience working in international recruitment and admissions, and I've studied and lived overseas myself in the UK, Ireland, Australia and Brazil for almost a decade. I've also worked for some of the world's top institutions, including The University of Edinburgh, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and The University of Western Australia (UWA)!

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