Skip navigation

Report #3 from Galway (Ellen Wittenberg)

Hi from Galway! I'm spending the fall semester of my senior year at NUI in Galway, Ireland, and for the last two months have been enjoying all the adventures that come with studying in a foreign country - a new campus, new classes, new friends, and certainly some new challenges! As an underclassman at Purdue, I formed some great relationships, both academic and social, with my engineering peers. And now as a senior, I am thrilled to be studying abroad as part of the Purdue BME exchange program with NUI Galway. It has been the perfect opportunity to expand my world view and also work with engineering students and faculty that have a bit of a different perspective on the field of biomedical engineering.

About NUI Galway

The campus of NUI Galway is gorgeous!  The school was one of the colleges that comprised the Queen’s University of Ireland which was founded in the 1850's, and the center of campus is contains the original Quadrangle. In contrast to the traditional, castle-like buildings on campus, the new Engineering Building reminds me of the Neil Armstrong Building and our very own Martin Jischke Biomedical Engineering Building at Purdue. The Engineering Building houses lecture halls, computer suites, professor and graduate student offices, and instructional labs.  Many members of the faculty at NUI Galway do work in conjunction with the National Centre for Biomedical Engineering Sciences, which focuses on interdisciplinary research to develop solutions to current medical challenges. Some of my professors work in the areas of applying biomechanics to orthopedic and cardiovascular medical problems. You can read about the new building, the program, and some of these projects here:, including a piece on our advisor, Dr. Laoise McNamara.

The City of Galway

Galway is located on the western coast of Ireland, right on Galway Bay. I love that my morning runs consist of beautiful views of the bay, the mountains, and lots of green! All of that beauty does come at a price - it rains nearly every day and the sun rarely peaks out from behind all of the clouds.  But you do come to appreciate the few sunny, dry days and learn to embrace the rain with a smile.

Although Galway is the fifth largest city in Ireland and one of the top tourist destinations as well, it definitely has the charm of a small, college town.   When walking into City Center to shop in the small artisan shops, grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants, or meet up with a group of friends at a pub for a pint, you usually run into many familiar and friendly faces from classes at NUI Galway.  I do admit though, that getting used to walking everywhere, even in a smaller city, was difficult.  I love the charm of the area, like the fly fishermen in the Canal next to campus, but miss the conveniences of driving and one-stop shopping in West Lafayette.   

Campus Life

Getting involved in sports clubs and societies on campus was a great way for me to meet other students, explore Galway, and experience Irish culture. This semester I joined the International Student Society, which plans a night out at a local pub every week with great dinner and drink deals. The events usually involve nametags, many languages, and, now, lots of familiar faces from around campus. It is a great way to meet students from all around the world and hear about their adventures in Galway. I also joined the Lotus Society, the yoga club on campus. Going to discounted classes each week has not only been great for stress relief but also for interacting with Irish students outside of the pub and the classroom. NUI-Galway also has an Engineering Society which is raising funds for its Habitat for Humanity trip to Zambia in the Spring. They hosted a class party at the College Bar for the fourth year engineers the first week of school, which was  a great way to meet my classmates.

As Halloween quickly approaches, I am looking forward to celebrating one of the bigger holidays in Ireland. I’m going with a group of friends to the International Student Society's Halloween Ball at a hotel in downtown Galway. The Ball features an international student DJ, a costume parade and contest, and of course lots of pints!

Weekend Adventures

As a substitute for the fun and excitement of Big Ten football each weekend at Purdue (Boiler Up!), I’ve taken to planning my weekends around exploring the different sites in and around Galway with some of the other international students studying at NUI.  Since Galway is a tourist destination, there are several tour companies that offer day trips along the western coast of Ireland at reasonable prices.   I have visited  Connemara (the traditional Irish countryside where English is not spoken), Kylemore Abbey, and the Cliffs of Moher. Galway Tour Company does a great job in providing an  interesting tour guide to share local color and rounding out the day with stops at small shops, pubs, and other interesting places along the way.   It has been a great way to get out and explore the surrounding area, especially without a car!


Overall, I’m really enjoying my adventure in Ireland; but I’m also working hard to integrate into a new university, adjust to the courses here and make progress on my senior design project at Purdue. I definitely miss all my Purdue friends and am looking forward to Spring in the midwest and graduation in May!