Student Ambassador Alexia Ponce from El Salvador has come to Ireland and has so embraced everything the adventure has to offer. She tells us how, by taking everything in your stride, you can truly make the most out of your Irish experience…

Merlin Park Woods (photo: Alexia) 

Travelling to a new place is always an adventure; it’s scary but even more exciting. I’ve done a little travelling throughout my life, but it’s my first time travelling alone to a place I will be calling home for who knows how many years. Leaving family and friends behind is not easy but in the era that we live in communication is just a click away.  So, hopping from plane to plane and keeping constant communication with my family made everything easier.  Since stepping out of the airport on that Friday night in September my life has been full of ups and downs, never a dull moment and I’ve enjoyed every step of the way. 

I come from a country with a tropical climate and meeting the cold breeze of September as I arrived in Ireland was incredible. Morning walks are full of bright colours and cold winds. Seeing the leaves on the trees change in colour as autumn arrived, going from green to red and orange, to then seeing them fall and decorate the floor as winter neared has been a new experience for me. Where I come from seasons aren’t distinct, it’s either dry or wet season and experiencing a real European autumn has exceeded my expectations. 

I’ve visited numerous places in my first two months; going to the beach that’s only a 20-minute walk away, exploring towns nearby, walking in the park etc. I’ve enjoyed places by myself and with the company of friends.  

The town of Galway caught my attention with its architecture, bright colours, music of all kinds on every corner and the nightlife. I’ve been for walks around with friends, out for dinner, grabbed a cup of coffee and ran errands, but every time, I find something new to snap a picture of and share it with my family. The town is full of surprises. 

Galway City Centre (photo: Alexia)

I have fallen in love with the scenery the beaches Galway has to offer. It is a new experience to feel a cold breeze and be all covered up when you are on the beach. Going to the beach back home is all about escaping the hot climate and enjoying the cold water to feel refreshed, while here, the beach seems more about enjoying a walk with family, friends, or your pet, having a chat with someone new,  exercising like doing yoga on the sand or just appreciating the beauty of the ocean.

Ballyloughane Beach (photo: Alexia) 

Joining in the festivities has also been an exciting experience. The way Galway was decorated with lights and stalls for the Christmas Market brought an early Christmas spirit to the city. It was so nice to see children enjoying themselves with the games around, couples enjoying a walk around town, a diversity of stalls selling all kinds of festive things to enjoy in the moment.

Galway Christmas Market (photo: Alexia)

From the people, to the climate, my surroundings, college, and my home – everything has exceeded my expectations. I’ve grown accustomed to my surroundings and day-by-day Ireland is feeling more like my second home. Ireland has not stopped impressing me, every detail of the country amazes me. 

Alexia is doing a BSc (Honors) in Applied Freshwater and Marine Biology at Galway Mayo Institute of Technology – GMIT