By: Erin Kirk
This last semester I studied abroad in Ireland. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I prepared to go abroad. There was a series of information given by the study abroad program with what to expect. Information on what to pack, homesickness to expect, and change in culture and traditions. The university also sent a lot of information to prepare for the time abroad. But it was hard to keep track of the information, even with my numerous lists. While in Ireland I spent most of my time on campus and tried to attend as many events as I could while there. Some things I noticed that were different, specifically about Ireland, were the classes, the societies, and transportation.
The courses I took abroad were in Arts and Humanities though my major is actually Mechanical Engineering. This is because I wanted to take Irish cultural classes to learn even more about the country. These classes included Vikings in the Celtic World, Introduction of Irish Folklore, and Irish for Beginners. So to begin with, these courses were much different from my usual courses. Most of my classes only had three assignments, usually with the final assignment being worth 50% of my grade. While I am used to several homework assignments and at least three exams. And the grading scales were very different from what I am used to. Usually, an A is 90-100% but the same score was an A+, and an A- is 70-80%. I found they tended to take more points off when grading.
When getting ready to come to Ireland I thought I’d be surrounded by Irish locals. But most of the people I met were International students as well. My roommates alone were all from different parts of the world including Sweden, Italy, the Netherlands, and Taiwan. The Irish tended to hang out with Irish friends. Plus, the events that the school put on for International students were for International students. Most of the courses I took were also Irish culture courses which few Irish students were a part of. I spent the most time with any Irish students I met at society events.
At the beginning of the year, similar to TU, UCD had a Freshers week which was the time to meet over 80 different societies. They had societies for different international students like Indian society, African society, German society, and more. There were also societies for majors such as the Law Society, Engineering Society, English and Literature society, and more. Other examples of types of societies were hobbies and interests such as Sci-Fi and Fantasy society, juggling society, draw society, and more. Something that surprised me when applying for societies was that you had to pay to become a member. I had never paid to become part of a society but it was 2 euros to join. Most societies had membership cards with sponsors that had deals for students. Like TU, many societies had emails sent every week with events. But one of the best ways to keep up with events put on by societies was to have an Instagram. I knew many people that got Instagram just for this exact reason. There were also sports clubs that I heard required a membership fee of about 15 euros.
I joined four societies while in Ireland. The number of events varied greatly between the different societies. Many had coffee mornings every week. In one society I was only able to attend about 5 events during the semester, this was mainly because they didn’t hold many events. While many of my other societies held at least 4 events every week. These events are where I met most of the Irish students I came in contact with. A large portion of these students were freshmen. Common events included movie showings and trivia games. These events were a great way to meet new people and keep up with interests and hobbies while abroad.
During the weekends, I traveled away from campus and explored more of Ireland. UCD had a cultural program for study abroad students to explore Ireland for free. I attended the Treetop walk in Avondale and explored Kilkenny and attended a Fringe Festival, all for free. Through the resident program, ResLife, I went to Galway and Howth for free and with lunch included. When I wasn’t taking advantage of these free events, I used public transportation to go to the towns around campus with public transportation. Ireland’s public buses are not very reliable. Times they arrive are rough estimates and it was not uncommon for a route to be canceled suddenly or for the bus never to show up. It took me a couple days to get down the public transportation. Several apps tracked the bus routes much better than google maps. Many times I planned to be at the bus stop 20 minutes before the bus would arrive to make sure I didn’t miss the bus, it wasn’t uncommon for the bus to be early. The best way to pay for Ireland’s public transportation was a Student Leap Card. It is easy to use and saves money.
Ireland was a new environment with new cultures, experiences, and opportunities. Studying abroad gave me a chance to learn about a new country through my classes and exploration. I got to try new things through events and meet international students from all around the world. I got to go experience a new regular being in a new country with different and new stores and transportation. I learned a lot about myself from immersing myself in a new country and I learned a lot about Ireland. Studying abroad is a great experience and I would recommend it to every student. If it is possible for a student to study abroad, I see no downside in taking advantage of the opportunity.