Landed but not stranded: Dos and don’ts for study abroad
From finding accommodation ahead of time and making the most of student discounts to researching your college and making friends, Erin Wilson our Dublin City University Ambassador, shares her dos and don’ts for study abroad in Ireland…
Congratulations, you have taken a huge leap of faith and decided to study abroad in Ireland! Not only will you be enhancing your academic knowledge, but you have embarked on a journey that most people only dream about. Seeing this dream to actualisation can be a daunting task however, especially if you’re going at it alone. There are many things to consider and plan before your arrive, not to mention what to do with yourself after you land. The following is a list of dos and don’ts – things to think about before and after your arrival in Ireland. These tips will help you prepare and make your study abroad experience more enjoyable. After all, no one wants to feel landed and stranded in a foreign country!
DO your research when selecting a university
Ireland has many fantastic options when it comes to choosing a university. While it is exciting to think about all the studying abroad has to offer, do remember, you are here to study. Take the time to research colleges and universities and find the best fit for you. Do you want to study at a large university or a smaller one? Are you interested in an undergraduate program or postgraduate/doctorate program? Would you prefer the hustle and bustle of a metropolitan city, or the quaint charm of the country side? Thinking about which of these options best suits you and your academic needs will only make your experience that much better.
DO make housing arrangements ahead of time
Once you have been accepted at your college of choice, now you must figure out where you are going to sleep while in Ireland. This might be the most challenging task of studying abroad, depending on where you want to live. The big decision is to live on or off campus. If you want to live on campus, find out if your school offers on campus housing to international students. If they do, apply EARLY, as there are usually limited spots. If you choose to live off campus, make sure to start your search as soon as possible, either over the internet or arriving before classes start to scout out locations. Some schools might have websites to help students find accommodation or notice boards with postings in the student union. Otherwise check Daft.ie for room listings. And if all else fails, there are always hostels for temporary housing, until you find something permanent. (I spent my first 3 weeks in Ireland in a hostel in Dublin and it was actually lot of fun!)
DO take advantage of student discounts
I came to Ireland to pursue a masters degree and it has been a while since I’ve been a student in college. I forgot about all the great deals you can score by having the “student” status. One of the best discounts in town is the Student Leap Card for transportation. Not only do you get a bargain on the bus, train, and LUAS lines, but there are also discounts for some shops associated with the Leap Card. Never be afraid to flash that student ID card and ask if a shop, museum, or cinema offers a student rate. We all want to save money!
DO remember to have fun!
Yes, you came to study abroad, but it’s about more than books and exams. You chose to study Ireland, so take advantage of your surroundings. Enjoy yourself. If campus life is your scene, join some clubs at your school or a sports team. There’s no better time to learn Hurling. Find a cafe you like to read in, take a weekend trip to Kilkenny, hike the Wicklow Mountains, meet up with your friends in the local pub for some craic. Remember to take loads of pictures and post them on your social media pages so everyone back home knows you are having the time of your life. It’s ok to take a break from study and just relax.
This experience can be overwhelming, scratch that, just the thought of undertaking of this experience can be overwhelming, especially when going it alone. Landing in a foreign country with no one to welcome you can be a bit disheartening. But once you have collected your bag and made it through customs, stop and take a deep breath. Remember that it is only day one of your journey, and what you are feeling is mostly exhaustion from traveling and jetlag. Pick yourself (and your bags) up and head out to your accommodation. Take a nap, a long hot shower, and make your way into town. Treat yourself to a nice Irish stew. Everything doesn’t have to be sorted right away. Have a pint, and congratulate yourself on making it this far!
DON’T make assumptions
There is an old adage that says, “You know what happens when you ASSUME things.”, and, if you don’t know what happens, definitely give it a Google. Ireland is a new country and a new culture. Certain customs and phrases may be different here compared to ones you have back home. Like, who knew you had to stick your arm out to hail the bus in Dublin or that craic (pronounced like ‘crack’) means fun? Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you have no idea what’s going on or what’s on the menu. Irish people are generally known for their friendly demeanor and will often go out of their way to help a lost soul. Asking the driver if you are on the right bus is way better than taking a two hour ride to Waterford by accident!
DON’T be afraid to talk to people
It’s scary coming to a new country not knowing a single person. With everyone so plugged into their portable devices these days, it can be an ever scarier thought to try and engage in conversation with someone. Getting over this fear could be the hardest thing of all in regards to your study abroad experience, especially if you are shy. You will make friends, if you start talking to people. Take advantage of orientation events and mixers your college is putting on as a way to ease yourself into meeting new people. Remember, you are not alone in this experience and those students don’t know anyone either! One of the best ways to break the ice is simply to say, “Hi, where are you from?” Before you know it, you’ll have a new friend.
DON’T stop exploring
Once classes begin, it can be easy to get set in a regular routine. This happens, especially when thinking about assignment deadlines and getting good grades. It’s called “study abroad” for a reason and now is the time to broaden your horizons. So you have no idea what to do in Ireland?? Ask around. Talk to your classmates and find out what they like to do on the weekend, see if your campus is hosting any fun events, search Facebook for events around town, or check out DiscoverIreland.ie. If all else fails, hop on a bus or train to the next town over for a little change of scenery. No matter if you are here for a semester or a year, don’t get stuck thinking you’ll have plenty of time to see everything. The time will fly by faster than you know!
Hopefully these tips help ease your mind of any worries you might have about study abroad. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.”