My top 10 tips for study abroad students
The start of a new year is always seen as a time of beginnings and resolutions. Goals are set, and the prior year is reflected upon. I would say that this year has left much to reflect on. This time last year, I had just submitted an application to University College Dublin and had no idea what my future held. I had applied at University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Harvard, Yale, and UCD. I knew I would wind up moving and making huge life choices, but I never expected I would find myself in Dublin.
Since last January, I have moved to a new country and my husband has received his bachelor’s degree, and is looking to start a new career in Minnesota. I’ve seen a former U.S. President (Bill Clinton), and been able to develop my photography. I’ve become a student ambassador with Education in Ireland, and completed my first semester of graduate school at UCD. I’ve met many amazing people from Ireland, as well as other countries such as Austria, Germany, and Scotland. I’ve travelled to places I never expected to see and have been able to visit the ocean as often as I have liked.
As you can see – a lot has happened in a year and with all this in mind, I thought I would deviate from my normal blog format and write a top ten list for how to have a successful (and fun!) time studying in Ireland.
My brief disclaimer is that I am a married graduate student studying in Dublin, so my experiences may be a bit different from that of other students!
1. Invest in a student travel card. Doing this was one of the best decisions I made. It cost three euro with a voucher from AIB bank after I opened my student account. It has made travel between bus, Luas, and DART much easier, and you receive discounts.
2. When entering Ireland and registering with the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), be sure to check that you have all the required documents and are prepared. It’s easier and faster for you, and the GNIB officers.
3. Hit the ground running! I’m lucky that I’m here for a year. If you’re only here for a semester, time is going to fly by. Make a list and set dates of all the things you want to do, otherwise before you know it you will be running out of time to do everything.
4. Strike a balance between school and off-time. My primary reason for being in Ireland is to obtain my graduate degree. Everything else is secondary. However, if all I did were study and write papers I would go a little crazy. I make sure to have some scheduled free time each week to do things that I enjoy.
5. Travel! Travelling in Europe is much cheaper than coming from the states, and many places are only a short trip. Ryanair has very affordable flights. There are also very helpful websites such as hittheroad.ie for travel in Dublin, and the Dublin Event Guide for free events is very helpful for finding things in Dublin to do on a budget.
6. Join a club, sport, or society. I didn’t participate in any clubs during my undergrad, and it was something I regretted. At UCD, I joined the International Student Society, Women’s Rugby, and the Equestrian Club. By trying different things, I discovered I really enjoyed rugby and met an amazing group of women from Ireland, and all over the world. UCD has plenty of other options, and I encourage new students to check out the events available to see what options there are.
7. Use the resources available to you. Your school’s international office is a great place to start. Through working with so many students, chances are that they have had to work with issues you may encounter. Also, it’s ok to feel lonely or to have a hard time adjusting. There are plenty of campus resources if you encounter issues such as these.
8. Try new things! Get outside of your comfort zone. You may never have these opportunities again.
9. Attend cultural events. I find that I truly enjoy learning about the history and culture of Ireland, and it gives me greater appreciation for places I visit.
10. Finally, enjoy yourself! Take a moment to appreciate where you are. For some people, this may be a stepping-stone to an international career, and for others it may be a once in a lifetime experience.