Nigerian student Olumide Josiah Akinremi encountered some challenges when coming to Dublin to study but there was plenty of helpful advice to get him through
You get your admission letter from your first university of choice. You pay the tuition fees and sort out the necessary administrative logistics. You book your flight, pack your bags, and off you go to your study-abroad location. In your head, it’s going to be rosy and smooth. Oops!
I certainly had the mindset that my study-abroad experience was going to be smoother than it was, as the university had provided so much useful information on key areas they figured I might have trouble with as an international student. They even set up Facebook communities and WhatsApp groups to ‘localise’ information and allow for more personal student support. All this was done with the intention of making my transition as smooth as possible.
But, even with all this, I still had trouble settling in. Don’t get me wrong: the information I got from the university and the social communities helped a lot. But the translation from word and hearsay to actual physical experience is anything but linear.
Take accommodation for example. I was advised to check on rent.ie and daft.ie for advertised accommodations and then message the advertiser for a viewing. However, I wasn’t told that messaging just one or two advertisers wasn’t enough. I wasn’t told that I would need to message over 15 advertisers to get just one response. Not knowing that cost me a lot!
Secondly, the ‘academic culture’ of the university I was attending. I already knew studying in a different country would pose its challenges, and honestly, I was ready for them – at least I thought I was. I expected a different teaching system to what I was used to (which, very quickly became evident); I also reckoned I would need a bit of adjustment to properly settle academically.
However, my experience has varied far too widely with what I initially envisioned. I sincerely wish I had contacted someone in my programme to find out how the university worked academically. How fast-paced or slow-paced the lectures were, and how the semester was divided weekly.
I wish I did this because I was overwhelmed by how fast-paced my university was when I started, and in a way, I still am. It’s almost amazing how quickly it runs. Essentially I wish I had someone to ‘localise’ my academic mindset prior to my actual commencement of the semester. It would have thoroughly helped in my adjustment to the programme, or at least aided in framing a proper mindset to approaching the semester. Needless to say, I oscillated a bit before finally gaining academic stability. I definitely would have wanted a better step response.
With accommodation comes transport. I found the transport system amazing! Oh, this is not some trite abuse of the word “amazing”. I literally found it beautiful. You’ll understand why if you knew where I’m from. I’m from Lagos in Nigeria and all you have to do to understand why I found the transport system amazing is to search online for “Lagos traffic Nigeria” and look at the images tab. When you see the infinite rows and columns of cars interspersed with yellow buses, then you’ll begin to appreciate why.
I was just blown away by the “western” nature of the system. It really impressed me and still does. If your initial arrival in Ireland poses any problems, I can pretty much assure you that transport – getting from place to place – won’t be one of them. The system is intrinsically designed to help anyone with the slightest technological inclination to thrive, which, I’m assuming you do.
There are processes to follow to properly settle as regards transport, such as the acquisition of a Leap Card (essentially a bus pass) and downloading transport apps like ‘Real Time Ireland’ or ‘Journey Planner’.
Your experience will probably vary in one or two ways, probably with challenges you’ll eventually overcome. I say this because I think, in itself, the transition from one’s home country to another should not be entirely smooth – not in a depressingly bad way, but in a growth-instigating way. It’s a separate phase of one’s life and growth comes by overcoming the difficult circumstances that comes with each new phase. It’s why, in my case, even though I was provided with as much information as possible, I still had to live in hostels for three weeks when I got here before finally moving to a house.
So, in conclusion, sort out your accommodation as soon as possible. Reach out to your university’s international community if you have any issues. It’s wonderful how much help they offer, not to mention how nice people are.
Then, try to focus on why you’re actually coming here: studies. Reach out to current/recently graduated students in the same programme with you. Extract as much information as possible from them as regards the entire structure of your programme and, if possible, ask them for potential challenges they think you’ll face coming in. This is all to frame for yourself a proper mindset for succeeding during your studies. Then, lastly, enjoy Ireland. It certainly wants you to.