Student Ambassador Jessy Fong from Malaysia talks about what she has learned from being in Ireland and how to cope with whatever Ireland may throw your way!

Cooking and baking! 

(photo: Jessy)

I believe if you ask anyone here what their biggest changes were after coming to Ireland, the answer they have will definitely include cooking. Especially for international students, we all miss the taste of our home country. But we are lucky enough as lots of stores in Ireland do actually sell spices and ingredients we need and also recipes can easily be found online. So, it is time for your undiscovered cooking skills to shine and it is lovely to share them with your international friends. Food is definitely the main ingredient to bring people close together. In addition, it is not expensive to get groceries here, and the supermarkets (such as Lidl, Aldi, Supervalu, Dunnes Stores and other local supermarkets) have superb offers every week. So, do remember to download their mobile phone app or check their online website for their latest online leaflets every week (the offers usually change every Thursday). Grocery shopping has become one of my favourite activities every week and is a good time to give yourself a break from assignments.   

(photo: Jessy)

Baking, in particular, is a good way of spending time with yourself and who doesn’t like sweet treats? One of the reasons I love baking is I am able to calm down my mind and improve my focus during baking. It is another way to relieve stress and you can make something yummy for your tummy. Why not? As a pharmaceutical science student, I found that baking is a good way to understand the formulation and also chemistry behind it.

Ways of thinking

It is obvious that different countries have different education systems, so does Ireland. I like how the lecturers here encourage us not to be afraid to fail, but, more importantly, it is good for you to learn from your mistakes. They encourage you to be confident in your work and respect each individual’s creativity. I was thinking back to my time in secondary school where, in an exam, one should have an exact answer for every question but, when I came here things were different sometimes. There is no correct or wrong answer as long as you have a logical explanation. During my time in Ireland, I’ve kept training to think outside the box and also think from a different perspective. Like I mentioned previously, there is no exact answer for choices you make and also not only one way to solve a problem. Any solution that can solve a problem is a good solution and any pathway that will lead you to success is a good pathway. 

(photo: Jessy)

Chill and relax 

You will definitely feel the weekend vibes here (unless you have a part-time job at the weekend). Classes sometimes end early on a Friday (for most of the students, note there are exceptions), meaning you have time to make yourself some good dinner to reward yourself for being so hardworking for the whole week. I remember when I first came here I was stressing myself to get most of my things done in the first place and even go ahead of the course to make sure I’m not lost in this totally new environment and yes you can see from my words I’m a “procrastinator”. However, during my time here through either working or socialising, I was actually able to allow myself to work and learn at my own pace. Eventually, you still get everything done but without rushing everything ahead; taking a slower step to think and to improve yourself, this is what I called being an effective procrastinator. I really only learned this when I came to Ireland, not over-pressuring myself and loving what I do.

(photo: Jessy)

I’m glad that I made the choice to come to Ireland, to this friendly and welcoming country – I would like to stay here for a few more years if possible. Of course, not every day is a happy day, there must be ups and downs wherever you are but this is not an excuse not to come to Ireland. When coming to a new place with no one you know, you’ll probably feel lost and lonely but I can tell you everyone here is very helpful and friendly. Remember you need to take the first step out of your comfort zone so that others can help you. Believe it or not, this will be the bravest and most life-changing decision you’ll make in your life.

Top Tips

You are not going to need an umbrella here, the wind is so strong here and also the weather can change in just one minute. I experienced once when I’m on my way to my campus, the weather changed from sunny to cloudy to rainy and windy and back to sunny. So, here are some tips to make friends in Ireland. Talk about the weather and weekend activities! Simply start the conversation with “how are you?” You’ll find talking to others is easier than you imagine.

Jessy Fong is studying Pharmaceutical Science at Waterford Institute of Technology.