Nigerian Olumide Josiah Akinremi is full of praise for everything at UCD from the students to the staff and from the culture to the hands-on academic experience

I’m not remotely tempted to bore you with facts about University College Dublin (UCD). You might want to hear them, though: how UCD has the highest graduate employability rate in the Ireland or how UCD is rated as the second best university in the whole of Ireland.
I can imagine it’s those metrics that grab your attention now that you’re searching for universities to attend in Ireland. And, rightfully so; you should be drawn to them. You want a good education and you don’t want to look back and regret making your eventual decision. I definitely understand; I was in the same position.

Healthy choice
However, that’s not where UCD really shines. The above ‘accolades’ are not where UCD really draws a crowd. They are simply an extension of the university’s efforts in other areas of development. You know how a person can decide to start eating healthily and after some weeks, not only is the person healthier biologically, but the person realises his/her relationships with people are better, mood is lighter and, generally, the person is healthy and happier in all senses, just because he or she decided to start eating healthy.

That’s the same with UCD. What UCD prides itself in, seen from a student’s perspective, isn’t in the employability rate or its graduate research ranking or number of research papers its PhD students publish yearly. Those are all just an extension of its focus on one area: its students.

UCD is its students. Period. That phrase has probably been said in many ways, ‘UCD’ being replaced with wherever place was germane to the topic being discussed, but never have I experienced it first-hand. Up to now, it’s always been passive, but having seen it myself in the day-to-day running of the university, I am continually awed. Almost like finally meeting a celebrity in real life! (Anne Hathaway, are you seeing this)?

Student ‘organisation’
When I say the university is its students, I’m loosely saying the students run everything. They organise everything, host everything, and make everything. Aside from the necessary supervisory and administrative roles the staff have to play to make things “run smoothly”, every other thing underscores the students’ efforts – and I’ve found, and continually find, it amazing!

Why? Because, to me school/university isn’t just about academics. I’ve maintained that philosophy since my undergraduate days. I’ve always been of the opinion that combining one’s study with extracurriculars is the best way to have a well-rounded learning experience. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” comes to mind.

But it’s not even about a competition or balance between work and play; it’s more of a complementary requirement for all-round growth while studying. Skills like public speaking, social etiquette and teamwork are not always directly gleaned from studying for a test or attending a lecture. They seem to be hidden deep within the framework of extracurricular activities.

Believe the hype
So you can imagine my awe when UCD as a school boasted the most engaged student body in the whole of Ireland. When I read that way back during my application phase, I figured it was hyperbole and was just put out there for “inclusion” sake.
Thankfully, that has not been the case. The university is a true diversity hub! It boasts clubs, societies and associations spanning several languages, cultures, inclinations and proclivities. There’s no way under the sun you won’t find a group that does what you like doing.

I’m happy to say that I’ve taken advantage of this excess; I’ve joined societies whose themes align with personal goals of mine. The French and Japanese society are prime examples, as the former underscores my love for the French language and the latter my love for animes. Needless to say, my French and Japanese are better than when I just arrived here.

Insider information
Let’s take the stage away from the students for a bit. Let’s focus on the staff. Remember I mentioned the staff made things run smoothly? Like grease to an ever-turning cog that is the students. Let’s talk about them for a bit. This is “inside” information. Sshhh…
As you’re planning to study abroad, you probably have a checklist, either mentally or physically. Things like “language of instruction” or “job prospects” are probably on it. The aim is to get a good education and to get the best value for your tuition and ancillary fees come the end of your programme.

I get that. You get that. But guess what? The staff also get that! They really do! It’s not just some passive effort on their part to get you to be better through your education; no, it’s an active, conscious and purposeful decision on their part to do so.

Career training
Take my programme, for example. I’m in the Electronic and Computer Engineering programme at UCD; it’s a two-year programme and within the two years I complete a six-month internship and a thesis. Would you believe that from the second week into the academic session the department has organized CV and cover letter training sessions, career fair sessions, and even one-on-one mock interview sessions to help us get better prepared for our coming internship?
They also consider the fact that most of us are new in Ireland and so need to tailor our CVs and formal presence to the Irish-recognised one. Would you believe that?! I certainly didn’t. But wait . . . it gets better.

They don’t stop there. They bring companies to us! That is, they provide us with all the possible internship positions from the whole of Ireland and abroad relevant to our programme and leave the decision on us to apply for whichever. That level of commitment is unreal to me. I mean, I did an internship during my undergraduate study – the same six-month duration – but my university didn’t try to help me get the internship; I had to “figure it out”. So, to see the university doing all this to help me get properly integrated into the Irish employment market for my internship is just fantastic. My gratitude will always fall short. They just are awesome.
It’s these little things – the student flexibility, commitment and other traits – that make the university so wonderfully referenced. You may want to rethink your question on why UCD, and look at it the other way: why not UCD? If you’re coming to Ireland to study, it really is where you should come to.

Natural beauty
On a less serious note, leaving aside the dynamic part of the university and focusing more on the university itself, it’s a fact that UCD has one of the most beautiful campus in Ireland. Our core rival, Trinity College Dublin, usually wins this contest because it boasts the fabled Harry Potter library. Regardless, UCD’s naturalist tendencies and vibrant plant and animal life makes it worthy of competition.

I’ve loved nature since I can remember. The air after the rain, the evening sun, semi-still waters and restless flocking birds all constitute to me “little strokes of happiness” as I call them. Needless to say, UCD combines all these in a eurythmic inspiring mix. There is a lake literally in front of the Engineering building where regal swans and ducks live and play. It’s always so inspiring: their uncomplicated lives teaching calmness and alleviating stress, without effort.

Fond memories
I’m be hoping a conclusion is implicit, but I’ll write one anyway. Ireland has been wonderfully kind to me since I got here and Education in Ireland has been more than an experience. The contrast with the experience in my country, in all ramifications, is so heavy that I find myself constantly being awed by the bliss I’m surrounded by.
My fond memories of studying here are all traceable to University College Dublin. I didn’t especially set out to have them, they just happened, all by extension of the university’s “behavior”. Consequently, I’ll urge you to come to UCD, having laid out why UCD shines so brightly in the eyes of us students. I guess all I can say now is: UCD is all arms, waiting for you.