Deciding where to study is a big decision, even bigger when you’re deciding to move country to do so! In her latest blog Elfi Chan Jing Ee, Malaysian Student Ambassador, tells us why she decided to study in Ireland and what she thinks of the Emerald Isle.
There are hundreds of countries across the world, over 23,000 universities in the world. So you may be wondering, why Ireland? The most important factor that impacted me and my family’s decision was the affordability of education and living cost. Compared to Australia, UK, Canada or any other countries that I considered, Ireland seemed to be the most affordable. Tuition fees in Ireland are nearly the same as studying in private universities in Malaysia so I thought why not go try something new and leave my comfort zone. Living expenses in Ireland are quite feasible with a part-time job (depending on what city you live in), with my part-time job I’m able to pay my rent, insurance, expenses, have some savings and pay for some trips too.
Expectations vs Reality
Honestly, at the beginning I didn’t know what to expect; what will my course be like, who will I meet, what will I do, will I have friends, will I be able to get a job? It was all a big mystery. I thought I would get to choose my timetable, like the way people at home do it, but no, it was all so different and it blew my mind.
I specialise in early childhood education and care, so the education system for children and adolescences are completely different. The difference includes the values, core methods, curriculum and concept. It is an eye-opener for me from the education I received here that I would have never experienced if I did not come over. In Ireland, early childhood education emphasises children’s play and development, creative ways of teaching and learning, allowing children to make decisions and lead. In Malaysia, early years education is reading books, writing letters and learning maths, unless they are in a ‘new western kindergarten’ which many people and educators doubt will do good for children’s grades in the future.
In the first year I came, we were just a huge chunk of international students; Malaysians, Canadians, French, Austrian, Spanish and many more. Everyone is so nice, warming and inviting here. I remember the first time a few fellow Malaysians were having dinner together and, all of a sudden, we were having a house party, with the majority being internationals. Everyone who walked by came in, sat down said hi. We all introduced ourselves and just started talking away like we’ve known one another for years. Our Canadian friends brought their famous maple syrup and decided to have a breakfast gathering and invite us to join them. The international society brought us for a wonderous surfing trip in Lahinch, hosted cultural parties and built a strong bond between everyone.
The Irish are the loveliest people out there. My Irish friends helped me so much throughout hard times; when I was stuck in jobs, school, sports – they never hesitated to help a friend in need. They would bring me around places, include me in every event, check up on me when I’m struggling – they never left. The adults from my volunteering work always made sure I was okay, invited me to join them for Christmas and New Years to make sure I wasn’t alone during the festive season as I wasn’t going back to see my family. Even strangers on the street say hi to you while you’re walking or talk to you about how crazy the price is for detergent in the store!
Sports have always been in my life. I’m very active and adventurous, I love to try new sports. Gaelic Football is a whole different story, for me, it is a combination of basketball, volleyball, soccer and American football. It is so much fun. Hurling is very popular here as well, surprisingly basketball is not as popular here as it is in Malaysia.
Changes after Covid-19
After Covid-19 happened, I lost my job but thankfully the government helped us with the Pandemic Unemployment Payment – that kept me on my feet. Friends were still in contact virtually during the lockdown and we went on a few nature walks. When college went fully online; everyone was supporting everyone in every way.
Elfi is doing a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Early Childhood Education and Care at Limerick Institute of Technology.