My Experience Studying Abroad in Ireland

My Experience Studying Abroad in Ireland

Like many of my fellow juniors at Trinity, I have decided to study abroad this semester, so hello from Ireland! Since I’ve been in this new country for almost three months, I thought I’d reflect a bit on my time here so far. I’ve learned a lot about navigating a new country, a university environment, and how to make the most of my travel budget.

Life While Studying Abroad in Ireland

The School

The university I’m currently studying at is University College Dublin, or UCD. UCD is about 15 times the size of Trinity in terms of student population. So that’s something I have definitely been having to get used to. There’s people everywhere all the time! At Trinity I really only feel crowded on campus when classes end and people make their way to their next class or the library or Mather or wherever. Here, there’s 30,000 people who study here so there’s always a crowd of people around. UCD also isn’t directly in the city center like Trinity College Dublin (no affiliation) is, which is nice because it doesn’t feel like a tourist destination. We get a lot of the benefits of living in a city without a lot of the downsides.

The Classes

Irish classes are different than American, or at least Trinity, classes. First off we have to take 6 classes per semester. The normal class load at Trin is 4-5 classes. And there are different amounts of class time in each class (which are called modules) here. Usually most classes will have 1 lecture and 1 seminar/tutorial per week. Lectures can be huge, with up to 200 people. Seminars (also known as tutorials) are much smaller, usually around 15-25 people. But not all classes follow these rules. I have classes that have 2 lectures and 1 seminar, 3 seminars and no lectures, or just 1 seminar and no lectures per week. At Trinity, there are either seminars or lectures, and they meet 2-3 times a week, at the same time. The 3 seminars a week class meets at different times on different days; the two lectures and a seminar class has different meeting times and places for the lectures. This might sound really complicated, but trust me, you do get used to it. Nearly all classes here are 50 minutes and almost no one has class on Fridays, which leaves lots of time for weekend travel to different parts of Europe.

The City

Exploring Dublin
Exploring Dublin

I feel like Hartford has prepared me pretty well for living in Dublin and UCD is kind of like Trinity because it’s not located quite downtown but is still close enough to go into the city very easily. Dublin is obvious much larger than Hartford but it’s not as big as other cities like London or Paris. It’s very easy to get around with the bus and tram system (called the LUAS but pronounced like Lewis) and suburbs like the coastal town of Howth and Blackrock are just a short ride away. I didn’t know much about Irish history before coming here but taking classes on this subject and just living in Dublin has taught me a ton about medieval Ireland, colonized Ireland, and modern Ireland.

How to Study Abroad on a Budget: Travelling

Like many students studying abroad, I want to get the most of my time here and travel all over the country and across Europe. However, even on this continent, those things cost money (Euros specifically). I quickly realized this and, three months in, thought I’d share some things I find useful to get the most of your time here without spending the most.

Save save save!

I cannot emphasis enough how important it is to save up, even just for a semester abroad. I’d recommend saving as soon as you know you want to study away. For me, I have had quite a few jobs on campus and a paid internship this past semester, so I was able to save up a sizeable amount. I also cut a few things out while I was still on campus in the fall that would I know I would be grateful for in the long run. For example, I often told myself I could either get a coffee from Goldbergs in Vernon Social now or a coffee from a local vendor in Paris in a few months.

Make a list of your top places to visit

This semester is a once in a lifetime opportunity to go tons of places I probably won’t be able to see again, at least not for a long time. My friends and I wanted to go everywhere in Europe but quickly realized we only have a certain number of weekends. So we made a list of everyone’s top place to visit and narrowed in down to a few, plausible cities and started planning from there. It’s not possible to go everywhere you want to but make a point of going to your most dreamed about

Shop around

It’s good to have a general idea of when you want to go to certain cities but be open to change. Some weekends are much cheaper than others (for example, the last Sunday of each month, the Vatican Museum in Rome is free) so start planning early to get the cheapest flights possible. Also be aware than the more popular the season, the more expensive—and crowded—a city is going to be. Look on sites that compare multiple vendors, like Kayak or Sky Scanner for flights and Hostelworld for hostels.

Get creative

Maybe late Thursday evening is the cheapest flight you can find but also be aware the extra night you’d have to spend on a hostel. Sometimes the cheapest options turn out to cost you more money. You don’t have to fly home with the same airline you initially flew with. Different airlines have different prices! Also don’t rely on hostel to be the cheapest places to stay. Generally, they will be but you’d be surprised at the prices of some Airbnb rentals and even some hotels (although do your homework if you want to stay at an Airbnb!).

Postcards!

Postcards are a super, super cheap souvenir that are easy to carry and show where you’ve been. Most postcards are less than 80 cent and much smaller than a t-shirt or snowglobe and can be mailed home easily.

Travel within the country

Yeah, Amsterdam and London are cool but have you seen the Peace Wall in Belfast? Or the Cliffs of Moher and Galway? One of the first things my program here stressed was the beauty of Ireland and suggested we not spend every weekend on the continent. We haven’t and I’m glad we did. The Irish countryside is stunning and Dublin is a bustling city full of a vibrant culture. I love learning about Irish history through experience and it’s much cheaper to spend a day in Cork and kiss the Blarney Stone than flying for three days to Prague and spend money on a hostels and nice meals. There must be a reason you chose to study in a certain country so go explore it!

Of course, I’m writing from the point of view of a European study abroad experience. Different countries have different exchange rates and different prices, so I’d highly recommend researching as much as possible ways to save money in the country you’d like to study in but I hope these few tips have helped at least a bit.

Living in Barcelona

Living in Barcelona

Hola todos! (Hello everybody),

I am in Spain for the semester! Though the pre-studying abroad process can feel stressful and frustrating, especially since study abroad always feels so far away, it is by far one of the more worthwhile experiences I have had in my life. I am living in Barcelona, Spain for the semester and just wanted to share my first few experiences, impressions and struggles studying abroad.

I have been to Spain many times in my life, and I even have family that live in the capital, but coming to Barcelona has been a difficult and amazing adjustment. The first thing that hit me was the time difference. Since Spain is 6 hours ahead, adjusting was difficult because I was used to sleeping during the daytime here and doing things during the night. However after a few days of forcing myself to stay up during what felt like the night, it has become normal.

The Trinity team is full of nothing short of miracle workers. Agueda and Brian work to coordinate our schedules, our field trips, our money vouchers and so much more. Though we have been here a mere 3 weeks, we have had numerous outings, both optional and mandatory, which include museums, cooking classes, hikes, tapas eating, trips outside the city, flaminco dancing, self-defense and more. Gabriela, also on the Trinity team, often takes students on optional field trips.

We have been lucky enough, through Trinity, to access some amazing sites in Barcelona for free. The Trinity space itself is located on Pau Claris, which is an avenue in the center of Barcelona in walking distance from the Gaudi buildings and parallel to Passeo de Gracia. The advanced students are taking a history class which is located in the Ateneu, a historical building located right off the Ramblas, which has a renown library, a beautiful cafe in the courtyard, and classrooms on the top floor. The rest of our classes are at the UPF (Universitat Pompeu Fabra) and are in the middle of the city, in all different parts of the school.

As far as housing during study abroad here, there are 2 options. Students can choose to stay at the TSH (The Student Hotel), which is located in the Melon district, or students can choose to live in a homestay. There are upsides and downsides to both choices, as with many things, but the perks of both situations significantly outweigh the potential costs.

In a homestay, students have the chance to fully immerse themselves in the Spanish language. Students are placed with families, meticulously vetted by Trinity’s staff, who have expressed an exceptional interest in taking in an international student. Students fill out a survey explaining both what type of living situation they are looking for (for instance, do they want little kids, pets, etc) and a form explaining their living personality. The host families do the same and students are matched to the best of the programs ability with a compatible home. Though the families all speak Spanish in the household, they are very patient with students learning the language. This semester we have a student in a homestay who speaks very little english, and both he and his host family are very patient with each other learning to communicate in broken Spanish and broken english. But the advantage of living in a homestay is just that: the student picks up the language at an alarming rate. Learning to speak in a language is very different from learning the dissect the language into grammatical concepts. Students in homestays get the chance to practice their conversational Spanish everyday and everyday they become better Spanish speakers. Another advantage of living in a Spanish household, is the advice they can give you about the city. Nobody knows the ins and outs of the city better than they do because it is the city they live in, and for many, the city they grew up in. Host families can give the best advice as to places to eat and exhibits to visit, but also the places to avoid, the cautions about living in the city and much more. Many people in homestays eat at least dinner with their families which gives them time to bond and time to practice their Spanish!

The other option offered to students is TSH. The Student Hotel is located in the Melon district and is home to hundreds of students from all around the world. From the TSH dorms, it is about a 5 minute walk to the metro and it’s within walking distance of the beach and the university. Each student is issued a room key that allows access to the cafeteria, the building, the kitchen and the common areas. Each floor consists of about 10 rooms on either side of the hallway and at the end there is a shared kitchen. The cafeteria is on the ground floor and is connected to TSH but is a public restaurant in the area. The common space consists of a large study room, a large TV and viewing area, a pool table, ping pong table, fusbol table and more. The residents of the space are invited to regular events that are put on by TSH that engage students in activities with one another. Students at TSH also get to enjoy the rooftop area, which looks out on the city of Barcelona from 12 stories up, as well as a rooftop pool. There are also many advantages to living in the TSH. The rooms are small, but private with queen beds, and private bathrooms. There is a cleaning service that comes once a week, and a service that cleans the kitchen as well. There are shared fridges and cabinet space with allows students to cook during the week as well as store groceries for convenience. Living at TSH, students are entirely independent and entirely responsible for themselves and their needs, such as laundry and meals.

Either way, every student has amazing living accommodations while studying abroad in Barcelona and students from TSH and homestays have plenty of opportunities to spend time together during the week and on the weekends. Trinity does a great job with matching up families with students as well as placing students in the generous hands of The Student Hotel.

Overall, this trip has been amazing so far. We are so lucky to have so many amazing people on the Trinity in Barcelona staff who have helped us to get settled and encouraged us to explore on our own. So far, this has been an amazing semester and I cannot wait to share more of it with you as I go!