Nia - University College Dublin

B Arts/Communications
Semester 2, 2018
An unforgettable experience that leaves you with life-long memories

Academic experience

I studied 6 courses while at UCD (2 psychology, 2 communications and 2 Spanish electives). Enrolling in subjects was a little stressful. Initially you can register online (depending on your course), however if you need to change anything after registration, you need to go to the international office in person. Keep in mind that some subjects (like psychology) are not available to general exchange students, so only a limited amount of places are given to exchange students who major in the subject at their home university. This was a little stressful for me because I had to go in to the International Office to physically enrol for my psychology subjects and I found that places filled quickly.

While the subjects were easier than subjects at UQ, be aware that each subject typically has 2-3 assessment pieces that typically range from 50-60% weighting. I found that the end of semester was particularly stressful with my selection of subjects. All of my subjects required physical submissions for assessment, so living off campus made this a little tedious at times.

I enjoyed the small classes for my 2nd and 3rd year courses and found it a conducive environment to engage with other students and the lecturer. I had a hard time meeting Irish students in these classes so it was nice knowing a few other exchange students in my classes. The lectures aren't recorded so it is important to attend. I found that some assessment could be quite vague in what they were asking for so it's important to ask the lecturers if you have any confusion.

Personal experience

Although some parts were stressful, I generally had a great time on exchange. I'd say that the people you meet are one of the best parts of exchange; I met people from so many other parts of the world and shared so many lovely memories with them. I'd recommend joining clubs at UCD because this is the best way to meet people; I joined the Mountaineering Club at UCD and really enjoyed hiking in the Irish scenery with UCD students. I also loved being so close to other countries in Europe and experiencing so many different cultures and languages. Whether you travel before, during or after your semester, make sure you do it! 

My classes were also very interesting and engaging, and I found that the skills I learnt in adopting to their university system has helped me improve my academic skills back at UQ.

Accommodation

Accommodation was a bit of a nightmare. I initially signed up for the random lottery to live on campus, however I was only given the option to sign up for continuing students. As I was unaware this was the incorrect list, I was notified by UCD on the Friday afternoon (Irish time) before the lottery draw on the Monday. After emailing them to rectify it, they told me they'd take care of it and put me on the right list before the lottery draw. Unfortunately, they never put me on the correct list until I called them to follow up a few days later. This meant I missed out on on-campus accommodation and had to look for off-campus accommodation.

Given that Dublin is going through a housing crisis, it was extremely difficult to find affordable off-campus accomodation. Luckily UCD directed students to 3 private student residences located in the city centre; I stayed at Ardcairn House. Ardcairn House was advertised as a newly constructed student residence, however construction was still ongoing during my stay. The facilities were of high quality, however I found the construction and lack of communication by Ardcairn staff made my stay more stressful than it needed to be. In saying this, I was housed with predominantly UCD exchange students so this made the experience more enjoyable.

It also took me about 40 minutes to get into campus everyday by bus, so consider location if you choose to live off campus. Australian students generally get on campus accommodation, so I'd recommend trying this first before looking for off-campus.

Costs

Dublin was far more expensive than I was expecting, however I found it similar to Australian prices. Accommodation was about $7000 - $8000 off campus, which was the largest expense I encountered. Transport was very expensive for me because I had to get the bus in to uni every day. My leap card (like a go card) capped at 5 euros each day and 20 euros each week. Transport to other places in Ireland wasn't too bad, and I found Ryanair to be the best airline for cheap airfare to other places in Europe. The cheapest plane ticket I ever got was 5 euro from Cologne to Manchester! 

With food, I'd recommend shopping at places like Aldi and Lidl to get the cheapest groceries and limit eating out. Like other cities, there are certain areas that are more touristy/expensive than others (e.g. Temple Bar) that can be avoided. 

I'd recommend budgeting more money than necessary to accommodate for trips on the weekend, membership fees for any university groups and any travel you'd like to do after exchange. I travelled for a month before and after exchange finished so I saved more money to factor this into my overall budget.

Challenge

The largest challenge was adapting to their university system. As UQ subjects have detailed descriptions about assessment and their requirements, I found it hard to adjust to the more open-ended approach that UCD courses typically take. As most students learn all assessment requirements for their specific course in their first year at university, 2nd and 3rd year classes assume you have this knowledge. To overcome this, I made sure to continually communicate with lecturers if I needed clarification on anything.

Professional Development

Exchange has definitely caused me to become more open-minded. I have become more autonomous and confident as I have learned how to navigate myself through study and travel in a foreign country. Through my studies, I have learned how to better organise myself and adapt to new/stressful situations. Meeting new people has taught me how to be a more proficient communicator, which is invaluable in any academic or employment situation.

Highlight

The highlight of my experience was being able to travel to other countries in Europe so easily. Travelling with friends and meeting new travellers along the way have left me with memories I will never forget.

Top tips

I'd recommend starting the application early and having a number of back up subjects to account for any timetable clashes/unavailable subjects when you register. I'd also recommend making sure your application for on-campus accommodation is correct and to follow up with them via phone if there are any concerns. Join clubs and societies at UCD as this is a great way to meet people and participate in new experiences.