Nicholas - Trinity College Dublin

B Arts/B Law
Semester 2, 2015

Academic experience

While on exchange I studied three courses with the Trinity School of English; Realism and the Novel, Shakespeare, and Genre the Novel. In comparison to the UQ system, Trinity requires its students to complete a more strongly structured programme with fairly strict outlines and requirements. The initial lack of freedom in choice was confronting, however after spending some time in the courses and with fellow students completing the programme I came to understand the benefits of this system. Lecturers were able to work more confidently from the cohorts assumed knowledge, and several themes were highlighted and emphasised across several courses. The programme at Trinity had a more complete approach than what I have experienced at UQ, which provides a more compartmentalised and specific approach. I felt that the Trinity programme was well suited to a tradition-based course such as English Literature and would hold it up as model (if somewhat tradi tional approach). The greatest difficulty entering the Trinity programme as a third-year exchange-student was that I had to catch up with a lot of assumed knowledge for a demanding course with high expectations.

Personal experience

My exchange experience allowed me the opportunity to travel like never before. The accessibility of travel throughout Europe combined with a network of friends made on exchange meant that I was able to visit numerous countries and their cultures.
While the opportunity to travel was fantastic, nothing compared to the experience of living in a completely new city. Week by week I was able to explore a little piece more of Dublin, circling out from the university and city centre, through neighbourhoods, to the coast and mountains. One weekend we were swimming in the Irish sea and eating Fish and Chips. The next we were hiking in the countryside.
Of course all of these experiences would not have been possible without the numerous friendships made. As an exchange student in a foreign university, you have an instant connection with hundreds of other visiting students from all over the world. I've never met so many people in my life, and never made so many friends. Being away from your familiar home environment forced you to reach out to others, and undergo some serious moments of self-reflection.

Accommodation

I lived off-campus in an university recommended student accommodation block. The arrangement meant that all the international students attended Trinity were staying in the same apartment block. This created a strong community atmosphere, as we were all undergoing similar experiences in a foreign country away from home and were able to help each other through the semester. The "Dub Club" as it came to be know was a strong base for all of us, and we soon became great friends with a diverse group of people from all over Europe and the world; England, Scotland, France, Belgium, Morocco, Spain, Italy, Canada and Australia.
For future UQ Abroad students I would recommend that you try and seek out similar living arrangements for your exchange, that have utilities and services wrapped up in a single package. A friend and I first tried looking for a private lease, however the difficulty of organising this prior to our exchange from halfway around the world proved too much, and few landlords were willing to grant short-term leases for only a semester. Look for student accommodation, either run by the university or by a private company. The staff are familiar with international students and often everything is taken care of. You have the added bonus of sharing accommodation with other students in a similar position to you, and although a semester may seem like a long time, it goes fast, so this option gives you more time to get stuck into the exchange experience rather than messing around with contracts and landlords.

Budget 

I combined my exchange experience with 4 months of travel, 2 months on either side of my exchange semester. I would recommend setting aside $15 000 AUD for the exchange. Some costs included:

  • Accommodation for 4 months incl. utilities and internet 2800 Euro (approx 4300 AUD)
  • Weekly Food and Entertainment approx 50 euros
  • Weekly Transport approx (20 euros) - buying a second-hand bike for €150 up front proved to be a cheaper and more reliable means of transport in Dublin. Most places will buy back your bike at the end of the semester.
  • European airfares can be incredibly cheap if you book in advance, made several international weekend trips to Scotland, England and France for as little as 50 euro on flights and accommodation.

Professional development & employability

The greatest skill and attribute I have developed from the exchange experience has been inter-personal skills with people from a variety of different cultures. Everyone wants to share, but also wants to hear what you want to say. Finding a balance between sharing and listening was an important skill that I developed across the exchange semester. 

Highlights 

The highlight of my experience was joining the Trinity College Literary Society. The university has a strong societies focus, with weekly events running for all members of the societies. In the literary society I made great friends with common passions, and across the course of the semester became more and more involved with their events; trivia nights, creative writing classes, writing lock-ins, poetry reading groups, balls and open mic nights. The highlight of my entire semester was getting up at an open-mic night and reading my own work, about my experiences in Dublin to my newly made friends. 

Top tips 

  1. Do it.
  2. Get involved: in classes, in societies, in everything you can.
  3. Work hard during the week, travel and explore on the weekends.
  4. Make the most of it while you're there because before you know it, it'll be over. 
Nicholas - Trinity College Dublin