Jacob - University College Dublin

B Engineering/ B Commerce
Semester 1, 2016

Academic Experience

At UCD, I studied a very motley assortment of courses due to the late-stage of my degree. I studied one course that directly lined up to a course here at UQ (Derivatives and Risk Management). This course was effectively the same as the course would have been here.

I also studied Film Studies II and Italian to make up my credits. This was because UCD would not let me take less than 5 subjects, even though all of those subjects may not count back at UQ. However, I thoroughly enjoyed my Film Studies class, and the film society at UCD was great. Indeed, the entirety of Dublin has a thriving film scene. I attended numerous showings at the Audi Dublin International Film Festival, including a Q&A with Richard Gere.

The greatest thing about the courses offered at UCD, however, was encapsulated in the remaining two courses I took. UCD is on the cutting edge in a lot of ways, particularly when it comes to offering culturally relevant courses that adapt to the changing skillset of the industry. I took Entrepreneurial Management and Digital Marketing, two courses which have not only changed my outlook, but have significantly increased my employability back here in Brisbane.

Personal Experience

Being my second exchange, I felt like I wouldn't learn as much, and in some respects this was true. But going into this exchange, I knew what I had to do. I made many more friends on this exchange because I could see their nerves and fears, and knew that everyone was in the same boat. The perspective gained from the first experience fed directly into a much easier, more comfortable experience in the second.

I also got the chance to visit Istanbul in Turkey, which was an eye-opening experience that, aside from being the best trip of my life, opened my eyes in regards to muslim culture.

Accommodation 

I lived on campus. The on campus accommodation is very very close to class, and there is a supermarket on campus. There is also a gym and cinema. I lived in a 4 person share apartment, each with our own room, and it had two bathrooms. I would recommend getting in early and securing on campus accommodation. The earlier you book, the more chance you have of choosing who you want to live with. Furthermore, the accommodation in Dublin is insanely expensive, so unless you want to live even further from the city centre than UCD and in the spare closet of an Irish family, I would recommend booking on campus accommodation the second it opens.

UCD has an excellent bus service for buses into town, so getting into town is very easy and quick, although more expensive than a bus in Brisbane.

Budget

Dublin is, unfortunately, an incredibly expensive city. Accommodation is by far the worst, with the housing crisis in Dublin reaching insane levels. Buses are the best way to get around, although a cab back to UCD after a long St. Patrick's night out isn't prohibitively expensive.
Food is probably the same price as in Brisbane, with alcohol being about the same. Depending on where you get it, a Guinness can be more or less expensive than here in Brisbane. If you want a cheap Guinness, go to Istanbul or Poland. If you want a good Guinness, go to Dublin.

Travel will probably be your biggest expense. Day tours can be between 40 and 60 euro depending on where you go, while trains to different cities are around 20 to 40 euro return. The transport between cities in Ireland is actually excellent. You can get anywhere in Ireland by rail or bus within a day. The best bits of Ireland aren't necessarily in Dublin - they are in the little country towns. Limerick, for example, is excellent. So travel, while probably your biggest expense, is your most necessary expense to experience Ireland.

Professional Development & Employability

The skills exchange gives you are innumerable. You learn, first and foremost, independence. You learn how to think on your feet when confronted with a problem, how to come up with alternative solutions and how to make any situation, no matter how bad, workable. You can sleep in a shoe box in Paris because it's the only way you have lunch halfway up the Eiffel Tower in a Michelin Star restaurant, or you can walk halfway across London because your credit cards aren't working. You realise that no problem is insurmountable, and you can do anything you set your mind to.

Furthermore, you learn how to build relationships quickly. You arrive in a new city, where you know no-one, and you have to make a friendship group fast so that you have people to eat with, study with and travel with. Exchange teaches you how to form bonds with people quickly, and make yourself approachable. This is a valuable skill in any client-facing industry.

Highlights 

There are simply too many to choose from. It could be eating a 700 euro meal at the Eiffel Tower, or it could be sleeping in a Castle AirBNB (https://www.airbnb.com.au/rooms/658697) in Galway. It could be seeking shelter from a small riot in the streets of Istanbul only to stumble on a museum solely dedicated to smells, or it could be standing in line in Oxford University to glimpse Shia LaBeouf in an elevator. It could be discovering the Vintage Cocktail Club in Dublin's temple bar, or it could be kissing the Blarney Stone. It could be dressing up like Turkish Sultans in the Basilica Cistern, or it could even be making a series of Guinness advertisements as a unique way of displaying your exchange to your friends and family back home.

Oh wait, no! The highlight was actually walking behind the library at UCD and bumping into Irish President Michael D. Higgins. That was pretty amazing, and gives you an idea about the sort of prestige of UCD.

Top Tips

Do it. Just do it. Do it as many times as you can, and in as many varied places as you can. Nothing is better for you, your degree or your employability than going on exchange. It will be the greatest experience of your life; one where you don't have to worry about grades, or jobs, or commitments. One where you do nothing but experience the world. The experience is what you make it, of course, but there is no way to make an overseas exchange experience not worth your while.