Hannah - University College Dublin

Bachelor of Science
Semester 1, 2018
Exchange was a life changing experience that became the best semester of my life.

Academic experience

I took second year science courses at UCD, two of which I required for my minor, and 4 science electives: 
- Climatology 
- Geoscience for Sustainability 
- Global Environmental Change (online)
- Principles of Genetics 
- Principles of Plant Biology 
- Quaternary Environmental Change

The enrolment process was smooth, simple and UCD provided consistent support. UCD automatically signs you on to courses you requested. One of my courses was full, but the international services was able to easily sign me on to another course. 

I found the academic experience to be much more relaxed at UCD. Though it is a full time load of 6 courses, the courses covered far less content and in less depth as compared to UQ science courses. Despite being second year courses, much of the content I had previously covered in first year courses at UQ. Lectures only went for 1hr, and most courses either didn't have practicals or had one every 4 weeks, so I had much more free time. I also took an online course, which I would highly recommend, as it gives you the freedom to organise your study around exchange life. I found the assessment much easier than at UQ. This is due to the reduced content covered in the courses, average of 3 assessment pieces per course and high rate of multiple-choice exams. 

The fewer contact hours was fantastic for travelling/exploring, but made it a challenge to meet and mix with other students, especially non-international students, unlike how at UQ you work together with other students in weekly practicals/tutorials. 

As a science student, it was also really valuable to view the same concepts I'd learnt in Australia but from a European/Northern Hemisphere perspective, e.g. learning about glaciers in depth for Quaternary Environmental Change, or mid-latitude cyclones.

Personal experience

Ireland is such a beautiful, welcoming country - the minute I arrived on campus I felt at home, with people always happy to help and down for a chat. I met people from all over the world within the first week, many of whom became dear friends for life. Though Irish culture is similar to Australian culture (but colder!) adjusting to being alone in a new lifestyle was overwhelming at first; however, I was lucky to be living with 3 other exchange students from the US, Belgium and Chile and 2 domestic students. We instantly became a close family and strong support network, as we were all going through the rollercoaster of being on exchange. 

You will be exposed to so many different cultures on exchange, in the people you meet, and places you travel. Europe is literally on your doorstep, so explore it! I traveled to 13 countries, including an insane 36hrs in London! I was then lucky enough to travel more after semester, including alone in Iceland and Hungary, which I would strongly recommend! Being alone in a foreign country is a scary and challenging experience, but the independence and confidence you gain from it is irreplaceable.

Accommodation

I lived on-campus at Glenomena and cannot fault the accomodation! I lived with 5 other students, in a flat with a shared kitchen/living room. I chose Glenomena  over other residences as we each had a private bathroom. The shared kitchen/living room was great as we often cooked and chilled together.

I would strongly recommend living on-campus in Dublin. UCD is a ~20min bus ride out of central Dublin, so it saves time and money on public transport, or purchasing a bike. There are many services, such as a pharmacy, free gym, doctor and corner shop on campus, and its only a 15min walk to the closest grocery shopping centre.

Costs

Overall, I would recommend a AU$16-20,000 budget for exchange in Dublin in order to truly make the most of your experience in Europe. Living on campus was AU$7000 non-catered, and included water/electricity etc. Food was overall slightly more expensive than Brisbane, especially meat and fresh fruit/vegetables, but there is a wide variety of options to help keep your costs down. Going out for dinner was also more expensive, especially in central Dublin and tourist areas, e.g. Temple Bar. However, the internet and transport were much cheaper, with unlimited mobile data on many pre-paid options, and a cap of €5/day and €20/wk on public transport.  Flights/accomodation are so cheap if you book in advance (RyanAir's €20 return flights to European capital cities), you can tick of your bucket-list over the weekend!

Professional Development

The experience and skills gained from living in a foreign country are unparalleled. Going on exchange has greatly added to my employability, developing vital skills such as adjusting to new work environments, problem solving and inter-personal communication with people from many backgrounds, as well as independence and confidence.

Highlight

The highlight of my experience was meeting so many people from Ireland and the world! It was incredible to be immersed in Irish culture, singing trad tunes in old pubs, while also being introduced to international cultures and making dear friends for life from all over the world.

Top tips

- JOIN SOCIETIES!! Societies are a huge part of student life UCD, with clubs hosting events multiple times a week, sometimes everyday! I joined the LGBT, Erasmus and Jazz society, and it was a great opportunity to socialise outside of the exchange-student bubble. As an exchange student, you meet many other internationals it can be hard to meet domestic students in classes due to your different student lifestyles, but societies are a great way to meet Irish people - and they will love your accent! 

- EXPLORE IRELAND AND DUBLIN!! Coming from the other side of the world, it is tempting to jet away every weekend, but Irish culture is so beautiful and endearing -  you can drive to the other side of the country in 4hrs! Especially for the first few weeks you're there, explore the cobblestone streets of Dublin, or do a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher, or a weekend in Galway... just soak up the lifestyle and culture of being Irish for a semester.  

- JOIN ERASMUS!! This is their version of QUEST, and plan out amazing trips and events! And, you get 10% off Ryanair flights!