If someone were to ask me what country I would really want to visit, Ireland wouldn’t have even crossed my mind; but when I got there, I immediately fell in love with it’s fast green nature, incredibly kind people, and interesting history.
- What types of classes did you take abroad and how did they compare to UCSB?
At University College Dublin (UCD), I took the equivalent of the Physics 6 series for my Biopsychology major. The official names of the courses were “Physics for Life Science 1” and “Physics for Life Science 2”. Over the course of 8 weeks, a whole year’s worth of physics was covered where each course was given 4 weeks to be taught and tested on.
Classes were everyday from 9-11 am. Everyone would be in the same lecture hall and the professors rotated about every 2 weeks or so. After class there would be a 1 hour tutorial (kind of like a discussion session) where we all worked in groups of three to finish a small quiz. The quiz was not graded, but was just for us to see how well we knew the previously taught material. Once that was finished, we would get an hour break for lunch. After lunch we would then go back to our tutorial groups for one more hour to work on a free response worksheet which would be graded.
Depending on your schedule, lab would be held for 3 hours (2-5 pm) right after tutorial. Here we would work with our partners to work on the experimental topics that were assigned to us. Most of the time people get out early, so it wasn’t too much of a time constraint.
Some of the instructors were better at teaching and more approachable than others. They all held office hours, but not a lot of people would go to them. For the most part if we were having trouble understanding what was being taught in class, we would ask our tutors (~4 total) during tutorial section. They were very helpful, approachable, and knowledgeable on the course materials.
Since this program covers a year’s worth of physics in only 8 weeks, the courses are quite intense and fast-paced. Therefore students who decide to do this program need to really take the time to go over the material on their own. There is an online textbook and online hw questions (not graded) that also provide extra help.
- How would you describe your host institution?
I would say that UCD is about the same size, or maybe even a bit smaller, than UCSB geographically. The building were very large and a lot more modern-looking than I expected. Since I was there in the summer, not many Irish students were taking classes so I couldn’t really gauge how many students actually attend the university. From the airport, UCD was about an hour bus ride away.
- Are there student clubs/organizations that UC students can join?
Since the program is so short and intense, and held in the summer, no one joined any extracurricular activities that the university had. It’s uncommon for Ireland kids to do summer school, so not many native students were on campus. However, representatives from the University for the program did offer several Irish cultural events where we could participate in to learn more about Ireland.
- Describe your housing situation.
For housing, instead of a typical dorm style, the university had a more apartment-style look. For each “house”, there would be three stories with two apartments right across from each other on each floor. In each apartment, there would be 4 single bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and one living room and kitchen. There would be four total people in one apartment, and the apartment would either be all girls/boys or co-ed. You do not get to request roommates or which apartment you want. However all of your roommates will be from some UC-campus, so it’ll be a little easier to interact and make friends.
In the bedrooms, there would be one twin bed with a provided pillow and comforter. There was also a desk, chair, floor-to-ceiling open closet, small shelf, and window. The room itself was a bit smaller than UCSB dorms or rooms in IV houses, but it’s a single so it was still pretty nice. The doors of your bedrooms also have access card locks, meaning that you can lock and unlock your door with your access card.
Since there are two bathrooms, each would be shared between two people. They each have a sink, shower, toilet, and towel rack. However only one bathroom has a window, and that bathroom is usually the bigger one.
The common room for each apartment is where the living room and kitchen are. There are two big windows on the side that let you see out into the main courtyard. There are also two long couches, a coffee table, a small circular dining table, and four chairs. Food wise, the university provides a minifridge, a mini freezer, a toaster, a microwave, electric stove, dishes (plates, bowls, cups, etc.), cookware (pans, spatulas, etc.), and utensils. Overall the common room is pretty large and is a good place to study or just hang out with friends.
- Where did you eat most of your meals?
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were all provided everyday for five days a week. Breakfast is held an hour before class starts in the morning, lunch is from 12-1 pm, and dinner is from ~5-8 pm. There are other places on campus to eat, like Subway for example, however most students just stick to the cafeteria food.
On the weekends you were responsible for finding your own meals. There’s an on-campus convenience store right next to were student housing is. There student’s can get almost anything from groceries, to ready meals (pizza, sandwiches), and more. There’s also a grocery store within a little shopping area about a 15-30 minute bus ride away where students would often go to as well.
If students would decide to eat out, the most common area they would go to was the city centre in Dublin. There are many restaurants and cafes to choose from.
- How much was an average meal? Do you have any budgeting tips for future students?
An average meal was somewhere between 12-20 euros. I would say that the pricing of food is very similar to U.S. values. However, budgeting might be a little difficult depending on how much money you bring with you. Since this is a very short and intense program, none of the students would work. Therefore if you want to make sure you have enough money to last through your stay, I would make sure to plan your meals carefully. Since meals are already provided 5 out of 7 days a week, I would recommend to always eat at the cafeteria. On the weekends I suggest to not splurge too much on food. Also if you know you have a tight budget, I would keep the traveling and exploring local (meaning within Ireland). Since the country is pretty small, it’s easier and a lot cheaper to sight see there.
- Would it be difficult for vegetarians/vegans and others with strict dietary restrictions to find meals?
No, it would not be hard because they do serve veggies, fruit, and other non-meat options during breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They do also have specific vegetarian dishes for lunch and dinner often. As for eating in the city, I’m sure there are restaurants where it wouldn’t be hard for vegetarians to find a good meal, however I’m not too sure for vegans.
- Describe your most memorable dining experience abroad.
My most memorable dining experience would have to be the first meal I had on my first day of arriving in Dublin. After I moved in, my friends and I decided to go to Nandos. I’ve heard of Nandos before I went because it seemed to be a popular restaurant in the UK and Ireland, but I didn’t really know what type of food they had there. I was very surprised to find out that it was Lebanese food, which I’ve never had before. Since there was a lot of us, we just ordered a bunch of different family-style plates and shared everything. The food definitely lived up to its hype and I loved it. It was the most memorable for me because it was the first time that my group of friends and I got hang out and get to know each other. I was so happy to find that I vibed very well with them. I was glad that they were the first people that I got to meet before our program started. After we also went to a pub and then a gelato shop, so it was kind of a whole night of just hanging out and having a fun time before we started our program.
- Describe your host city.
My host city was large and metropolitan. It was not really diverse, and coming from Southern California is was something that took a little adjusting to. However there are some ethnic communities here and there if you really looked.
- Was it easy to get around?
For transportation, we mostly had to use the public bus system. At the beginning of the program, the university provides us with a bus card with a small amount of starting money on it. It was our responsibility to add money to it at the convenience store whenever we could.
- Did you feel safe in your host city? Do you have any safety tips for future students?
Most of the time when I went out into the city, I would always be in a group of at least four or more people. From time to time my friends and I would get the occasional racist comment from random guys we would pass by in the street or in pubs, but no one ever tried to approach us or were aggressive with us.
Although pick-pocketting is common in Europe, I never experienced it happen to me. I would like to think this is because I always took precautions when going out. For girls, I would advise that they carry a bag/purse with a zipper and have it in front of them at all times. I used a fanny pack and usually had it slung across my shoulder where it was always in front of my torso.
I would say that because you are going to be in a foreign country, it’s good to have both cash and card on hand in case you lose one or the other. Also it would be best to travel with at least one or more persons, regardless of gender. In addition, it would also be good for at least one person in your group who has international cellular data so it would be easy to navigate around the city.
- What were some interesting/fun things that you did in your host city?
When I was in my host city, I went on bar crawls, toured the Guiness Factory and the Jameson Distillery, and visited Trinity College and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I also took the time to just explore the city centre, where I walked around places like Grafton Street and ate at various restaurants, like the famous Nandos.
In addition to exploring my host city, it was very common for me and others in my program to travel to other parts of the country during the weekends since it would only take about two hours to get to the other side of the country in all directions. I got to go to places like Galway, the Cliffs of Moher, and Belfast.
- Describe any cultural differences you experienced while abroad.
Being an Asian-Pacific Islander, I didn’t really expect to find other people with my same ethnic background in a very old European country. I was mostly right, but was surprised to find a few communities of Philippinos and other Asian ethnicities.
Being American-born, especially from California as well, I noticed a lot of differences in how people dressed and what type of food there was in Ireland. I would say that most people I came across didn’t really care to wear big name brand clothing, nor did I recognize the typical types of brands I normally see here in California. Food wise, there weren’t a lot of other ethnic restaurants around other than the traditional/modern European kind. It was fun experiencing these kind differences because it was something I wasn’t used to, but something I welcomed.
Something I also noticed was that for transportation, most people walked or took buses instead of driving. I found this intriguing because here in the U.S., most people decide to drive as their main mode of transportation. I liked this a lot because it meant that I got to interact with more people and it was better for my health since it was a lot of exercise as well.
- How did you handle culture shock?
Since Dublin is a very busy and tourist-y, it felt a bit similar to other big major cities in the U.S. like New York City or L.A. This is because there are always a lot of people walking around and there are a lot of tall business buildings. Although the architecture of the city was a bit more old, it was still very pretty and somewhat modern.
Most of the people in Dublin were very friendly and nice. In comparison to the U.S., I would say that the only differences I saw in culture would be how people dressed and the types of food. For example, gelato was much more popular and eaten rather than regular ice cream, unlike here in the U.S.
Overall, I would say that I got over the culture shock pretty fast because I didn’t notice any mind-blowing differences between Ireland and the U.S.
- What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?
My favorite aspect of my host culture was that almost everyone was incredibly nice and helpful. In addition, many people were very friendly so it was easy to approach people if I needed help or didn’t understand something.
- Tell us your favorite travel story from your time abroad.
My favorite travel story from when I went abroad would have to be when my friends and I went to Galway the weekend after our first final. We had just had a great night out of celebrating the first half of our program and the next day we spent the whole day on the west coast of Ireland. We left pretty early and took a train which lasted about 2 hours. We walked around the famous Quay Street, went to the Spanish Arch, and much more. All the places we ate at were really good, however my favorite would be the small, cozy seafood restaurant we went to for our last meal. Since Galway is near the ocean, they had amazing seafood. The whole day was just filled with a bunch of site seeing and spontaneous decisions of what to do and where to go. Even though it practically rained the whole time we were there, it was still so much fun and is one of my fondest memories from studying abroad.
- What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal?
My biggest fear about studying abroad was that it would be hard to make friends and that I may have to go through my whole program without having a group of people to talk and hang out with. All of the students (~300) in my program where from a UC campus with more than half of them coming from UCLA. Just sitting at the airport waiting for my plane, I started to notice that other students taking the same flight as me already knew each other through their schools and had already formed a solid group. I didn’t want to think too much about how I knew absolutely no one. Since it was my first time traveling out of the country alone, I started to have some regrets about studying abroad. I was pretty much stressing about it the whole plane ride to Ireland, the whole bus ride to my host University, and for a few hours as I was settling into my apartment. On the day I got there, literally only maybe 2-3 hours in my room, one of my roommates knocks on my door and asks me if I wanted to go out into the city for dinner. When we left our apartment, we met up with a few of her other friends and some new people that her friends had also met on the first day. After that night, we all sort of just clicked and
we all became really close throughout the rest of the program. I realized after that night that I had nothing to worry about because everything ended up working out in the end, and they would become some of my best friends for the rest of my life.
- What was your biggest challenge abroad?
My biggest challenge abroad would probably have been transportation. It wasn’t very hard to get around, but just having to learn how to navigate the bus system or use taxi services was sometimes a hassle. Buses take a longer time to get places than taxis, so sometimes we would have to make the decision on if we would want to waste 30 minutes on a bus for less or only spend 10 minutes in a taxi for a higher cost. Going off of the cost, it did suck that everytime we wanted to go somewhere off campus, we would have to pay money for the bus or taxi. Therefore transportation definitely took out a good chunk of the money I brought and and sometimes restricted me from some of the places I wanted to go to.
- How have you changed as a result of your time abroad?
From my time abroad, I would say that I’m a lot more appreciative of my environment now. By this I mean that I’m more aware of how there’s so much diversity on my university campus and where I’m originally from in southern California and I value it so much more now. In Ireland I was definitely missing being able to being able to get Asian food or Mexican food for example, and just missed seeing other people who were from the same ethnic background as me. I wasn’t expecting these things to be what I would also miss from the U.S. besides my family and friends, and I never thought that I would. Although I really enjoyed getting to know and immersing myself in Irish culture, I think I have a newfound appreciation and pride for being from such a diverse hub that California is. Noticing the cultural differences between here and Ireland has also helped me to better be able to adapt to other cities I travel, whether they’re in the U.S. or in other countries.
- What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?
My advice to prospective students would be to just go for it. It sounds a little vague, but I think whether you’re deciding to go abroad in the first place or if you’re unsure whether you should talk to a group of people in your program to make friends, you should just go for it. A lot of great things can come out of just putting yourself out there and being spontaneous. But if things don’t work out, like you have absolutely no time to go abroad or you didn’t vibe with that a group you tried to befriend, then it’s not the end of the world. At least you’ll know that you tried and won’t have any regrets.