About one out of every five students in UCD is an international student, with over 100 nationalities represented in this university. But what makes UCD, and moreover Ireland, so appealing? For Jennifer Choy, an American, it was because of her family’s links to Ireland: “I have family here, ancestors from my mom’s side.” For others, it simply seemed to be a prudent choice for a study year abroad. Chananel Gibson is on exchange here from the University of Nottingham, but is originally from Trinidad and Tobago: “Well as part of my degree in Nottingham…I’m supposed to spend one year abroad and Ireland was one of the options. I thought Ireland was a good option because it was English speaking and it was also on the Erasmus program which is a good one to be on.”
Moving to a new country can be pretty daunting, but UCD’s International Orientation Program aims to help international students settle into the university and also into Ireland. Yue Sun, a final year Computer Science student from China, found the Orientation Week helpful and practical: “We did a city walk around Dublin and they took us to Ikea to buy some things. Also, [there were] lectures to tell you what you need to do to get buses and things like that.” Students were also welcomed at the airport and were given assistance with their transportation to UCD.
The International Student Society (ISS) plays a huge role in ensuring that international students get to make the most out of their time in Ireland and helps them to integrate with other students. Choy, a second year Drama and Political Science student, is also a member of the ISS committee: “We organise trips to like Galway, Cork and Belfast, just like around the country. And like last semester they were great and that’s why I decided to join the committee. They had a whole bunch of little nights. Like we had this one last semester, a Girl’s Night where they had free pizza and icebreakers and you meet so many new people. It’s pretty awesome… It was kind of an accident, how I joined. They had a movie night and if you came early, they had a surprise. The surprise was being on the committee! It was good, like I totally don’t regret and it was a good movie too, The Wind that Shakes the Barley.”
When asked what they thought about UCD, the students were all very positive in their replies. Choy had this to say: “It’s just a nice campus and has modern facilities. It’s like a giant straight line which is super easy. And it’s such a pretty campus and when it’s raining, you know, it’s nice to have shelter.” Unsurprisingly, Ireland’s natural beauty is also admired by the students. Yue’s favourite thing about Ireland is its fascinating environment: “I travelled to some places like Glendalough and the Cliffs of Moher and I think they’re very beautiful. They’re the places I like the most.”
One thing all three students had in common was their presuppositions of Ireland. Gibson had the image of a wet, agricultural landscape: “I thought it would be very rainy with lots of hills and cows.” Yue also had the same expectations of Ireland: “Before I got here I knew there was going to be a lot of rain and it was the same as I thought.” It comes as no surprise, then, that the one aspect of Ireland that they weren’t happy with was the weather. Gibson put it frankly: “I dislike the weather; I think everyone would say that. It’s always cold… and it’s dreary and that’s kind of off-putting.”
Choy also expected a multitude of red heads with incomprehensible accents, but she was disappointed: “I thought they’re accents would be stronger, but it’s not as strong as I would’ve expected. I mean unless you’re from Cork.” She also doesn’t agree with the stereotype that the Irish are excessively drunk: “[They’re drunk] the regular amount. They just like to let loose. I definitely, no offence, thought they would drink a lot more, like all the time. Like a lot of them do that, but they also balance work.” On the other hand, Yue believes that there is a strong pub culture in Ireland: “I think people here love to drink more than people in China… I think pubs are the main thing here… But I think it’s quite expensive so I don’t go very often.”
Opinions about alcohol consumption aside, all three students agree that Ireland is a great place to study. Gibson has even been so impressed by the Emerald Isle that she would finish her degree here, if given the option, saying “I think I prefer Ireland to England.” Not even the rain can dampen Ireland’s irresistible charm but it seems to bring the greyness of the campus to life.