Inbound students Study Abroad and Exchange at the University of Melbourne

Students sitting in a tutorial

Georgina McKay in front of the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland.

Student Profiles

Georgina McKay

University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland

Exchange in Semester 2, 2008


Woo hoo! You're going to Ireland! I'm so jealous! I thought I might just jot down a few things that may come in handy when you get over there.

I went over to Ireland in our semester two of 2008 (my second year). I left Australia on the 25th of June and wandered around Europe for a month before heading to Ireland. I had a bit over four weeks in Ireland before uni started and I was lucky enough to have family dotted around the country that I could mooch off. I hung around a little bit after semester finished and went to Scotland and London before heading home in mid January.

First of all, one semester is not enough! It goes so bloody fast, and I even had an extra month there. If you are lucky enough to have the time and money, I think it would be worth staying for a year. Sorry to repeat the exchange office! I know they say it all the time.

 

Starting off

  • The air coach and airline both go from the airport into town, but the air coach will drop you outside UCD. It's the Leopardstown/Sandyford Route and you can just ask the driver to drop you outside UCD, there's a massive hotel across from UCD in a slip road called Montrose that you can't miss.
  • From town, the number 10 bus goes right in to UCD from O'Connell St, which is one of the main streets in Dublin that everyone can point you to.
  • The Irish are so friendly! Especially to Australians. Lots of young backpackers come to Australia from Ireland. To generalize, they love Home and Away and so they'll love you! So you can just ask anyone to help you and they won't mind.

Going Around

  • It's quite easy to get around Ireland and the buses that go to other counties aren't too expensive and are more reliable than the normal Dublin ones.
  • There are lots of places to go in Ireland, even if it only about the size of Tasmania, which means you can just catch buses around.
  • I loved: the Aran Islands (just off Galway on the West coast), the Cliffs of Moher, Killarney in County Kerry (great if the weather is good because there's an awesome national park), Cork and the Blarney stone was great, I loved Donegal, which is right up the top, but I had family to take me around, which made it a bit easier. Galway is great as well.
  • If you're old enough you can rent a car, and I reckon this would be the best way to get around Ireland. The scenery's really great and you can stop anywhere you want etc. If you're going in our first semester I think you get one or two weeks off during uni.
  • Northern Ireland: I went up to Belfast one weekend with a couple of friends and I really liked it, even if it was a bit of a bogan town they call it a city but I would challenge this. Really interesting history and politics. Get a Black Cab tour and you can ask lots of questions. Derry was a lot nicer to walk around. It's a walled city and where a lot of the old old stuff happened between the English and Irish. The murals at Free Derry Corner are amazing. I watched the movie Bloody Sunday, which you can get out from the UCD library for free (as well as a bunch of other half decent DVDs). Really interesting. There are a few good museums in Derry as well.
  • In Dublin: I thought Dublin Castle was really great, but I love history. Trinity is definitely worth a look, there was another Melbourne girl on exchange there so we got to see the residences, which are a lot more impressive than the UCD ones. St. Stephen's Green is gorgeous on a sunny day. I'd do one of the city bus tours in the first week you're there, it gives you a great overview of the city and you can get your bearings. The Guinness Brewery tour is worth it as well, and I hate Guinness. Great view from the top of the building as well. Glendalough is close to Dublin and worth a day trip.
  • I had a four day weekend so I spent one weekend visiting another friend on exchange in Birmingham and one extra long five day weekend in Paris by myself. Ryanair can be massively cheap when you get the sales and everything in Europe is so ridiculously close.

Uni:

  • I stayed in Belgrove on campus so I had two flatmates and one bathroom and kitchen to share between us. I really loved it and the girls (from Canada and Italy) were awesome. Belgrove has a laundry, which I thought was quite expensive, but what can you do? Merville is great as well. There are 4 people in the flats there, but they have two bathrooms. Downside of both is that the fridges are insanely tiny! And only a small freezer box. Though one of the girls last year got lucky and someone had left a big freezer in their flat in Merville. Some of the flats in Merville at the front are a bit newer and it's also closest to Centra. Roebuck's a lot newer and nicer and you get your own bathroom, but, from memory there's no oven, only a microwave (in Merville and Belgrove you get an oven and stovetop but no microwave). A couple of people said it was a little bit more isolating in the rooms in Roebuck compared to Merville and Belgrove. Roebuck has a laundry.
  • One of the reasons I loved living on campus was it was so close to classes. I timed it once, and I could get to class door to door from my flat in four minutes. Most of the Arts subjects are in the Newman building, which is just next to Belgrove. Quinn is also really close to Belgrove.
  • This all being said, no matter where you stay it'll be awesome!
  • Shopping: There's a small shopping centre on campus, Centra. Really, it's not that much bigger than a 7-11 and everything is expensive. I only got milk, bread, frozen pizza when it was on sale and cheap, disgusting wine. They only sell wine, no beer or other alcohol. Spar is just up the road past Roebuck, a little bit more variety and I think a little bit cheaper. Within walking distance is Tesco (equivalent of a Coles) Bring a backpack though, then you won't feel it when you're walking back. The cheapest though is to catch a bus into town and shop at Aldi or Lidl; I used to go to Aldi behind Henry St, just off O'Connell. So cheap! And there's a little market off Henry St that sells massively cheap fruit and veg. Henry St is off O'Connell near the giant Spire that you cannot miss.
  • I think I got just about all my clothes I bought over there from Penney's it is legendary. Cheap socks and underwear and everything else. Dunns is cheap as well.
  • Everything on Grafton St is expensive, but I loved walking down it and it normally has awesome street performers.
  • There's a post office and chemist on campus. As well a doctor that I had to use twice, which was free and I didn't even have to use travel insurance.
  • The Library The main library at UCD is the James Joyce, pretty decent though when essays are due it can be a bit of a wait for the computer to print off. I didn't realise until I'd actually finished my semester, but if you e-mail your essay to yourself you can print it off in the Newman building from the Stand Up and Surf comps. Library has a half decent collection of DVDs you can borrow. And always remember your student card! So many times I forgot it and walked all the way back to Belgrove to get it, which is time consuming if you're rushing to hand in an essay.
  • Essays (I'm an Arts student, sorry if this doesn't apply!): Don't print double sided, they hate it. When handing in essays they make you line up and tick your name off a list. Always print 2 copies, otherwise they'll send you off and make you wait in what can be a massive line. And it's handy to have filled out the cover sheet before you go, you can print them off from the website (at least you could for history and politics).
  • Exams: They charter buses to take you to the exam halls, but they can get really packed. You can just catch one of the buses down N11 and then it's about a 10 minute walk, just follow the crowd of students.
  • I know before I went I was a little worried about doing the 6 subjects, but really don't stress! I did most of my essays the night before or day of and got half decent marks. I know for research essays you're not expected to have as many sources as at Melbourne (one tutor told me I could have a minimum of three for a 2500 word research essay). And the pass rate for exams is only 40%.
  • Paying for buses is a bit different than in Melbourne. You have to have coins!!! They won't let you on if you only have notes and can't pay in coins. What was really useful was the 10 trip pass, then you don't have to save up all your change and can use it for the laundry instead. You can get them from most newsagents and convenience stores.
  • It depends on traffic, but generally it's about a 20mins to 35mins bus into town. The number 10 is right on campus and close to the residences, but is more infrequent than the ones that leave from the main entrance.

Money:

  • I was majorly stressed about money before I went and so I'm sorry if I'm a bit vague about what I spent.
  • So, Dublin is quite expensive at least it was when I was there. And the Aussie dollar went down while I was over there, which was very frustrating. The best thing I can say is to try not to convert back to Aussie dollars when you're buying stuff. It gets too depressing if you do it for too long and you realise how much everything costs. And if all else fails, just think of the New Zealanders.
  • It really does depend how much you go out and buy when you're there. I went out quite a bit and away on the weekends but I didn't buy a lot of clothes or souvenirs or presents. I was away for about 7 months and about 4 of those were when I was on exchange in Ireland. I spent about $20 000 for all 7 months, but you could definitely do it for less. And I also didn't work when I was over there.
  • If you're on youth allowance you can get it while you're away as you're not taking time off study. Woo hoo! And you can also go on the away from home allowance if you're not already, but you don't get rent assistance. You just have to let Centrelink know everything.
  • You probably realise this, but you get an automatic $1000 as it's a U21 uni.

Going Out:

  • Man, the Irish can drink! Irish pubs are great and you should definitely try to catch some Irish music at a pub when you're there. Temple Bar is fun, right in town, but gets a bit touristy.
  • There are two bars on campus, often filled with first years. They close at about midnight. Lots of people go there first and then into town.
  • We used to have a few drinks in someone's flat before we caught the last bus into town to go out. The Irish are the champions of pre-drinking. Be a little carful with having too many people in your flat, they will come in and take your student card and fine you etc. if there are too many people or you're making too much noise.
  • And on a random note, the fire alarms used to go off all the time, very annoyingly at 3am. If they're doing a drill alarm they will come into the flats and check that you have left the building, otherwise they will fine you (I think about 50 euros) so even if you're on the third floor I would recommend leaving!
  • A taxi is about 14euros home from town, not too bad if you're splitting it with others. You can be waiting around for a while if it's late at night because most of the pubs close around the same time.

 

Extra Curricular:

  • If you're going in our semester two it's great because there's lots of orientation stuff around and people are joining clubs because it's their first semester.
  • A lot of the people I lived with, and therefore hung out with, were international students so clubs were great for meeting actual Irish people. Both Rowing and Tutoring were with majority Irish students. I so recommend joining clubs!
  • L&H is great as is the Arts Soc, both have really great speakers (Dr. Cox from Scrubs was there my year, the year before they had JK Rowling) and debates (when I was there they had one on pornography with a porn start so interesting, and one on the US election with one of the very early presidential candidates)
  • I did rowing, which was really fun. The UCD boathouse is on the Liffey, next to Phoenix Park and it's in a really gorgeous area. Everyone I started with was a beginner. Got to go to the Rowing Ball, which was a very interesting cultural experience. I think it was about 10 euros to join, and I think all the other sports ones are about the same. Most other clubs and societies are 2 or 3 euros.
  • I also did the New Era Voluntary Student Tutoring Scheme, and I would recommend it to anyone. I tutored a year 9 girl in maths, English and history. Originally I was worried about different school systems, but it was fine. It was only a few hours on a Tuesday night for about eight weeks.

 

Movies: All of these Irish movies are great, I would recommend watching them.

  • The Wind That Shakes the Barley about two brothers in the Irish War of Independence and the subsequent Civil War. Really great! And I think Cillian Murphy is hot.
  • Bloody Sunday Shot doco style, about the Bloody Sunday shootings in Derry in 1972. Great if you're going to Northern Ireland.
  • Once set in modern day Dublin. Has possibly the best soundtrack ever. Was very cool because you recognise a lot of Dublin streets etc.
  • A Film With Me In It Hilarious! Black comedy with Dylan Moran and David O'Doherty, set in modern Dublin.
  • Kisses about two kids that run away from home and go to Dublin city. Such a sweet movie, set in today's Dublin.
  • PS I Love You I know it's not technically Irish, but the guys are hot and have great accents and they're in Ireland for a little while. The bar he meets her at is in Dublin as well so you can go visit it.
  • And I know it's not a movie, but listen to the song Galway Girl. My beyond favourite Irish song, they sing it in pubs all the time.

Irish History and Politics:

  • I will sounds like a complete arts student saying this, but the politics and history of Ireland is really interesting! Especially everything to do with Northern Ireland and the British.
  • I took a first year subject called 'Introduction to the Irish Political System'. Really great overview and not too difficult.
  • We were a little surprised by some of the discussions we had in tutes, eg Around abortion (it's not legal in Ireland Google Case X though, sad and interesting). Catholicism is really present and when I stayed with family we went to church every Sunday.
  • There are a bit over 4 million people in Ireland, and when you count Northern Ireland it is just under 6 million. I thought this was interesting (maybe I'm just boring though) because Melbourne's a bit under 4 million. Not as urbanised as Australia, so lots of little country towns. This is just conjecture, but it felt like more people at UCD were from all around Ireland rather than just from Dublin, as opposed to Melbourne where I think more Australian students are Melbournians.

Umm, what else can I think of? There are a lot of Polish and Nigerian immigrants, which is a relatively new thing in Ireland since the Celtic Tiger (rapid economic growth in the 1990s) and we came across quite a bit of racism. Other than that, the Irish are insanely friendly, they love Australians, have awesome accents (that vary not only around the country, but in different parts of Dublin as well. The accents from the North were my favourite), drink lots of tea, are easygoing especially with getting in to the country.

Most of this is just my experience so it's different for everyone and I have just rambled on. But update this list; fill in all the stuff I've forgotten and pass on your wisdom to the next bunch of exchangers when you get back!

Hope I haven't been too boring and good luck with everything, you're going to love it!

 

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