„Céad míle fáilte“
This Gaelic expression translating to a thousand welcomes gives you a first hint on how the Irish will likely treat you not only in Dublin but from the very second you hop on the plane heading towards the emerald isle.
Part of the going abroad experience is to have a thousand sometimes exciting and sometimes anxious thoughts rushing through your mind prior to arriving in the foreign country you chose to spend an entire semester in. For some students it might be the first time ever that they will be on their own whereas others have travelled the world already and are simply excited to be back in Dublin – a city which offers not only tons of pubs to have a pint of Guinness at but also a million things to discover under the many layers of history no matter if it is your first or fifth visit there. In our case, the semester abroad at Griffith College is the first time that we have ever been to Dublin (or Ireland in fact) and let us tell you:
There is a good chance that the capital of Ireland with its various vibrant cobblestone alleys, charmingly unique architecture and historical vibe might be a bit of a challenge to your sense of direction once you first arrive. Luckily, the welcoming culture of the Irish makes settling in truly easy! As a noticeably international city, Dublin comes with a surprisingly lot of friendly strangers who will walk up to you and ask if they can help you figure out where to go, should you ever have a look of feeling lost on your face. Some of the Irish apparently won’t even mind helping you out if they have to stand in the pouring rain for it – despite wearing just shorts and a t-shirt. This actually happened to Fjona just last week, who is one of the authors of this blog entry.
Speaking of: Let us quickly introduce ourselves to you before we give you an insight on our first couple of weeks in Dublin and how we plan to design our Dublin student life for the upcoming weeks of our semester abroad!
Who we are and where we live
We are Fjona, a media management student from Macromedia Cologne and Sarah, studying management at Macromedia Stuttgart and this Dublin blog post is a review of the first month of our semester abroad adventure. Even though we chose the same city for our semester abroad we will likely be flying back home carrying some very unique experiences and memories in our suitcases after those three months which we as of today for the most part still have ahead of us. The most significant difference in the choices we have made so far to make ourselves feel comfortable in the new city are the ones about our living arrangements. Upon arrival you will have to make up your mind on how and where you would like to live during your stay in Dublin, a quite large city which offers countless possibilities.
When looking for accommodation you might want to keep in mind that due to the recent political and economic situation Ireland is becoming even more attractive to live and work in. Some Irish people even explained to us, that the much talked about Brexit already is a factor weighing in on prices for accommodation to go up, since it has a significant amount of people considering moving to Ireland – the soon-to-be only English speaking country left in the European Union. Don’t worry though, in our experience you will be able to find an affordable place near Griffith College if you make sure to think about your living arrangements early enough. An obvious choice for every Griffith student could be the halls of residence on campus where you share a flat with fellow or other international students but neither of us felt that it was the preferred place for us to stay at. We both were looking for some place off campus which would allow us to be a little more independent so we ended up living in a small but cozy rented apartment in walking distance to Griffith College (Fjona) and with a lovely host family just outside of the city center in a suburban area (Sarah). It takes both of us about 20 minutes to get into the city center by foot/by bus.
What we had to get used to
Considering that we wouldn’t be leaving Europe, we weren’t sure how different from home our semester abroad would be. Turns
out a lot is similar to home but the only thing that’s really the exact same is the currency. Driving on the left (and insanely fast without slowing down for speed bumps), an hour of time shift and people taking 15 degrees outside as an occasion to put on shorts may not seem like the worlds most drastic adjustments but they can still have you muse for a second. Since the Irish are used to being an international capital attracting lots of visitors from all around the globe they are very considerate and try to ease your confusion with helpful hints such as painted signs on the streets that tell you to „look left“ or „look right“ before you cross. Some crucial first hand everyday-life tips from us that we would have been glad to know about a little earlier? Always save enough change for the bus and better spare yourself asking Google Maps to give you any reliable information about bus stops. You’ll get the struggle if you’ve ever been to Dublin before!
What we do in Dublin
As students participating in the semester abroad program we are enrolled at Griffith College, a mid-size university near the city center. It is Ireland’s largest independent third level institution with over 7,000 students and offers a range of lectures and extracurricular activities at three campuses in Dublin, Cork and Limerick. Similar to Macromedia, our partner university has established faculties for business, journalism and media communications which makes it a perfect fit for our undergraduate studies. The buildings of Griffith College Dublin come not only with charming stone walls, extravagant golden-framed pictures and huge carpets on nearly every floor just like you would expect them to but also with lots of very friendly staff. Right before the lectures start a couple of introduction days are being set up to welcome new students and help them get along with the unfamiliar academic structures and life on campus. Compared to our campus at home, Griffith College is a lot bigger but after getting lost a lot during the first few weeks we now feel very comfortable around here. The lectures take place on three to four days each week and are held as rather small classes as well as the tutorials are. Our assignments are projects similar to those we are used to from home but we are encouraged to start studying a lot earlier for our exams since we have to take some of them mid October already. Luckily, the different set-up for the semester also comes with some conveniences to make our student life a little easier: an entire week without lectures to work on our assignments before we have to hand them in and three long weeks of Christmas break which give us the possibility to travel along the breathtaking coast of Ireland or to even fly home and be with our families over the holidays! After having survived the first month of our semester we are figuring that surprisingly the most significant difference in our academic everyday life is not about timetables or buildings but the way we communicate with our lecturers and tutors: Everyone goes by their first name around here which creates an encouraging atmosphere and keeps us comfortable enough to ask if we need a little more explaining or help of any other kind.
Aside from engaging with the lectures and assignments at the partner university a semester abroad is supposed to be an enriching time to get to know a new country so we are trying to see, do and visit as many things possible as long as we still have the chance to do so. Especially the weeks before the semester kickoff turned out to be a great opportunity to explore the emerald isle and we can absolutely recommend renting a car and visiting some of the places which offer the full Ireland experience! The Wicklow Mountains/Gledalough national park, any city not too far away like Belfast, Cork and Galway or a day trip to Howth, a charming little village right at the coast with cliffs, lighthouses and a harbor are just some of the places which made our „need to visit“ list. But even if you prefer to stay more in the city center you will still truly have a thousand things to literally stumble upon (those historical cobblestones can certainly be somewhat of a challenge if you happen to be distracted trying to figure out where to go). Taking a random stroll every once in a while will have you discover the many hidden gems alongside the popular spots of Dublin in no time!
Because Ireland’s capital is not exactly a cheap city to live in it is very recommendable to make use of the numerous student discounts you can get around here and to look for some of the many things to do which are not too pricy or even completely free. Dublin offers events, shops and must-visit-spots for absolutely every liking and a lot of them can easily reached by foot. Some of our favorite places so far include the small but lovely Temple Bar Markets which you can enjoy every single Wednesday from April until October, the impressive National Library of Ireland with its high ceilings and splendid reading room, the Townhouse Center which is the place for unique boutiques (and often also a corner to find wonderful street musicians performing at) and last but definitely not least Camden Street which is also known as the „restaurant strip“ and place to go to for students who are seeking traditional Pubs next to a great range of diverse food. Once you have been to some of those places you will realize that there is not the slightest chance that you could be bored at any point of those three months ahead of you but it probably takes you to participate in some of the many cultural or social events that take place in Dublin throughout the year to understand just how perfectly the Irish manage the split between preserving their islands much loved history and celebrating the growing cultural diversity at the same time. The times we were watching one of the the All-Ireland Games, the premier competition in Gaelic football, in a crowded, cheerful pub or visiting an original Irish play during the Dublin Fringe Festival are some of the many memories which we are already sure will last a lifetime.
We hope our first blog post will give you an idea of how much we are looking forward to everything that still lies ahead of us! We will make sure to keep you posted about our further experiences in just a couple of weeks.. Cheers!
Fjona and Sarah