Putting my exchange experience into words is an incredibly difficult task. At the risk of sounding completely clichéd, I’ll start off by saying that exchange is an experience of a lifetime that I cannot even begin to recommend highly enough. I chose to study at University College Dublin (UCD) as I’d travelled to Ireland previously and loved it. In the months leading up to my departure, I could barely contain my excitement and Dublin was all I talked about. My experiences at UCD far surpassed anything I could have imagined!

Academic experiences:
Six subjects are considered a full-time course load at UCD. This sounds daunting but is actually very manageable. I completed five third year neuroscience subjects and a first year Irish archaeology subject. With fewer (if any) practicals and assignments and very reasonable two hour end of semester exams, I actually found the workload to be less than at UQ. This made it easy to relax, travel and have fun on the weekends (and throughout the week), pretty much guilt-free. The UCD staff are incredibly helpful and solved any enrollment or subject selection problems after an email or two.

Personal experiences:
Although the academic side of things is important, what really made exchange an unforgettable experience was all the amazing people I met and the friends I made and will keep in touch with for years to come. It’s easy to make friends on exchange (especially with other exchange students) as everyone just wants to have fun and experience as much of Ireland (and the rest of Europe) as they can. I recommend joining the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) during fresher’s week as they organise fun events and weekend trips for international students. Some of the best weekends I had were on the ESN trips to Galway and the Aran Islands, Cork and Belfast. Most of Europe is only a short and ridiculously cheap flight from Dublin, so make the most of it! Weekends are a great time to travel as Irish students living on campus tend to have all their fun during the week and go home for the weekend. I managed to fit in weekend trips to Barcelona, Sweden and Scotland throughout semester.

Expenses:
Dublin is known to be quite an expensive city, however, I found it to be quite comparative to Brisbane. Groceries at Tesco and Lidl are fairly cheap. The on-campus store, Centra, is also quite reasonably priced and if you’re anything like me (i.e. lazy), you’ll do a lot of your shopping there. Triple chocolate Centra muffins are made out of rainbows and happiness, so be warned - you will become addicted. If this happens and your clothes no longer fit, don’t worry - Penney’s is dangerously cheap. I recommend buying your bedding, towels, warm clothes and onesies (the world’s greatest form of clothing) from Penney’s. The majority of my funds went towards flights, accommodation and sight seeing, so I’d recommend setting some travel money aside.

Accommodation:
I stayed at UCD’s Belfield campus, which was great! There’s a fun atmosphere on campus, so it’s easy to make friends and have the craic (fun times). This would probably be harder to find elsewhere. I stayed in Glenomena. Each room has an en suite and you share with five housemates. I would stay in Glenomena again in a heartbeat; however, Roebuck Hall and Castle are also nice. Roebuck Hall is basically the same as Glenomena, just newer, while Roebuck Castle is catered. I was lucky enough to live with five Irish students. My housemates (and Irish people in general) are the friendliest, kindest, wittiest (and most track suit-obsessed) bunch of people I’ve ever met. Within minutes of meeting them, you’re basically best friends!

5 TOP TIPS:

  • Arrive in Dublin at least a week early – you’ll be busy during semester and won’t get much time to experience Dublin, especially if you plan to travel on weekends. Dublin is a fantastic city with lots to see and do, so don’t miss out!
  • Ireland’s weather can be painfully cold (especially in semester 1) but with a warm jacket (or three), a hood and a sense of humour, you’ll be grand, sure. I’d recommend buying your jackets and warm clothes in Ireland as they’re made for the lovely Irish weather.
  • Stay on Campus!
  • Don’t worry about packing vegemite; you can buy it at Tesco. Even if you don’t like it, I suggest you buy some and use it to scare Irish people.
  • Become a craic addict! – exchange is over far too quickly, so make the most of every moment!

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