Academic experiences:
The academic life at UCD is a lot different to that at UQ, but all for the better of your exchange experience. For example, none of the subjects I took offered tutorials, so I had a lot more time to travel and do what I want. While you may think that this will be detrimental to your ability to pass come exam time, keep in mind that the pass mark at UCD is only 40%, which translates to a pass at UQ as well, not to mention the fact that exchange operates on a pass/fail basis.
It was also interesting to be enrolled in Irish economics courses, given their current economic situation, and hearing about it from a European perspective. I took a monetary economics subject which was lectured by an advisor to the Reserve Bank of Ireland that dealt directly with the current state of the European and Irish economies.

Gaining course approval from UQ was an extremely arduous and often frustrating process and I’m still not sure if I’ll get credit for all the subjects I did over there. However the academic side of exchange is secondary to the experiences of travelling and meeting new people, so that’s a sacrifice I don’t regret, so just keep that in mind when you’re struggling to gain subject approval from your faculty.

Personal experiences:
One of the most convenient things about doing an exchange in Dublin is it’s centrality to the rest of Europe and the fact that it’s home to Ryanair, your best and worst friend for exploring outside of Ireland. If you book early enough, you can get flights around Europe for as little as €40 return, so there’s no reason why you can’t jump on a plane and be in another European city a couple of hours later. In addition to the cities and towns of Ireland, I visited Barcelona and Stockholm on two different weekends, and would have gone to more cities had I the money.

Dublin itself however is a great city to go on exchange in. You probably have already heard that the people are friendly (they love Australians), but everything else about the place is good too. I didn’t get homesick for one minute living there. The nightlife is also excellent (go to a club called Coppers) and the pubs are authentic and atmospheric. There’s plenty to see and to around the city too, but you will hear all about this if you join a group at UCD called ESN, who look after all the international student and run trips and nights out all the time.

Expenses:
Dublin is no more expensive than Brisbane, in fact if you stay in a self catered residence, grocery shopping is cheaper than it is here, however it isn’t a cheap place for students who don’t have a source of income for 5 months so it’s important to budget. You will probably need about $12,000 to last you the semester, including flights, and accommodation in order to have a good time. Save as much as you can! Shop at the Tesco which is 30 minutes walk towards the sea rather than the Centra shop which is on campus to save on your food budget.

Accommodation:
I stayed at a college called Glenomena which I recommend highly if you want to meet Irish people. I had 4 Irish roommates in my apartment of 6, where we each had our own bedroom and bathroom. We shared a kitchen where we cooked all our meals as it wasn’t a catered residence. I would also recommend Roebuck Castle residence which is catered (so you’ll pay around $1500 more) and seems to house more international students. It’s brand new and made Glenomena look comparatively dodgy (even though it wasn’t) and all the people who I knew who stayed there had a great time, so if you have the money then go for it. I tried to stay there but slept through the booking process, so you have to be on the ball when it comes to getting a spot on campus.

When you arrive on the first day there are plenty of volunteers there to help you out, you may even be greeted at the airport by someone from UCD. They’ll put you on a bus to campus and someone will be there to get you settled in to your room. If possible, avoid Belgrove residence (nicknamed Belgrade), if only for the fact that it’s old and the bathrooms are shared, but it is preferable to off campus accommodation.

5 TOP TIPS:

  • Attend everything you can, including social events, trips and tourist opportunities. My biggest fear was returning home and regretting not doing something because I couldn’t be bothered at the time, so better be safe than sorry and do everything.
  • Make the most of being in Europe by travelling whenever you get the opportunity. I thoroughly recommend Barcelona which is great for students. Stockholm was nice but was also expensive and didn’t have the best night life. My friends also went to Budapest which they loved and it was cheap so ticked that very important box.
  • Get to know as many people as you can, but don’t be surprised if you don’t become friends with as many Irish people as you thought you might. Meeting like-minded internationals is easier, so it’s important to make an effort to meet more locals.
  • Join the ESN organisation. They’ll take you on trips around Ireland, organise nights out in town and host other social events such as movie nights and traditional dinners. It’s where I met most of my friends (even Irish ones who were part of the committee) and a large part of the reason I enjoyed exchange so much.
  • Dedicate a large part of your budget to drinking, and don’t feel bad about that.

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