The constant pitter patter of rain, rolling green hills dotted with sheep; my exchange semester in Ireland was a stark contrast to home, but this was a change of scenery I welcomed and learnt to love. As a second year BSc/ MMBS student Ireland was perfect for exchange with rich history, friendly locals, great location and lots of good craic to be had.

Attending Univeristy College Dublin and taking six science modules, I discovered studying abroad to be a fun and challenging experience. My courses included 2 third year neurobiology and developmental modules, a third year biological and organic chemistry, a third year cell biology, a second year pharmacology and a first year thoracic anatomy course. I found the teaching and assessment style to be quite different in UCD. Lectures are not recorded but usually a ppt is used. Class sizes were small and the lecturers are grand. The main difference for me was the lack of practical work and continuous assessment throughout the semester. One of my courses only had practical or lab work every 2 to 3 weeks, with small reports required for each (not due for 2 weeks). Another simply had a three day lab during the mid sem break with a larger report required for submission after 3 weeks. The rest of my courses only involved papers or small assignments during the semester. Learning is therefore very indepedent and theory based. For those with electives I'd reccommend taking some Irish cultural modules, as they can be interesting and may also help make balancing the workload of 6 modules easier. Additionally, I was also able to take free Irish language classes every week.

Sharing an apartment with two other girls, I really enjoyed living on campus in the Belgrove Residence. Belgrove was located closer to the university campus buildings, a different location to Merville and Glenomena which are closer to a bus station and Centra. Despite this, I really enjoyed my time at the Belgrove apartments. The room was reasonably sized, we had a shared bathroom, a living room with comfortable couches and a kitchen with a shared (small!) bar fridge with freezer compartment, hob, kettle and oven. Apartments have either an oven or microwave (not both! News apartments have microwaves, my older apartment had an oven). Having great flat mates became important as the apartments were checked for cleanliness and can get rather gross depending on who and how many people you shared with. Security is also strict with on campus accommodation, having to swipe in with your ID cards between 10pm to 7am every night, earlier on particular days. Belgrove has facilities for laundry, a communal kitchen and TV room.

Between study, I had a constant stream of meet ups, movie nights, pub crawls, sports games and trips organised by the ResLife, the international office or the International Student's Society, as well as sports clubs and other societies at UCD. Weeknights were great for live music in the Dublin pubs (O'Neills being a personal favourite). I was able to see all the major cities and sites in Ireland: Cork, Mizen Head, Limerick, Clare, Clonakalty, Galway, Cliffs of Moher, Belfast and Derry, by doing weekend tips with ISS. The club trips are a must do, promising a grand time on a students' budget. Sure they are a bit rushed but you will get to see everything and you can later return to places you particularly enjoyed. St Patricks day was of course an experience as Dublin was flooded in green. Other highlights included riding around the Slea Head drive in Dingle, exploring Killarney National Park, climbing Mt Carantuohil, hiking through the snow-dusted mountains of Glendalough and trad climbing with the UCD moutaineering club. With the UK and continental Europe only a short flight (or ferry!) away, a break in Amsterdam with your new friends or hop over to Scotland for the weekend was the norm.

My semster abroad was one of the most incredible things I have done. I know I will always cherish the great memories I've made with all my new friends in UCD, from all over Ireland and the world. Thank you UQ and UCD!

Tips:

  • There is a Tesco selling groceries in Merion Square, 15 min walk from UCD. Much cheaper than the Centra on campus and most importantly: STOCKS VEGEMITE
  • Cheap but quality fruit market every weekday on Moore St, just off Parnell St.
  • The 30 day Student Rambler is a good bus pass to get. The adult rambler bus tickets also include airlink busses, which may be useful at times (students' do not).
  • Take advantage of Ikea trips in beginning of semester. Ikea bags also make great laundry bags Not many computer labs/ facilities so bring a good laptop if possible
  • Overbudget heaps before your trip, then always make sure you have a little spare for emergencies. Dublin is expensive and awesome oppurtunities for travel and trips and events will present themselves which you will want to take advantage of regardless of price
  • Join clubs and societies!!! Meet the Irish locals, activities to fill your days, good craic. I can not emphasise this enough. I absolutely fell in love with the UCD Mountaineering club which runs hikes and climbing for beginners to experts (when I joined I had never climbed before but now I'm hooked!). Other cool clubs include juggling, caving, trampolining, rifles, archerie, all types of martial arts, canoeing etc etc...
  • ISS organises great trips and has free coffee, hot chocolate and cookies once a week
  • Weekends are a great time to explore Dublin and Ireland. If possible, try to leave your timetable on Fridays and/or Monday free to give yourself the option of longer trips. The uni campus is a bit of a ghost town every weekend with most Irish students going home.
  • Don't forget you are there to study too!

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