We would like to thank Mary Ann Willis for the following article following her tour of UCC with Education in Ireland….
Coastal…cultured—a blend of history in a modern city with an international feel, that’s the first impression of Cork. Arriving in Cork, you realize that Irish cities are sprawling—not the American high-rise type. During my visit, a mild winter saw daffodils and tulip trees blooming. Blended is a good word to describe University College Cork. Located in Ireland’s second largest city, Cork combines mysticism with modernity, classical with contemporary, and all with the magical, the sea, the mist, and the mountains close by.
University College Cork is an integral part of the city yet a location unto itself. The university has maximized its available space and stretched into the environs when necessary. (The Music School is located a few blocks from campus.) Founded in 1845, UCC, while located in an urban area, is nestled in the blanket of green that is Ireland.
Divided into four Colleges (Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences; Business and Law; Science, Engineering and Food Science; and Medicine and Health), similar to other Irish Universities, students at UCC focus on certain areas of study in a far more concentrated fashion than in an American college. Additionally, at all Irish universities, much weight is placed on exams and students really must assume responsibility for their own learning. A self-directed student is required for this type of environment.
Founded as Queens College, UCC took its current name in 1908. Entry to the campus via the main gate brings you across a little foot bridge and into the more historic area of the campus. The quad is riddled with lore and legend. UCC has taken going green to a higher level. The first university in the world to be awarded the international Green Flag for environmental friendliness, the quad is lush and flanked by historic buildings on three sides.
The chapel was constructed in 1916 with funds provided from an outside family donation. The campus itself is non-denominational, but outlets for all faiths are easily found around campus. Both competitive sports teams and club sports thrive at UCC. In addition to sports, a myriad of clubs and activities are available—from Medieval and Renaissance societies to honour societies. An additional plus factor for clubs and organizations in the Irish university setting is that students truly run the organisations—management and budget experience from the frontline provides valuable training and is a resume asset. Trips for the organizations, and indeed for students in general, are frequently subsidized so travel is a built-in educational enrichment and easy access to multiple cities and countries is available to all students.
In terms of size, UCC has a medium-sized student body—in the 20,000 range. Around 3,000 students are international and represent more than 100 different countries. Nearly a quarter of the international population is from the U.S. International students are guaranteed housing as long as they meet the housing deadline. Application to the school is a paper/mail process rather than an online one. The city of Cork is accessible to students through a short walk or a quick bus ride. The English Market is a world renowned produce, meat and organic experience for the novice chef to the epicurean. Hosts of quaint shops and restaurants of all kinds appear in every block. Street musicians abound. After visiting UCC, I’d have to concur with Lonely Planet (2012)–“Everything good about Ireland can be found in Cork.” UCC and Cork City have the flare and the culinary delights of New Orleans, the sophistication of San Francisco, and ambiance of a cosmopolitan European city—they just have all of this with a brogue!