By: Elena Montes, US Student Ambassador
Hello, all! Long time, no see.
Now that I’ve finished the dreadful time that is summer school* and have had sufficient time to recuperate from said brain-squeezing activity, I am back for a quick blog before the next generation lands at UCC.
*Not really. It helps you catch up/stay on track/get ahead, and I made some amazing friends in those freezing classrooms!
This is for all those who are going abroad to Cork, or even those from neighboring counties who’ve somehow never made it down to that lush corner of the world!
I’ve grouped my top tips into three categories. Imagine them as concentric circles expanding further geographically: we begin with UCC itself, then take a look at Cork, and finally (particularly those coming from abroad) reach out to the rest of Ireland.
Study (University College Cork)
- Be ready to be independent. I’m not fully informed of the higher educational systems of other countries, but my experience at UCC was more relaxed in terms of a workload than that of my home university. What that means, though, is that it’s up to you to attend lectures, take useful notes, and keep up with what work you do have!
- You’ve got to study hard. Not to scare anyone – passing your courses is still very achievable with some hard work and dedication. Final exams at UCC typically count for 60-80% of one’s overall grade, so studying in chunks throughout the semester is certainly your best bet for a happy result.
- Become involved. Being a student is like having a full-time job, so treat it as such! Attend your classes, talk to peers to make friends, form study groups to make sure you’re on top of things, and don’t hesitate to reach out to professors if you don’t understand something being taught. You’ll feel better having made more of an effort to immerse yourself in the learning experience at this beautiful university.
- We’ll cheat by starting with UCC itself. Explore your campus – it’s a truly gorgeous one! Grab a coffee in between classes with a friend at Coffee Dock in the ORB (it’s Starbucks by a different name; try not to get lost in the huge building). Take advantage of the delicious and affordable lunch deals at the Main Restaurant. Celebrate a successful exam (or mourn a not-so-great one?) by grabbing a pint with friends at the New Bar in the Student Centre.
- Explore Cork’s best eats. My top burger place, breakfast place, brunch place, café, hot chocolate spot, and pub respectively are Son of a Bun, O’Flynn’s Gourmet Sausages, Liberty Grill, Alchemy, O’Connaill’s, and Franciscan Well. You must try them all; you will not regret it.
- Take a stroll around the city. My favorite meander begins at UCC, crosses the river at the shaky bridge, takes in the Shannon bells, and continues down along the River Lee straight into the north side of town. From there, head back over the river along Patrick Street, stopping at some shops along the way. (Pro tip: Cork is beautiful at night during Christmas)
Sightsee (Ireland and beyond)
- Start small, with Cork’s surrounding wonders. The tiny but beautiful seaside town of Cobh, the breathtaking natural wonder of the Cliffs of Moher, and the ever-green lushness of Killarney National Park are all just short day trips away from your new home. In the special case that you’re totally new to Ireland, consider taking a Paddywagon tour. Yes, the driver plays cheesy music and you may feel silly in the bright green tour bus, but the price can’t be beat and the trips cover all the sights without you having to meticulously plan how you’re gonna get from place to place.
- Then branch out and see the whole country. Dublin is the first obvious must-see. I visited it at least a handful of times throughout my year in Cork, and got to know it like the back of my hand! The city has the benefit of being small enough to navigate easily, yet just big enough to contain plenty of sights to see. Other places of note (some that I didn’t get to and wish I had): Galway, Waterford, and Belfast (technically, this one’s out of country…).
- Maybe even go a bit further afield. Book tickets far enough in advance, and you could easily find an unbelievably cheap flight to England, Spain, or France. Or most other countries in Europe, usually for under 100 euro. This is the beauty of Ryanair, the cheapest airline known to man and guaranteed to spoil you with its great deals. You might even end up like me and come back to your home country wondering why you’ve suddenly got to cough up triple the money for an hour-long flight.
These are just a few of my tips for specific things to do and places to see. Check out previous blogs for lengthier chunks of advice concerning how to pack, settle in, surmount homesickness, find solace, and more.
And, as always, if you have more specific queries, shoot me a message and I’m sure to respond. This is summer, after all! Free of responsibilities and full of sun.
This, I can tell you: get ready to experience tons of challenges and surprises, learn a whole lot about your area of study and yourself, and make tons of friends. That last one is pretty much guaranteed when you’re surrounded by the famously friendly Irish.