By UCC Student Ambassador Olanne Healy
It was finals week sophomore year of college and I was dying for a study break before my next exam. As I closed my chemistry textbook, I had the sudden urge to start researching study abroad opportunities for the following year. It was always something I wanted to do as part of my college experience but I had not settled on a destination. Then, it suddenly occurred to me to look into Ireland. As an Irish American, almost all of my relatives live in Cork, Ireland and every year I would travel from the States to Ireland to spend time with them. While I was familiar with the city and Irish culture, I knew that seeing and experiencing Cork through a lens of a college student would be a unique experience.
The University at a Glance
University College Cork is located close to both the River Lee and Cork City Center. When I arrived, the first thing that came to mind was how beautiful the campus was. The buildings around the main quad were made of old stone, giving off a classic Hogwarts atmosphere. In addition to the main quadrangle, the other academic buildings were situated on the main campus and dispersed around Cork City. See link for interactive campus map –https://app.ucc.ie/maps/ . As an American exchange student, there are a few tips and tricks that may be to your use when settling into UCC. These include the pointers in the areas of lectures, assignments, and general time management.
How to Navigate a European University 101
It’s your first day of classes. When you get to your first class, you sit down in a hall filled with students from all over the world. The lecturer walks in and sets up his or her materials, ready to start the lecture. The chatter in the room dies down but you notice that the lecturer is the only person in the room that is speaking for the duration of the class. Meanwhile, all the students are scribbling down everything the lecturer is saying into their notebooks. In contrast, when we think of classes in the United States, there is usually a “turn to your neighbor” or a group worksheet. The difference is that in Ireland, there is little to zero mutual interaction between the professor and students during a lecture period. While there may be less of a relationship between the students and professors to that of the US, the professors are all still very approachable via email or office hours if you needed help with the course material. See link for university directory https://www.ucc.ie/en/schoolsdepartments/.
As the days turn into weeks, you begin to realize that the attendance has started to dwindle in some of your lectures. Unlike a lot of colleges in the States where attendance is counted towards your grade – whether through an in class quiz or by verbal participation- attendance is not as heavily considered in European universities. This is because there are only one or two large assignments that will count towards a student’s grade for the whole semester. With that said, I recommend starting your essays as soon as possible in order to avoid stress as a result of cramming at the last minute. In general, independent work and study make up the largest parts of the work load and students will usually end up spending most of their time doing their course work outside the classroom. With that said, if you feel tempted not to go to class, I still highly recommend showing up as much as possible. Since you’re enrolled in the university, you might as well participate in your studies.
Lastly, something that might be a surprise to you is the exam results. On campus you may hear students mentioning results of their finals from a previous semester and you hear numbers that would be perceived as low grades by American standards. In Ireland, the grading system is very different – See link pg. 18 for grading scale https://www.ucc.ie/en/media/studyatucc/international/websitepdfs/StudyAbroadInformationGuide2016-2017.pdf Thus if you get a 65% on an exam, that would be the equivalent to a B, which is considered a very good mark at a European university.
In all, getting fully accustomed to the academic lifestyle of college in Ireland or anywhere in the EU may seem daunting or intimidating at first. You may have to alter previous established habits from the US in order to find a rhythm at UCC. However, if you are open to following any of the suggestions in this post, it will make the process as a whole much easier and less stressful.
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