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3 Things I Wish I Knew About the Irish School System Before Going Abroad

Blog by: Daryan Gomez Behavioral Neuroscience Major – University of San Diego 

This past January, I boarded a plane to Cork, Ireland where I would be studying abroad for the next four months. I was very excited to start this new adventure, but I had no idea what to expect. Is the workload going to be different? How is the grading system going to transfer over?

Even with all of these thoughts racing through my mind, the excitement of living in a different country for a few months to study drowned them all out. As a result, I never did any research about the differences in this Irish school compared to my school back home. It was not until I started my classes at University College Cork that I realized the many differences between my school back home in San Diego and my new school in Cork.

Here are three of the differences I noticed while attending university in Ireland:

1. Most Irish classes do not hand out syllabi

When I walked into my first class on the first day of school, I expected to be handed a syllabus with all of the expectations, assignments, due dates, and test dates, exactly like what I was so accustomed to back in San Diego. Most of my classes did not hand out a syllabus or even have an online version we could print out. This was very odd to me. I had become so dependent on being given a syllabus on the first day of class that I had no idea what to do without one. In place of a syllabus, most professors simply had a slide in their introduction PowerPoint telling the class what the final would consist of, where we could find the finals from previous years, and whether or not we would have a midterm. This was definitely something I had to adapt to because I was so used to writing down all of my assignments in a calendar or planner according to the syllabus.

2. There is no constant testing or assignments

In my school in San Diego, I am constantly undergoing stress due to constant testing or attempting to complete large amounts of assignments, however, when I arrived in Ireland, I found I was under much less stress. This was mostly due to a lack of continuous assessment. With the exception of one of my five classes, my grade in my classes was based solely on our final exam. There was no bombardment of assignments on top of keeping up with the material we were learning; instead, we were only required to attend class (where we were required to sign in to make sure we attended) and keep up with the material. While this allowed me to remain less stressed throughout the semester, it also meant that I would be incredibly stressed during finals season if I did not remain caught up on the material. Typically, my classes had large amounts of assignments and tests that would help balance out our grade from the final, but this was not the case in my semester abroad.

3. Grading system

Even after I left Ireland and I had received all of my grades, I still remain somewhat unclear on the grading system in Ireland. When I first arrived in Ireland, I had assumed that the grading system would be the same as it was back in the U.S., but I was wrong. I remember receiving a grade for my midterm in one of my classes and thinking I had completely failed the exam. It was not until I was talking with one of my friends who was born and raised in Ireland that I realized that I had not failed the exam; I had actually gotten a really good grade. Upon further research, I learned that anything 60 and up in percentage is equivalent to an “A” in the U.S. It never end crossed my mind that the grading system could be different in schools in different countries, and if I had realized it ahead of time, I would not have worried so much about my grade on the midterm.

These are only a few of the differences in the school system I had noticed while I was studying abroad, but these were the ones I felt had the biggest impact in the way I prepared for my classes and their respective finals. I never could have imagined that the school system abroad would be different, and I went in expecting everything to be exactly as it was back home; I was simply focused on the excitement of living in a different country. However, I felt like if someone had told me something or I had done my research ahead of time, I would not have been as surprised as I was when I arrived in Ireland. Once I realized that these differences existed and I adjusted to them, I felt like my experience abroad was even more unique and exciting than I could have ever imagined it would be

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