With its sweeping green hills, its friendly people and the fact that you won’t have to study a new language (that is, if you’re reading this in English), Ireland can be a prime place to live as an exchange student. If you’re a university student, you’ll find many well-respected universities in Ireland, especially in the cities of Dublin, Cork and Galway. Wherever you end up though, there are a few things you’ll need to prepare for in order to make your stay as positive as possible.
See Also: Living in Ireland: What You Need to Know
I worked and studied in Ireland as a university student myself, so here are some "expert" words of advice about how to survive as an exchange student on the magical isle of Eire.
1. Pace yourself in the pubs
Yes, it’s true that the Irish like to imbibe, and since the legal drinking age is 18, even the youngest of university students are known to tie one, on more than a few nights a week. Irish culture is centered around the pubs, with people gathering to play music, tell stories and watch sports matches - but that doesn’t mean you should neglect your studies. It can be easy to get carried away in the merriment, but try to strike a balance and to pace yourself when you go out with your new Irish friends.
2. Learn something about local sports
Irish people love Soccer, but they also love Gaelic football, Hurling, Rugby Union and other sports you may not have heard of. Still, you’ll get a chance to bond with your classmates and your host family by taking an interest in their sports. Knowing a thing or two about the rules and the various teams in the area will be a good start towards making some good friends -and perhaps even scoring some tickets to a local match.
3. Leave your shorts at home
If your exchange program takes place in summer, don’t assume it’s going to be like summer in other parts of Europe or the United States. The sun might come out from time to time, but it’s not going to be warm enough to go swimming in the ocean in a bikini. If you’re going to be in Ireland in spring, winter or fall, a solid raincoat, a good pair of galoshes/wellies and a load of warm, wool sweaters are far from cliché - they’re absolutely essential in the damp, cool air. But don’t worry - the mists that rise over the rolling hills will be charming enough to cut the cold for a while.
4. Respect your host parents
They may seem to be a bit more lenient - and perhaps more prone to populate the pubs than your own parents back home, but that doesn’t mean your host parents don’t have rules. And even if you break them, the polite culture of Ireland may mean they don’t come right out and tell you when you’ve crossed the line. The perfect time to ask about rules and expectations is when you move in. Ireland is a small country, after all, and you don’t want to be known as the rude foreigner who’s not keen on understanding local customs.
5. Be an adventurous eater
Wherever you study in the world, you’ll find that a big part of the culture is the food. In Ireland, you’ll see lots of foods known all over the region, including blood pudding and Shepherd’s pie -- but you may have to dig a little bit deeper to find the truly Irish dishes. Ask your host mom to make you a batch of soda bread, for example, or head to a coastal town for a bowl of mussels in white wine or Irish cider. To die for!
6. Find out how your grades will translate
Irish universities might have a different system of grades - so it’s important to understand how it translates to the grading system back home, and how you’ll explain those grades or translate them for your home university. What’s more, think of this program as a chance to take courses that will help you understand the culture and history of the island, and not necessarily to continue technical subjects.
Taking a second-year course in biology, for example, may prove disastrous when you find that the course covers the material in an entirely different way and requires a lot of catch-up in order to pass. Instead, it might be better to study more entry-level courses that will allow you some breathing room, and time to enjoy the cultural experience around you. Ireland has a number of great universities including: Trinity College, University College Cork, University College Dublin, and Galway.
See Also: The Top 10 Highest Paid Jobs in Ireland
Doing an exchange program outside your own country is always a good thing for your resume and for your overall education - and doing the program in Ireland will be no exception. As always though, be conscious of the fact that you’re an ambassador for your home country, and you’ll do just fine.
Have you studied or worked in Ireland as a foreigner? What was your experience like?