For the last half of 2015 I had the most amazing experience studying at Trinity College Dublin, in Ireland. Ireland I can honestly say is one of the friendliest countries you will ever encounter. The people are consciously aware of the fact that their city has an abundance of international residents and go out of their way to help you. They also love having a good time, and in Dublin especially, you can go to any pub and immediately make 5 new lifelong friends over a pint. I loved every second I was there and met some incredible people from all over Europe.
Trinity College, is in the centre of Dublin so it makes exploring the city easy and means that you become a local very quickly. Trinity itself has a beautiful campus that is made up of a mixture of historical and modern buildings. There are many student services and societies to become a part of and they’re all very involved in the running of the university. Trinity also has cafes and a state of the art gym on campus, which is free to use as a student. The world-renowned Book of Kells, is housed on campus in the Old Library building and is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Dublin. This basically leads to 5 to 6 tour groups walking around campus at all times, which can very entertaining.
I chose Trinity because I had travelled to Ireland before and loved the atmosphere as well as its close position to the UK and Europe. I love to travel so this was definitely a bonus. Trinity is one of the oldest universities in the world and is highly regarded academically. It has a strong focus on student involvement and support and the whole campus is friendly, a definitely selling point for any university. I also loved Dublin and the opportunity to live in the city was not one I was going to pass up.
I worked with a friend from UQ who was also going to study at Trinity, to try and find accommodation. We had a hard time finding a place that would give us a contract for 4 months (a semester) and not 1 year. We eventually were given some useful information from one of the student services at Trinity who recommended a place called the Marino Institute of Education, 15 minutes drive north of the university. The college has an arrangement with Trinity and offers accommodation for Trinity students for a full year or semester. Marino is made up of 6 blocks of apartments. Each block has around 12 – 15 apartments per block, and each apartment has 4 rooms. Our rooms at Marino included our own bathroom, wardrobe and desk. You shared a kitchen and dining room with your flatmates. I personally loved the accommodation; it was clean, in a safe village-like neighbourhood and felt like a little community of international students.
I exchanged with the Economics Department in Trinity and was therefore studying economics subjects while there. I enjoyed the lecture content, (as much as you can ‘enjoy’ lecture content) and the lecturers were very interesting to listen to. Each had their own quirky take on their subject and often used some of the strangest examples to make a point. This made lectures a laugh sometimes. The academics, I feel were not as intense as at QUT but they were definitely not a breeze either. Anyone going to Trinity will find that they won’t struggle to keep up with university work and will be able to travel at the same time.
In terms of money (easily the worst part of exchange), I budgeted around $10,000 for the semester and the few weeks either end. The accommodation was around $2900 (plus a $300ish deposit which you get back at the end of the semester). I then had enough money for day to day spending, weekend trips to London, Amsterdam and Paris, as well as sightseeing in Ireland. Ireland and Dublin especially, is one of the more expensive places in Europe, however, by Australian standards the pricing for most things is reasonable if not cheaper than usual. Be aware of the exchange rate of the Australian dollar to the Euro, I didn’t have the best exchange rate at the time, but it didn’t cripple me financially. I took a travel cash card and a credit card on exchange. The cash card was for day to day use and I used it the most. It was multi-currency, so I could have Euros and Pounds on it at the same time. The credit card I used for big purchases (flights, holiday accommodation etc.) and emergencies (there were none, but just in case). The system I had worked well and I had no hick-ups using my cards all through Europe and the UK.
Overall Experience and Advice
I have been lucky enough to have travelled a lot before exchange and have gained experience and confidence in travelling alone. I personally didn’t experience culture shock because the Irish culture is very similar to ours here in Australia. There are, admittedly, a few differences but Irish people have a very similar care-free fun-loving attitude that we have here. Dublin is a very safe city, however you should be mindful of pickpockets when living there. More so than in Brisbane, pickpockets a quite common in Dublin and if you’re not careful, your stuff will be taken directly out of your bag. As long as you zip up your bag and keep it in front of you in really dense crowds you’ll be fine though. This goes for all of Europe and the UK. When travelling I’m always fully aware of my surroundings so that I don’t find myself in a dangerous situation. I kept this practice when travelling and made sure I knew exactly where I was going and what I was doing. If you look confident, you are a lot less likely to become a target for people who want to mess with tourists.
All in all, I had a fabulous time in Ireland and would highly recommend the exchange experience to any student in QUT. You see some amazing places and make incredible friends along the way. The time I spent overseas definitely helped me put a few more things in perspective for my future career and made me more independent and confident in unplanned situations. I can also handle the Metro (Paris) and Tube (London) like a boss now, and I’m pretty proud of that!
If you are thinking of going on exchange I highly recommended doing three things. One, stay in student accommodation. You can make friends, quickly and everyone is in the one location so it’s easy to get together and for nights out. Two, do not be afraid to introduce yourself and do things with people the first week. I cannot emphasise enough how critical the first week is to your continuing friendship with everyone you live and study with. If you get in early and take every opportunity to hang out and go places you all become friends very quickly, and it helps having a little community of people to chill with during busy times in the semester. Three, to aid in the aforementioned process, leave your room door open when you are in, so that people can see you are there and can come say hey. I told everyone when I first met them that if the apartment door was open, I was home and they could totally pop in and have a chat and some tea. Sounds a touch lame writing it down, but hell did it work. I had people coming in all the time and it made my apartment the go to place if anyone needed someone to chill with.
So if you can, go on exchange. It is the best experience you can have as a student and you’ll never regret it. Whether you’ve travelled before or never left the country you’ll benefit immensely from living overseas and will find that you can adapt and be very confident in the most unlikely situations.