Trinity College Dublin student Joshua Newman, from the US, gives his take on what makes studying in Ireland’s capital city a unique experience.
I was seeing a college councilor who gave me a list of schools in the US and in Europe, one of which was Trinity College (Hartford, Connecticut). I put Trinity into Google and Trinity College Dublin came up. So I then booked a flight to Dublin, spent a weekend there and immediately knew Dublin and Trinity was where I was going to end up.
I was initially drawn to Trinity because I was interested in the course that I am now studying (political science, philosophy, economics and sociology). I was a bit unsure what I wanted to focus on and this allowed me quite a large selection of subjects which I could slowly narrow down. Upon visiting I was won over by the international student body, the reputation of the university and the campus. Trinity itself is a walled-in campus in the heart of Dublin; a peaceful refuge from bustle of the city outside.
The actual system is a fair bit different to the typical American university structure. The major difference is that the majority of the marks for the year come in the form of final year exams which test the entire year’s material. We are given three weeks prior to these to review course material in preparation for the exam. Your final grade for your degree is either based on the final two years or just the last year.
What to do in Dublin
I liked Dublin because I wanted to study in a young, multicultural city that would allow me to pursue my various interests outside of college. There were quite a few things I wanted to get involved in, such as volunteering with a first aid organization and pursuing my musical interests.
Dublin has been especially perfect for the latter since there is an extremely active traditional music scene here. Furthermore, it is a coastal city, has mountains very nearby and also has such close proximity to continental Europe.
The town I grew up in only has a population of 20,000 or so, which always felt very small. I am also very close to New York City which obviously feels quite the opposite. Neither were quite right for me. I was constantly under or overwhelmed. Dublin however, is an extremely manageable city. There’s a lot going on but it doesn’t feel overwhelming. The lack of skyscrapers help. The River Liffey also cuts the city right in half which creates a very natural divide.
Irish accents, Irish time...
There were only two real challenges. The first was that I had, rather naively, assumed I could understand the Irish accent because I had spent some time in Dublin. I quickly learnt that Irish accents vary... a lot.
I spent most of my first few days at university trying to decipher some of the more difficult ones. I can’t imagine how annoying it must have been when I consistently asked people to repeat themselves. Luckily my ear adjusted and after a while I had no problems.
The other challenge was that the Irish have a generally more laid back view of life. Growing up in the northeast of the US, I have had extreme punctuality ingrained into me from a fairly young age. For social events here, however, the announced time often means ‘please arrive half an hour to an hour later’.
My favorite example of this was my friend’s 21st, where he requested everyone to arrive at 8.30pm. I couldn’t make it on time but literally ran to get there at 9pm because I felt so bad for being late. I then spent about 45 minutes blowing up balloons, with him laughing at me for being early.
Learning to appreciate the Irish weather
A student is the best thing to be in Dublin. There are multiple universities, colleges, and technical colleges, and a large cohort of young professionals. This means there is a great social scene and great work opportunities upon graduating.
The Irish are known to be extremely friendly (the ninth most-friendly country in world, according to the World Economic Forum). Trinity itself has a very high mix of international students and Dublin itself has quickly become multicultural as a result of Ireland’s ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy.
The best thing about Dublin is that it’s a vibrant, active city with a whole range of opportunities. You will be hard pressed to be bored here. The only real negative is that it is a bit pricey, but probably no more than any capital city. Also the weather may be a bit rough for people during the winter and early spring unless you are used to rain. However, by the end of April and May it is gorgeous and you will learn to take advantage of and appreciate the weather like never before.
To someone interested in studying in Dublin I would recommend first checking out Education Ireland, which will answer the majority of your questions. The website also has a blog which is made up of entries from international students studying throughout Ireland, especially in Dublin. Also contacting the universities and asking to be put in touch with students is a great way to get an honest account of life over here.