Study Abroad Alumni Ambassador for the University of Limerick, Carrie Burns, shares PART 2 of her tips for future students studying abroad in Ireland. Check out Part 1. Apply now for the Fall semester.
Roughly a year ago this month I got the official news that I’d been accepted into UL’s study abroad program and would be embarking on a new experience in the fall.
In honor of this happy memory, here is Part 2 of my 12 Nifty Tips to Guarantee Smooth Sailing Abroad article. To anyone who recently got the same news, congratulations! You’re going to have an amazing time.
*This article is supported not only by my insistent reminiscing, but also the wise and slightly calmer insight of four other wonderful Americans who experienced the same semester abroad with me, and who I miss dearly- thanks, Zoë, Maren, Shivaun and Anna!
**To make things easier I’ve conveniently organized these 12 Nifty Tips into three main categories- things you should Prepare ahead of time, or “prep”; things you should Buy; and things you should Know because Knowledge Is Power.
6) Hostel Travelling
If you plan on doing some European travelling, chances are you’ll be staying in a hostel at some point. Hostels are great in that they’re usually super affordable, which is nice on a student budget; however, I can say that while the majority of them are of acceptable cleanliness standards, not all of them will be. As such, might I recommend packing the following before setting out on your adventure:
– light sleeper? earplugs and eye mask
– squeamish about public bathrooms/showers? a cheap pair of flip flops, and your own towel
Once you figure out how your phone service will work while studying abroad, I would highly recommend investing in a smartphone to bring with you, if you haven’t already been using one pre-Ireland. The immediate benefit to this is obvious: if you’re ever in trouble, you can easily call help. There’s also different Embassy travel alerts you can sign up for, so if something safety-related was ever happening around you you’d get immediate updates.
Aside from it being a great safety tool, I was always continually surprised by how many things I never thought to consider or plan for until I was experiencing it- for example, one of the first times I went out to eat at a proper sit-down restaurant in Limerick, I panicked briefly when the bill came and I wasn’t sure what the proper tipping etiquette was. Knowing how touchy a subject it can be when dining in the states, there was no way I wanted to get it wrong.
How did I find the answer to my problem? GOOGLE. Google was a godsend when helping navigate different social norms in each country I traveled to. Whether I needed to know how to say a key phrase in a different language, look up timetables for transportation, or translate between different currency amounts or time differences, Google was there for me when nobody else was.
Smartphones in general also allow you to download apps, which can be helpful when you need to access important information like your bank account balance. Another major perk of a smartphone? It’s the number one thing I used the entire 4 months to take pictures with. I tried, at the start, to liberally fluctuate between using both my camera and phone. Out of sheer laziness that act stopped real fast, and my phone became my one source for photos. They’re not that awful of quality, either, may I add.
So in summary: get a smartphone.
8) Invest in Good Walking Shoes
This is a super good tip offered by Maren, who cautions that even if you think you’ll be primarily flying/bussing places, you’ll still be doing so much more walking than you ever anticipate. As such, the types of shoes you decide to bring are very important for the health and vitality of your feet. If it’s important for you to be practical AND trendy in your footwear fashion, I’d recommend starting the search for shoes ahead of time in order to find at least one pair that you really like and can break in before leaving.
While on the topic of shoes, I’d also like to throw out that contrary to the U.S., rainboots are not as much a thing in Ireland- so if you’re concerned about ‘fitting in’ wardrobe-wise, maybe consider leaving those at home. While a notoriously rainy country, I did end up being just fine in my pair of combat boots from Target, though make sure to remember to waterproof them (and maybe wear a thicker sock if it’s especially rainy out) ahead of time.
Also, invest in a waterproof rain jacket. Like Google, that thing will be your lifesaver, your pride and joy.
9) Meal Plans-
– or lack thereof.
While I believe there is technically a package you can choose, the pitfall of it is (as explained in Part 1 of this post) that all restaurants and cafes on-campus where the plan may apply are closed on the weekends. Ultimately what students end up doing is simply buying their own groceries at the store, which works nicely because everyone has access to a kitchen in their accommodation– as such, it’s super easy to cook for yourself. Just like at home, whenever you get sick of cooking, the option to order takeaway or go to a restaurant is also definitely there, too.
10) Ireland Travel
Most references made regarding travelling off UL’s campus have usually been in the context of exploring other countries. Europe is great, and though I truly do recommend you see some of it, I also want to make the point of encouraging you to get some in-depth exploration of Ireland in as well! A few people I talked to near the end of the semester expressed their regret at being gone most weekends, and that they feel like they didn’t really see too much of Ireland. Hence, what you should know in this context (and you’ve probably heard it over and over) is that Ireland is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever gotten to experience in my life. Take advantage of it! Instead of trying to jam London AND Paris into one long weekend, take a train up to Galway or down to Cobh. Go hiking up north. Just don’t forget you’re in an amazing place and ignore the options for travel there.
I should probably mention that while studying abroad, you are technically still supposed to be doing at least a little bit of studying. Even if you’re taking fun classes that don’t necessarily apply towards your major credit-wise, make sure to still go somewhat consistently to class, and care about any assignments that are expected of you to complete- nobody likes the person who sits at pubs every night and shrugs it all off. One of the biggest differences I found throughout my time at UL compared to my home university was the academics– the exam format and schedule is way different, teaching methods are way different, and grading scales are way different. The easiest way to avoid getting a nasty and unexpected grade at the end of the term is to chat with your lecturer at the start so you understand what they expect. Aside from that, make sure you stay in contact with your academic counselor at your home university to make sure all your course credits will successfully transfer back over.
12) Farewells and Mourning
The final and most depressing Nifty Tip you should know is pretty obvious, but nonetheless I will say it: know that you’re going to be so, so sad to leave UL and Ireland when the day comes. No matter how homesick you might be, no matter how anxious you may feel to go home and see your dog, no matter how excited you are to eat a box of mac n cheese for the first time in months- this place will leave its mark on your heart, and within a week of being back home you’re going to already be plotting ways to get back for future visits. Know that this will happen, accept it, and with the help of all other 11 tips stated above, fully embrace your new and unique experience that is studying abroad at the University of Limerick.
Thanks to Carrie for sharing these tips with us! Check out Part 1.
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