I have just returned home to Canada after my one-semester exchange at UL. What can I say? It has been a BLAST! Although there isn’t anything I would change looking back, there are a few things that I wish I’d known about coming to Ireland, about the academics at UL, about cooking for myself, and about travelling in Europe. So I’d like to share these with you so that you are better prepared when coming to UL on your study abroad or exchange!
Before you come:
Download WhatsApp – This is some advice especially for non-EU students like myself, who may not know that this mobile app is hugely popular in Europe. It quickly became one of the main ways of communication while abroad so it’s worth downloading and figuring out before you arrive.
Unlock your phone – I made the mistake of forgetting to unlock my phone from my phone company before coming to Ireland, so I ended up not having data or cellular usage for 4 months! Phone plans are quite inexpensive in Ireland so make sure you come unlocked from your carrier!
Less clothes, more towels/sheets/etc. – If you have some room in your suitcase, pack sheets or towels that you can leave behind when you go home. That way you make room in your suitcase to bring back clothes or souvenirs that you buy while abroad. You’ll also be able to have your own bedding and towels from day 1 which is super convenient. It’s easy to over-pack clothes and shoes, but you’ll end up having items you never use if you pack too much.
Past exam papers are online – This is one that many international students don’t know about. Past exam papers are available to all students from the start of term. Just log in and search the module code. Check them out here: https://sharepoint.ul.ie/sites/Students/exampapers/default.aspx
Pick modules based on exam – Chances are, you have a bit of leeway with choosing modules if you’re studying abroad. Why not take module exams into consideration? Whether or not the module has an exam, and how difficult it looks from the get-go can help you out!
Save eating out for trips – Eating out can be expensive, so try to save it for your trips when it’s difficult to cook your own food! Try to keep eating out to a minimum during the week so that you are able to spend some extra money on special local foods on your weekend getaways.
Shop at Aldi and Lidl in bulk – These two stores have the best prices for groceries in the UL area. Save money by shopping at these locations and by buying in bulk quantities. For example, buy a big bag of potatoes or oats instead of smaller bags which cost more in the long run!
Meal prep – This one is important for eating inexpensively yet healthily! Choose one or two times per week (i.e. Sunday and Wednesday evenings) to prep your meals. Buy enough food storage containers to last a week and make meals in big batches. I often made a huge pot of chili, stir fry, or salad, and stored one-meal portions in containers that I could grab on the go!
Plan and book EARLY – Prices of plane tickets skyrocket as you get closer to the day of departure. Spend some time the first few weeks planning trips and booking flights on www.skyscanner.com or similar websites so that you get the best deals! Flying out of Dublin will almost always be the cheapest. You can book a Dublin coach closer to your trip dates that will take you to the Dublin airport from Stables, and back.
Find travel buddies – The friends you will make at UL are likely friends you’ll keep for life. They will also be the friends that you will travel with! When you make friends, start booking trips together! Travelling is more fun and much safer with friends.
Buy a bike – I found that getting a bike was a great way to see the Limerick area. You can see a lot of Limerick city by bike, as well as the Castletroy area where UL is located. Having a bike was also super helpful when I was running late for my 9 am classes!
I hope you found some of these tips useful and that they will come in handy as you prepare for your own exchange. Get ready to have an experience you won’t forget