The Major Differences between a Semester and a Full Degree Abroad

This blog was written by Margaret Kanaley, a University of Limerick student that first came to UL as a Study Abroad student from the USA and decided to finish her Undergraduate in the University of Limerick. Study Abroad students often return to UL to continue their Undergraduate Degree or to pursue their Masters full time.

          Around this time a year ago, I was discovering Limerick for the first time with my group of American friends who were also studying at UL for the fall semester.

It was amazing to have others who understood what it was like to be abroad on your own for the first time and to have a group to celebrate holidays from home like Thanksgiving with. We all fell in love with the University and the city just down the road, but I decided I loved it all enough to transfer to the University of Limerick full time.

So here I am a year later, sitting in Glucksman library between classes, to share my experience as an international semester student and as an international full degree student and how these two are different socially, academically, and financially.

          To start off, the biggest difference I have noticed between being a study abroad student and an official student is the complete immersion into the Irish culture I have experienced. I made Irish friends last year through clubs and societies and nights out at The Stables but sharing an apartment with all Irish students and taking courses with Irish first years has fully thrown me into the Irish way of life.

My fall semester abroad at UL I lived in Plassey with 7 other international students everywhere from Maine to Prague. I was also a member of the International Society, which I would highly recommend because their TGIF parties are incredibly fun. Although I did meet many Irish people, most of the classes I took were for international students

          Last year, my main issue with academics would be choosing classes that would transfer home and still further my progress on my degree. This is a very common issue among study abroad students since every home university has different criteria as to what they will take for credit.

My advice for this would be to stay in touch with your home university adviser or your International Department. As a full degree student, I have had a much easier time with courses because for the Bachelor of Arts, UL has a list of courses you can take and in your first year you choose four of them.

In your second year you’ll start narrowing down which subjects you want to continue with from the four and you’re grand. Although there was a lack of confusion as to which courses I was supposed to take, the full immersion into a new grading scale, referencing system, and much more was a little overwhelming.

Although it seems scary at first, UL has a ton of support to help overcome any academic fears for you to take advantage of. The Writing Centre in particular has been remarkable help!

          The final leave I’ll leave with you is the difference financially. When I was here for the short 4 months, my friends and I were taking advantage of the cheap international flights as often as we could.

Not only did we explore Europe while we could, but we also tried to take day trips and discover Ireland while we were here. It feels a lot different now that I know I’m going to have time to discover and explore Ireland and the rest of Europe in my four years here, so I don’t feel that same time crunch I did last year.

These trips did cost me almost all I had budgeted for my 4 months at UL, but I could justify it because I never thought I’d be in Europe again, or it would at least be a very, VERY long time until I returned. My advice: For semester students, explore while you can! Don’t blow your budget by any means but take advantage of the 8 Euro flights to Pisa or wherever when you have a free weekend.

For my full degree international students: Take it easy. You’ll have plenty of time to explore Ireland through clubs and societies, or even exploring your Irish friend’s hometown. Classes are going to be a bit more serious (not that they aren’t either way!) so take the weekend to catch up on some reading, do some laundry, clean your kitchen and just generally unwind. The Irish go out almost every night Monday through Thursday and the weekends are for working and going home. Enjoy it all while you can!


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