Jacklyn Cheely is a Masters student in Peace and Development Studies from the United States of America. In her blog, Jacklyn gives her best advice and tips to be able to adjust to life at UL and avoid any mishaps!
Moving to a new country is never easy; You’ll likely have to relearn aspects of life that you may have taken for granted back home, such as customs, the best place to shop for essentials, and how to get around.
To make matters more complicated, international students often have to deal with paperwork, visas, housing, registration, currency exchange, banking, loans, and schoolwork. Thankfully, there are many sources of support offered to help inform you on what to expect when you get to Ireland and how to get settled in.
However, international students are often only informed on the major changes—the smaller, seemingly insignificant changes are often forgotten. While one or two small changes may not cause you too much distress, the transition would certainly be smoother given this information.
So, I have compiled a list of small tips that I wish I had known before moving to the University of Limerick.
Buy extra laundry tokens.
If you’re living on-campus, you will have access to a laundry room of token-operated washers and dryers. The tokens used in the machines, which can be picked up from reception, are sometimes accepted by the token machine without crediting you with the wash or dry cycle.
If this happens and reception is open, you can just alert them and they will give you a new token, as it is a fairly common issue. However, if you choose to do laundry late at night or on the weekends, when reception is closed, it’s helpful to have an extra few laundry tokens on hand so you don’t have to wait for reception to re-open to clean your clothes.
Bring or buy a large, waterproof backpack.
Unless you are lucky enough to have access to a car, you will likely be walking to and from the grocery store or catching a bus. While it is not absolutely necessary to bring your own grocery bags, the paper ones offered by most stores are often flimsy and may tear during your long commute back home.
Shoulder bags and large reusable grocery bags are great (and environmentally friendly!), but I highly recommend investing in a large, waterproof backpack. For me, it has been a lifesaver when stocking up on groceries. By putting all the heavier items on my back, I have saved my hands and arms from being totally worn out by carrying my groceries back to my dorm. It also helps to keep your items dry if you have to walk through the rain (which, at some point, you will).
Lastly, these bags can double as a great over-night bag when travelling and can lay flat to easily be added to suitcases when travelling. I, personally have a Gecko Brand 30L Waterproof backpack that I love and highly recommend (https://www.geckobrands.com/product-page/lightweight-30l-waterproof-backpack).
If you’re waiting at a counter for a worker to help you, and they turn to you and ask “are you ok,” it’s most likely not because you look upset and they wanted to check on you. Some of my friends and I made this mistake during the first week while we were waiting to pick up some tickets for the Cliffs of Moher trip.
The woman working behind the counter turns to my friend and asks her if she was ok. My friend suddenly became really confused—did she look sad? Why is this woman asking her if she’s ok? It later clicks that “are you ok” is how many people will ask “how can I help you?” My friends and I had a good laugh later that day after we realized it, as we recognize we all probably appeared very confused after she asked us.
Consider downloading FreeNow
Unfortunately, if you’re accustomed to using Uber or Lyft to get around, you may be disappointed to hear that those two services are not available in Limerick. However, there is a similar taxi-calling app called FreeNow.
The fares will likely be more expensive than what you’re used to, as the drivers go through training and the gas (or “petrol”) prices are likely higher here than you may be used to. Despite this, FreeNow is definitely a helpful app to have just in case you’re running late to an important event and miss the bus.
Navigating the buses
For me personally, I often stress over busing in a new city, as each bus system and fare-paying process can be vastly different, and you often have to figure it out quickly to avoid holding up the buses. With that in mind, here are a few tips for navigating the bus system:
Routes: There are 4 main busses that you’ll likely use most often— 304, 304A, 307, and 308. The 304 and 304A are red busses that are operated by Bus Eireann while the 307 and 308 are green busses run by Dublin Coach.
All four buses will successfully take you downtown from the university. The 304 and 304A have very similar routes, but the 304A takes a slightly less direct route on its way downtown, and will, therefore, likely take longer than the 304.
Paying Fares: While you can pay fares by cash, I personally find it helpful to invest in a Leap Card, the public transit card of Ireland. There are two main types of Leap Cards: Student Leap Card and regular Leap Card. Although you have to go through a little more work to get a Student Leap Card, it does give you a helpful discount on many transport systems and even in select stores (for more info on the Student Leap Card, visit https://www.studentleapcard.ie/).
Whether you have a Student Leap Card or a regular Leap Card, you have the option to check your credit or refill (“top-up”) your credit using the Leap Top-Up app on your phone, given that your phone has an NFC setting (most newer phones do). In order to use your Leap Card on the Bus Eireann (the red busses; 304 and 304A), place the card on the card reader after entering the bus and wait for the green light.
To use it on the Dublin Coach buses (the green buses; 307 and 308), simply present your card to the bus driver. You will not have to tap your card again when leaving the bus.
Planning: Leave yourself some wiggle room when busing. In a perfect world, all the buses will be perfectly on time and there will be no traffic slowing you down on the bus route.
Unfortunately, however, this isn’t a perfect world and the bus system is often flawed. Often buses will be delayed or there will be heavy traffic. In order to ensure that you aren’t panicking on the bus because you’re late to your event, leave a bit of extra time in your schedule for busing.
This is especially important on Friday afternoons since the Stables bus stop will likely be quite crowded as many students are planning on going home for the weekend. If you’re using a red bus (Bus Eireann), you can get real-time information at https://www.buseireann.ie/inner.php?id=403.
Beware the hot water
If you’re staying in university housing or if you’re simply using a sink on campus, be wary that the hot water gets quite hot. It is highly recommended that you use caution and mix it with cold water when you can to avoid burning your hands.
No one will judge you for how much luggage you bring.
When I was packing prior to move-in, I was rather worried about the sheer amount of luggage I was bringing. I had the typical checked bag, carry-on, and personal bag that most airlines allow, but I also added an extra checked back to ensure I was able to bring what I needed.
I found myself quite petrified of bringing so much luggage to campus; I was worried that while moving in, I would be judged for being “the over-packer”. Let me assure you—no one will judge you for having extra luggage. If people notice your bags, they will likely understand the difficulty of fitting your whole life into a few bags. However, during move-in, most people will be too concerned with their own agenda to even notice your 4+ bags.
Keep your Dunnes receipt!
Dunnes (pronounced “done-s”) is a popular store selling home goods, clothing, and groceries. If you choose to shop there, your receipts will come with coupons that can be quite handy for saving money on your weekly grocery shopping, some going up to €10 off of a €50 purchase.
Look on the corner buildings for street signs.
If you venture into downtown and are looking for street names, you won’t find them by looking for a pole on the street corner. Instead, street signs in downtown Limerick are located on the walls of the corner buildings.
King John’s Castle vs St. John’s Church vs St. John’s Cathedral
When you get to Limerick, you’ll likely want to visit some of the attractions downtown. It is worth noting, however, that three of these attractions have similar names: King John’s Castle, St. John’s Cathedral, and St. John’s Church.
Knowing the difference between which location your friend wanted to meet you at will help you avoid getting turned around and having to re-trace your steps.
Things are going to be different…and that’s okay.
The best advice I was given before moving to Ireland from the U.S. is that things are simply going to be different; if you go into the experience looking for the Irish-version of what you are used to, you may find yourself quite disoriented and distressed.
Prior to my move, I was constantly googling “what’s the Irish version of (Bed, Bath, and Beyond; Walgreens; Target; etc)?” By reminding myself that I can’t prepare properly for life in Ireland by attempting to find equivalents for my American lifestyle, I was able to avoid culture shock and frustration.
Life in Ireland will be different from what you are used to, and that’s okay. Embracing adaptability to your surroundings is key to successfully transitioning to life at UL.