My Study Abroad Experience

Sylvester is an Erasmus+ ICM student from the University of Cape Coast Ghana, he is studying International Relations and African Politics. Now that the semester ended he has just started additional studies working on a research project with Chris McInerney, Director of the Centre for Peace and Development, Department of Politics and Public Administration as part of his studies for the month of June. In this blog, Sylvester reflects on his time:   

Traveling abroad has always been a dream of mine from a tender age. I have always believed that there is a unique level of exposure and experience that can only be acquired through traveling overseas or out of one’s country. Studying in Ireland at the university of limerick was my first-time experiencing life in Europe. Despite being excited about traveling abroad, I was also initially anxious about living in a new environment without my friends or family in Ghana.

I arrived in Ireland, in January, and the first thing that I found different was the weather. Having lived in Ghana for most of my life, I was used to temperatures of 25-degree Celsius and above, which is very high compared to Ireland’s average temperature of 10-degree Celsius. My early days in Ireland were quite eventful. Every day was filled with events organized by the International Education Division (IED) to familiarize International students with the University of Limerick (UL) campus. During the events organized by the IED, I met students from different parts of the world and made very good friends and associates. One thing that I really loved about studying in UL was the flexibility and convenience of courses available to international students. The courses covered all disciplines and students were at liberty to select courses outside their area of specialization under careful supervision by academic counsellors. Classes were also very interactive and organized. This made learning and adjusting to the different environment very easy. Initially, I had a tough time understanding lectures because of the accent of professors but I quickly adapted after some days. Looking back, I recommend that every UL student (International or local) report any difficulty that they may face while taking a course to a professor/instructor to avoid struggling in that course. Also, I recommend that every International student should be part of a study group or have a study partner. A good study group or partner will help you to gain a better understanding of lessons or courses taught in UL.

One of the highlights of my stay in Ireland was living with my flatmates. Over my short stay in Ireland, I met some wonderful people of which my flatmates were the most significant. My flatmates were probably the most exciting group of people I had met in life for a long time. From playing beer pong, to eating intercontinental dishes together, long sessions of debate on spirituality, playing American football in the night, and organizing parties and trips, living with my flatmates filled me with many memories. My flatmates and I continue to communicate even though we are miles apart now. I urge all International students to make as many friends as possible when they are ever in Ireland because we are only as good as our connections with others.

Another aspect of my stay in Ireland that I will always cherish is exercising at the UL sports center. Throughout my stay in the University of Limerick, the UL sports center served as a spot for me to release the stress of settling into a new environment, studying new courses, and remaining healthy. The UL sports center houses facilities such as a gym, basketball and football courts, a swimming pool and a running track. The UL sports center allowed me to stay in shape and meet new people every day.

The final highlight of my stay in Ireland is the places that I visited while at the University of Limerick. Trips to places like Dublin, Galway, Limerick town, and other locations in Ireland allowed me to have an amazing experience of the Irish culture and people. I felt at home all the time because of the beautiful weather and surroundings of every place I visited in Ireland. The International Education Division also made traveling in and around Ireland much simpler by organizing inexpensive trips to exotic and historic sites and the possession of a leap card. A leap card is a discounted-rate card that allows you to travel in and around Ireland. I strongly advise every incoming International student to get a leap card when in Ireland. One thing I wish to have done more in Ireland was travel. There are lots of awesome places in Ireland that every student should definitely visit.

My stay in Ireland took a drastic turn when the University of Limerick closed in march because of the COVID-19 outbreak. I was initially excited about this turn of events because I thought it was a dream come true to stay home without classes. However, as days went by and most of my friends left for their countries, social and academic life became very frustrating and boring. The school’s abrupt closure brought about a shift in curricular assessment and learning. Life under lockdown proved to be a very exhausting experience. Constant communication with family and friends, weekly IED check-ins, online group chats with other UL students, day-to-day workouts, and my mental toughness are things that successfully carried me through life under lockdown. Life under lockdown also helped me to discover myself more in terms of my academic, mental, and emotional strength. That being so, I encourage all other students or individuals living under lockdown to stay connected to family and friends and to use this period as a journey of self-discovery and personal development. In doing so, I believe that we shall all exit these difficult times stronger and more united than ever before. I have just started working on a project with Dr Chris to further my studies and this is helping me to improve my research skills and my own learning. Dr. Chris has suggested some great applications and websites that have made working on the project quite uncomplicated.  I am looking forward to see the outcomes of this project.

All in all, my stay in Ireland has been an exciting and life-changing one. The people I’ve met, the cultures I have experienced, and the places I’ve been to in Ireland are memories that will be with me forever. My advice to any student in the world is to travel to Ireland, study at UL, experience the cultural difference, meet new people, and witness a dramatic change in your perspective and life. Peace✌

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