By Jenny Schaeffer, student on the MA Sociology (Youth, Community, and Social Regeneration)
Many people (in Ireland and abroad) have questioned why I chose to study at the University of Limerick. For some, it is hard for them to wrap their heads around what this experience is really like — so I figured I’d attempt to put it into words and answer some of the more common questions that get thrown my way.
What are the benefits of studying in Ireland?
The biggest draw for me was low tuition costs. A similar degree would have set me back double (or in some cases triple) the price in America. You can also use US federal and state student loans and grants to fund your education. I also received a scholarship from UL, which helped cut down costs. Plus, Americans conveniently do not need to apply for a student visa (though there is a €300 yearly immigration fee). I find Ireland to be affordable and the cost of living is relatively low and comparable to my hometown back in the States, too.
I was also drawn to UL because they offered an accelerated, single-year masters program that directly aligned with my professional and academic interests. Importantly, I also have the opportunity to receive a quality education by studying under distinguished scholars on a modern campus — similar to my experience back in the states.
How do you find Ireland? Do you like it?
I really enjoy Ireland! The landscapes are beautiful, the people are friendly, and there are plenty of activities to involve yourself in. While the weather isn’t always something to write home about, it is relatively mild year-round — so unless it is particularly nasty outside, it never really seems to prevent anyone from doing outdoor activities.
While the public transportation services aren’t spectacular and taxis can be expensive, it isn’t terribly hard to get around the city. Limerick City and Castletroy are walkable and bikeable, too.
Traveling to different cities and villages is also relatively easy. I have already covered a lot of ground and I’ve seen a good bit of the country by bus (€3 to €30), train (€10 to €30), and car (€35 per day, plus insurance and petrol). Shannon Airport, which is just outside of Limerick, offers many inexpensive international flights, as does Dublin Airport — so weekend getaway trips are always a possibility.
What are some of the challenges you face?
Finding accommodation can be complicated as there is a housing crisis in Ireland. Rising rents, housing shortages, and homelessness are crucial social issues that Ireland is struggling to appropriately address. While I live on campus in student housing, many of my friends and peers struggled to secure rooms off campus. My only suggestion is to start looking for accommodation early.
Another issue is employment. In Ireland, American students can work for up to 20 hours a week. Despite my competitive resume, I have struggled to find part-time employment in my field. Luckily, I’ve been able to scrape by (on savings and student loans) but I know that this may be a serious point of contention for others.
The Irish grading system is also very different from the American system. While I am still getting great remarks, it took me awhile to wrap my head around it and I had to adjust my initial expectations.
What is Irish culture like? Have you made friends?
Irish people are good craic! For those of you not familiar with Irish lingo, ‘good craic’ means fun and enjoyable. I’ve met a lot of friendly and lovely people here, including other internationals. Compared to my experiences in America, it does take a bit more persistence and effort to join established Irish friend groups, especially as everyone has seemingly known each other all their lives.
There is a culture of drinking, so most socializing happens in the pub and out on the town. Limerick luckily has a great nightlife scene. There are plenty of pubs, clubs, and restaurants to satisfy all tastes and the Irish are seemingly always down with any excuse to party!
Sports are also central to Irish life. Everyone seems to play or watch Hurling, Gaelic Football, or Rugby. I haven’t managed to make it to a match yet, but I cannot wait to see a live game and be in a crowd of rowdy and passionate fans.
As a single lady, the dating scene has been a challenge to navigate. In America, it is not unusual for men to approach women and start a casual conversation….but here, that rarely happens! Everyone seems to be on tinder or bumble, which is seen as an accepted way to meet new people. I’m also not opposed to asking men out, but I’ve experienced some mixed reactions with my bold techniques. For now (at least) Irish men remain perplexing and bewildering creatures.
Lately I’ve also been volunteering as a way of building my connection to the community. UL has a great portal to connect students to opportunities on campus and around town. Also, there are plenty of student organizations to join, like the International society or the Kayak club. These groups host fun events, trips, and get-togethers and serve as a great way to meet new people. In addition, I’ve made friends with my peers in each of my classes. They’ve been a great support and are a welcome addition to my network.
Would you do it again? Should I consider studying there?
All in all, I am extremely happy with my decision to study in Ireland. In fact, I can’t seem to get enough, as I am planning to apply for a PhD position at the University of Limerick! If you are considering undertaking a postgraduate course, do not hesitate to consider studying here, as the Emerald Isle will surely serve as an excellent setting for all of your postgraduate dreams.