The Catholic University of America

 

 

Top Five Reasons to Select the Program

  1. The City. When most Americans discuss Ireland, Dublin is the only place that comes to mind. Sure, Dublin is amazing and rich in culture and diversity, but most are unaware of Cork, the second largest city in Ireland. I chose Cork for this reason – because I wanted an experience in Ireland that would be something different from the norm. Because it isn’t the capitol, it does not entertain nearly the same amount of tourists as Dublin does – but therefore, it is rich in hometown-pride and tradition. The city centre, which is approximately a fifteen-minute walk from the University College Cork campus and a five-minute walk from Arcadia housing, is an all-encompassing area with everything you could ask for as a student: great shopping, moderately priced groceries, fantastic nightlife, and hidden alleyways that house amazing cafes, coffee shops, and restaurants. Culture and tradition is anywhere you turn, from the various street musicians and artists who play at all times of the day, to the pubs signs boasting of their freshly brewed Guinness and warm Irish stew. Moreover, coming back to Cork from a visit to other European countries or areas of Ireland, I always have the familiar feeling of coming home. Even after a month, I had picked up some of the Irish slang and had become comfortable with the ways of living; I truly feel like I am a Corkonian already!

  2. The Program. Catholic U. students who want to study abroad in Ireland are given the options of studying at University College Cork or University College Dublin, through the programming of Arcadia University. Arcadia is a small college in Pennsylvania that specializes in study abroad programs, and they are just fantastic. Their Irish headquarters are in Dublin, and therefore, so are their orientation programs; we spent the first few days of our Irish experience exploring the capitol, before we moved into our now-hometown. The program coordinators, who are both American and Irish, cover any and every qualm an international student could have; furthermore, the trips and events they plan for us are convenient and inexpensive. During our orientation, they provided us with a fun couple of hours of Gaelic football and hurling practices – something I would probably never have experienced on my own. Moreover, they host an inexpensive weekend trip to Belfast that is complete with planned accommodation, travel, and meals. Their extra guidance is something that I’ve come to truly appreciate; it’s nice to know that you have people to assist you with your completely new experience!

  3. The Education. The teaching system in Ireland is completely different from what one would expect in an American classroom. It is quite laissez-faire, in that as a student, you are expected to want to learn, to the point of necessarily reading secondary or advised reading on your own time. Lectures, or, classes, are generally large in number, and range from about 20-200 people per class. The lecturer (teacher) is prone to doing only what his title asks of him to do: lecturing. That is to say, classes are not discussion-based, although there may be some time for FAQ’s left at the end. If you are not convinced of the free hand style I have mentioned just yet, here is the kicker: there are slim to no homework assignments, tests or papers for your entire semester. This is where secondary reading comes in, however; with the syllabi, teachers hand out suggested reading that will go hand-in-hand with the course material. Reading and retaining secondary knowledge is essential for the final exams, which are usually one hundred percent of your grade in the class. The teacher is able to tell if you have been listening, following along, and giving all that you have into the class, if your final essays contain outside knowledge on the subject. I find that this way of learning, although quite shocking and new, awakened a new sense of responsibility and maturity in me. I am not guided by homework, specific chapter material, or bi-weekly tests here; my grades depend solely on my want to learn and do well. Besides giving me a heightened sense of independence, the Irish ways of teaching have also opened my eyes to how other countries live and learn, which is an aspect of international travel any regular tourist would not be able to observe.

  4. The Culture. True to popular belief, the Irish are both very friendly, and very knowledgeable of alcohol. Pub culture is a very large part of the Irish way of living; any social meeting, even a school organization event, can be expected to convene at a local pub. Moreover, it is not uncommon for pubs to be filled with families every Sunday, as Sundays are taken as a day of relaxation. The University College Cork campus even houses two of its own bars, in which students can be seen getting a pint between lunch-time and close. However, ordering a Pepsi is not looked down upon; it is better to be sober than to be out of control. Moreover, we were advised to NOT try to keep up with the Irish when they drink! Traditional music, cuisine, and landmarks are also inherent of Cork. As I mentioned, street musicians are found playing in the streets of Cork at all hours of the day; you could be walking past an accordion player on your way to the grocery store in the morning, and you may also run into a couple of banjo players (some who I have now become personally acquainted with!) during a nightly stroll. Furthermore, The English Market is a lovely place to find fresh Irish produce and meats, despite its nationality-confused title. Along with everything else in Cork City Centre, it is about a five-minute walk from anywhere you are. Furthermore, the county of Cork holds some of Ireland’s greatest treasures, such as the Blarney Stone, or the well-known port town of Kinsale. The beautiful Cliffs of Moher are also not far from the city centre; with these amazing landmarks being so close to where I live, I truly feel as if I am getting the most out of my experience living in Cork.

  5. The Independence. Although it sounds ambiguous, independence as a whole is something I feel that I have grown in during my time here in Cork – in several different meanings and for many different reasons. In general, choosing Cork as my destination to study abroad was a unique and unfamiliar decision for me. As I first began considering studying abroad, I thought that knew that I definitely wanted to study in Ireland. With an Irish heritage and fifteen years of Irish dancing under my belt, Ireland was my shoo-in. However, as I began to explore the CUAbroad website, along with CUA Facebook friends who were studying at the CUA campus in Romes’ pictures, I imagined what it would be like to study somewhere where I might see the sun most days, and not have to carry an umbrella everywhere I went. However, now that I am here, I am so glad that I chose Cork. Although I do love my CUA friends who chose to study in Rome, there is a large chance I would not have met any lasting friends that were not CUA students, had I chosen to study there. The CUA Rome campus consists of CUA students, whereas there are only five (a large number, for our group!) of CUA students studying at UCC through Arcadia. Besides the Irish acquaintances I have made, I now find my group to be solely made up of a few students from Minnesota, Rhode Island, and other parts of America and the world that I have yet to discover. This aspect of studying somewhere new and unique is something completely rewarding, and worth it. Moreover, I find myself prone to frequently exploring the city on my own. Since our Arcadia housing is right by the city centre, everything is easily accessible, which makes exploring side alleys I haven’t walked down yet, or new coffee shops, etc., much easier. It’s exciting to have something new to discover every day!

 

What I Wish I Would Have Known Before I Went

Students go home on the weekends
At basically every Irish college, students go home on the weekends. Even if they live three hours away, as my Irish flatmates do, they will leave on Friday, not to return until late Sunday or Monday. Most go home to part-time jobs, or to just have home-made cooking and their laundry done for them. Because of this, the Irish students go out on weeknights, and the weekends are thus much more quiet. Therefore, studying and balancing a social life are quite the opposite of what we are used to in America. Nonetheless, I have spent most of my weekends either traveling or spending my own time around Cork, not to mention studying and cleaning.


Weather
I really didn’t understand what Irish weather was until I actually arrived here. Yes, the common truth is that it rains frequently, daily you could even say. However, Irish rain is not like American rain, that may pour and drastically effect a day’s events. Although it generally rains at least once a day in Ireland, Irish rain is brief and misty; sometimes, it may even rain while the sun is still shining. Moreover, it does not get as cold in Ireland as I was used to in the states. It is generally around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, even in February. Therefore, the winter weather is not half as bad as I was thinking it would be!


Laundry
In our apartment complex at DeansHall, it is five euro to wash and dry a load of laundry. This, I will admit, is not fun. However, I have learned how to hand-wash a lot of my clothes, and we are supplied with drying racks in our apartments.


Short showers
Ireland is much greener than America – both literally and environmentally. Energy is conserved more so in Ireland than in the U.S., meaning less heat and shorter showers. In our apartments, only a certain amount of hot water is produced every day; therefore, shorter showers must be allowed in order for every flat mate to get their fair share.

Expiration dates and lack of American food
Irish food contains much less preservatives than American food; therefore, it is more organic, but more temperamental. Basic things such as milk and bread are prone to go bad after about a week or week and a half, so I find myself visiting the grocery store semi-frequently. Furthermore, I wish I had known to stock up on macaroni and cheese – they don’t have it here! Some of my friends have learned to make it themselves, however, but I had a visitor bring some instead!
 

 

A Funny Story or Situation

During our orientation week, Arcadia provided us with Gaelic football and hurling lessons at a top-notch sports club in Dublin. We were tought some basics about the sports by a few of the club professionals, which consisted of several adults, and two young boys (approximately ages 8 and 11) from Northern Ireland. During the course of our lessons, it began to rain, and continued on and off for the rest of the evening. While we were scrimmaging outside, we tried to befriend our child-coaches in a bit of friendly conversation. While commenting on the weather, my friend Elise exclaimed, “My pants are soaked!” Unfortunately, she had forgotten that the word “pants” is taken to mean underwear in Ireland. Needless to say, the youngest of our teachers was quite baffled, confused and embarrassed by what she had said, and shied away from us for the rest of the night!

 

An Embarrassing Situation

I have come to notice that Americans talk much more animatedly and frequently that Europeans. When in a public place (i.e. bus stop; generally any waiting-line), I often notice that my American friends and I may be speaking much louder than anyone else around, or that we may be the only ones speaking, even. Overall, the conscious feeling of sticking out as Americans can feel a bit awkward at times.

 

The Teacher From Whom I Learned the Most

I really enjoy my “Hitler, Nazism, and the Second World War” class with Dr. Detmar Klein. Although it may sound like a morbid subject, it is actually a very interesting, in-depth look at the theories of Hitlerism, Nazism, and 20th century German politics as a whole. Dr. Klein is German himself, and provides very unbiased lectures on the subjects we discuss. The reason I like him most, however, is that he is unlike other lecturers, in that he asks questions and opinions of his students. He likes to find honest answers, and to engage our class in the subject material as much as possible. Essentially, his style of teaching, mixed with the interesting course material, makes this teacher and class my favorites by far (And I’m not even a History major!).

 

Housing

I am incredibly happy with the housing situation that Arcadia has provided for me. I live in the DeansHall apartment complex, which is approximately a 5-minute walk from the city centre, and a 15-minute walk to campus. The walk to and from school, although a bit lengthy, is never a problem; if I have a break in between classes, I always have time to go and grab a bite to eat, or to get a few errands done. The distance between my apartment and the city centre, on the other hand, is a fantastic aspect of my living here. Groceries, shopping, and nightlife are all within a 5 to 10 minute walk of my apartment; I have never taken a taxi anywhere in Cork. Moreover, I live with 3 Irish roommates who are all incredibly kind, helpful, and welcoming; meeting their friends and family has provided me with a fantastic insight into Irish traditions and culture.  Overall, the housing situation that I am in is phenomenal.

 

Student Profile:

Major: English

Hometown:

Program: University College Cork

Term Abroad: Spring 2012

Contact Erin