Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle for its greenery nurtured by its moderate temperature and moist climate.
For international students worldwide — 35,000 from 160 countries are already there — the top reasons for studying in Ireland are as follows:
- Quality of its universities and the variety of programs available
- Opportunities for students to work part-time
- Career opportunities after graduation in top companies such as Google, Apple, and IBM
- Welcoming Irish people
- Wide use of English
For many ambitious students from the world over, greener pastures would be hard to find.
International student life in Ireland
Ireland is one of the most peaceful nations, and was 12th in Global Peace Index 2020. Universities take particular care to ensure student safety with round-the-clock security and emergency assistance on campus.
However, you should take the basic precautions, such as saving the numbers of security officers on your phone and downloading the mobile app that many universities provide to enable you to contact assistance. Shuttle services are available to take you to your accommodation or transport station after hours.
In place of local police officials, Ireland has a nationwide force (A Garda Síochána) with “blue light” services with ambulance and fire force a call away on the toll-free numbers 112 and 999. You can report a crime at the local Garda station.
Like in any other city, you need to stay alert and avoid traveling alone at night. Pre-book a taxi if you can’t find a friend who can drop you.
Take care of your documents. When you are going out exploring, keep a friend or another trusted person informed.
Ireland doesn’t have extreme weather but things can be unpredictable. The country gets abundant rainfall, with cool winters and warm summers.
The mean daily temperatures in January and February, the coldest months, are 4 degrees Celsius and 7 degrees, respectively.
July and August are the warmest, with daily mean temperatures 14 to 16 degrees Celsius, and around the end of these months, there are thunderstorms.
Atlantic depressions bring storms of 160 kmph to the western counties. The sunniest months are May and June, with seven or eight hours of sunshine.
Students from tropical climes would do well to pack layers that can be easily worn and taken off.
Waterproofs, comfortable walking shoes, and sunglasses are essentials. There isn’t usually any snowfall at all, but a snow day may catch you by surprise.
Education system in Ireland
Education is compulsory of children aged six to 16 or until students have completed three years of second-level education.
The education system is made up of primary (eight years), second (five or six years), and third levels (tertiary education in universities/technological institutes) and further education.
Seven universities, which are autonomous, offer undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctoral degree programs.
According to THE, the best universities in Ireland are:
- Trinity College Dublin (THE World University Rankings 2020 gives it rank 164)
- Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (WUR 201-250)
- University College Dublin (201-250)
- National University of Ireland, Galway (251-300)
The other reputed universities are Technological University Dublin, Dublin City University, University of Limerick, Maynooth University, and University College Cork.
Besides, 14 institutes of technology provide education in business, sciences, engineering, linguistics, and music at certificate, diploma, and degree levels.
The community atmosphere, innovative programs, infrastructure, and multicultural mix at Irish universities are what students appreciate the most.
Irish universities ensure that the education they impart is one of quality, is up-to-date and relevant, and delivered using both traditional and advanced methods, including digital technology.
By facilitating researchers and staff to study and work abroad, they provide international exposure to them, and indirectly, to students.
In classrooms, professors encourage learner involvement and critical thinking. They update their knowledge by keeping close links with their counterparts abroad. Teaching standards are guided by quality assurance programs.
Curricula for programs are renewed continuously, thanks to the association with reputed universities in other countries.
At Trinity College, one of the oldest universities in the region at 428 years and a collegiate system, students are guided by the Student Services Centre. A personal tutor is allotted to every student to help manage his/her academic/personal responsibilities.
At University College Dublin, students from 140 countries enjoy a 130-hectare campus that accommodates a students’ center, business school, and science center.
Meanwhile, students from many nations participate in clubs activities of civic participation and community involvement at the RCSI, where the class strengths are small, ensuring the development of healthcare skillsets.
The UCC is a research-focused university with a focus not just on academics but also industry cooperation, which is shown in the 85 to 90 percent employment rate among postgraduates. At the NUI, the growth in its research and innovation is a great spoil to the institution’s rich heritage of 175 years.
TUB, a topnotch institute of further studies, offers undergraduate and postgraduate programs. Maynooth gives a modern, dynamic, and functional dimension to undergraduate and postgraduate programs.
Dublin City University’s social, cultural, and historical heritage and its student clubs and academic professionalism make it one of the best universities in the country. Limerick offers a diverse selection of programs that comes with expert staff and modern infrastructure.
Ireland is also home to some of the best institutes of technology: Athlone Institute of Technology; Institute of Technology, Carlow; Dundalk Institute of Technology; Limerick Institute of Technology; and Letterkenny Institute of Technology, to name a few.
Life on university campuses in Ireland largely depends on which city they are in, and they are not only centers of learning but also fun spots with eateries, pubs, sports centers, and entertainment hubs.
In Dublin, you have TU Dublin, UCD, Trinity, DCU, and other universities. Trinity itself is a tourist spot for its historical campus, and you won’t notice time fly when you’re sitting on one of the benches around.
The Santry Book Depository is a major library where publishers are obliged to send an official copy of every book but it takes some determined walking to get there.
Many pubs are located close by and they are a hangout for students along with the Junior Common Room and the arts block.
On campus, students can get local food at reasonable prices but they can also enjoy Indian, Chinese, and Korean cuisine. There are options for vegetarians, too.
Galway, where NUI Galway is located, is a small city, so students can go have fun at pubs and eateries, shopping centers, and cultural spots without traveling too much. Intrepid sea simmers can try out their skills in the cold waters of the Atlantic.
Galway is Ireland’s artistic and cultural capital, and a music, arts, or film festival is going on always.
If you’re going to be walking or using a bicycle, expect to get wet if you don’t have an umbrella/raincoat. But the rain will be far from your mind when you sit eating or drinking at the delicious places around.
Limerick is the of course, the city of the University of Limerick (UL), along with that of other institutions. UL has among the most beautiful and well-planned campuses in the country, though the campus is a bit away from the city. Clubs and societies keep students fully occupied outside class.
During rugby matches, bars are full of fans, and they might not be the ideal drinking holes for those who aren’t enthusiasts.
An Olympic-sized swimming pool, an excellent gym, Tuesday’s farmers’ market, a live music venue, and a night club are other highlights.
Maynooth town has, of course, Maynooth University, with a modern north campus and a traditional south campus. It’s at a distance from Dublin and other cities, though there are good bus and train connections.
On campus, the library is a place to study and also to hang out; there’s a students’ union bar where live music and comedy acts thrill the audience. Students can choose from a variety of restaurants and cafés in and just outside the campus.
Of course, while relishing your campus and going at it when it comes to classwork, don’t forget to enjoy breath-taking landscape from Giant’s Causeway to Cliffs of Moher, and from Blarney Stone to the Famine Ship. Read about Irish ghost stories and fairytales, leprechauns and giants, banshees and selkies.
Culturally, Ireland was once an island. Today, it is a multicultural nation with people, including students, coming from round the world.
The Irish have always traveled, many to improve their fortunes, to countries such as the US. They have no dislike of foreigners and welcome them with a famously friendly nature. At Irish universities, this friendly nature takes the form of a helping hand to international students.
The first thing you might notice when you arrive is how casually people are dressed: in hoodies, sweatpants, and joggers, etc. No, they all aren’t heading out to the gym but only like to feel comfortable when they are outdoors.
Ireland is a good place to get lost as people are happy to stop to give you a smile and directions. Dublin bus drivers don’t mind giving a class on where to get off and reach your destination.
Politeness is appreciated, and a “thank you” and a “sorry” make people feel good. You may not always catch the Irish accent, and you can tell someone that they’re speaking too fast and you can’t understand.
Know the public holidays, when businesses and colleges are closed, and fewer bus services are available. Also keep a detailed list of the opening and closing hours of businesses and grocery shops.
Food and cuisine
A happy part of a student’s life is often centered on pubs and restaurants. In many pubs, there’s no table service and you pay for the drinks as you order them.
If you go with friends, you will order “a round” of drinks just after you yourself have enjoyed similar hospitality.
If you’re going alone, you can always find someone to chat with and make a new friend. You don’t have to tip, as a service charge is included.
Many pubs serve good food at reasonable prices but it may not be available all day. Don’t be shy to ask for a doggie bag with leftover food that you could not finish. Remember to book a table in advance if you’re planning an evening out at a popular restaurants in Dublin and other cities.
Diversity has made Ireland’s food and cuisine more eclectic, and a variety of dishes and cuisine is available. There’s a range of eateries, from takeaways, where the rates are reasonable, to fine dining restaurants, where the prices are much higher.
Irish food is popular, and the local people love their traditional dishes including Irish stew, made with beef or mutton and served with potato, onion, garlic, and carrots; bacon and cabbage; and coddle, a dish made with leftovers for which there’s no specific recipe.
Other popular dishes include Dublin Bay prawns and Oysters. The location and climate of Ireland have ensured the availability of fresh ingredients, and you’ve the option of eating healthy, non-processed foods.
Vegetarians won’t go hungry: pasta or some form of Indian lentils is available almost everywhere. Classic Irish breakfast (baked beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, and potatoes made into a hash and served with toast, butter, marmalade, and tea) and other meals for vegetarians are available in restaurants. The list of veggie food is growing as more people are turning vegetarian or vegan.
Irish whisky, matured in wooden barrels, and stout, bottled and serviced from a tap, are internationally known.
Good sources of information about where to stay include the accommodation office in your university, websites (HousingAnywhere.com, Daft.ie, and MyHome.ie), newspapers, and real-estate agents.
Many universities, but not all, arrange accommodation for first-year students. But on-campus accommodation may be expensive (monthly €600-€900 without food; €1,000-€1,200 with food; to be paid not monthly but in two instalments) and hard to find.
Other than on campus, another option is to live with a host family. You will be given a room for yourself and perhaps you will be included in some of the family activities (€350-€500 monthly).
You can join a group of students to rent a private studio, flat, or house that come for €800-€1,200 or share rooms with three for four other students (€150-€200). Bills for utilities will be extra. The advantage is that you will be able to cook your own food.
Your university accommodation office will guide you but keep in mind questions such as the rent and utilities bill, proximity to university and shopping centers, modes of transport to university and nearest town/city, and how many students will share the kitchen/bathroom. You should also stick to your budget.
Expenses and cost of living in Ireland
Ireland can be just as expensive as any other English-speaking destination, including the UK. The annual tuition fees for undergraduate programs range from €9,850-€55,000 a year, depending on your program, and for postgraduate programs (master’s and doctoral) €9,950-€35,000.
You will also need to pay around €3,000 for student services (exam, club fees, etc.). Scholarships are available for students from developing countries and meritorious students.
The cost of living can be between €550 and €1,000 a month at the very least. In Dublin, it can come up to €1,100-€1,800, in Cork €860-€1,400, and in Galway and smaller cities €800-€1,100.
Utilities bill can come up to €30-€50 (all monthly unless specified), grocery shopping €250-€350, dinner at smaller restaurants €15, fine dining three-course meal for two €55, transport pass at discount €50-€55, bicycle daily rental €20, books, etc. €75, entertainment €60-€100, and medical insurance €45.
Holders of Stamp 2 visa can work for 20 hours a week, while those with Stamp 2A cannot work part-time. Stamp 2 visa holders can work for 40 hours a week from June to September and from December 15 to January 15.
They need to get a Personal Public Services Number, be registered with the Garda National Immigration Bureau, and be taking classes for 25 weeks each academic year between 8 am and 6 pm.
The Irish minimum wage is €9.8. Jobs in restaurants, bars, retail, at entertainment events, call centers/customer service, etc. are available.
A day in the life of an international student in Ireland
(By an international student studying graphic design at the School of Art and Design, Limerick Institute of Technology, Ireland; paraphrased for conciseness)
On my way to college, I stop at a café for a cup of coffee, which also gives me the time to focus on my current project, doing conceptual research for a film book festival design.
My school offers a wide range of creative UG and PG programs, including mine, Bachelor’s Honors in graphic design communication. My program is wonderful, and so is my college environment.
As soon as I reach college, I go to the graphic design studio, where my work and the work of two other classmates are displayed. This is as part of a project for the Cannes Film Festival to design a book.
We have workshops, and one recent one was on typography, one of my courses, along with design studio, and land space media. As part of our production class, we learn how to use an illustrator, and we create a pictogram for a given brief.
During the rest of my day at college, I finish my work and head to Limerick city for some exploration.
I catch up with my friends and get lunch together—today I am having “channa masala” with “aloo, raitha, and coriander” (chickpea masala with potato, salad with curds, and coriander) along with some bread.
Limerick is a vibrant city and busy during the afternoons, but sometimes I like to enjoy some quiet with a friend and enjoy the rain from my window. As an international student, I feel welcome in Ireland and have made friends.
At night, my friends and I often go out to see the city lights and enjoy the company of my friends and a “late night snack” at 8 pm.
Also check out:
– MBA in Ireland for international students (Video)
– How I got into Smurfit School of Business (Ireland)
References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22