Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cork, a dream comes true

I always have wanted to study abroad, especially in an English-speaking country. Almost one year ago my dream came true; I got a place as an Erasmus student for one semester at University College Cork (UCC) in Ireland. I was extremely happy and fully realized my luck when I was on the plane. The 15th of September was the big day and I arrived in Cork. Firstly, I was surprised by the accent of the Irish. I wondered if they were speaking Irish or English. It was the latter, as Irish is only spoken in certain regions but not in the second largest city of Ireland. Would I be able to understand the people? No worry, you get used to their strong accent.
The first thing I did when I arrived was to go to my accommodation in Farranlea Hall. With a rent of 600€ a month without the additional fees, it was the cheapest place offered so I did not expect so much of it. But to my surprise: It was beautiful and more like a private apartment than a “student room”. I had my own bedroom, bath and a small hallway. I shared the kitchen with 3 Irish roommates. Unfortunately, they were not very welcoming but I made friends with other people in the building. I got on very well with Americans which allowed me to improve my English.
My first week in Cork an orientation programme took place. There were meetings for all visiting students. It was a good opportunity to get to know other foreigners, especially French, Germans and Americans. We got some information about the city as well as UCC. In the evenings cinema nights, a table quiz, an Irish dancing session and other activities were organized for us and we had a lot of fun. I really believe you should attend these events if you are going to study at UCC.
At the university, all conceivable clubs and societies can be found, that is to say there are more than 120 different activities to do for free!!! Students can join the French, choral and nursing society or the fashion, mountaineering, hurling, soccer and even the snow sports club. I was in the photographic society as well as the fencing club. Generally, I think that the Irish are more active outside their college and that they practice more sport than we do. Therefore, it is not unusual to see them wearing jogging suits and carrying their equipment to university. On the contrary, in the evening people like to dress up and so girls are seen wearing glittering cloth, high heels and short dresses.
The 22nd of September university began. I took lessons in Anglo-Irish literature, Irish folklore, French translation and a German literary class about Berlin. Lessons in Ireland are different from Belgian ones: the professor speaks English even in foreign language classes, in some lectures students do not take exams but instead they have final essays or written assignments and coming late to university is not uncommon and totally accepted.
I also tried to visit many places in Ireland during my Erasmus stay. My first trip was at Blarney Castle, which is a nice place for walks. After that, I went for a weekend to Kerry with the international society. We saw the Ring of Kerry by bus. Because of the narrow, steep and zigzag streets some students got sick, myself included. The photo society also organized a trip and we travelled for 3 days to Galway and Connemara. A few other places I saw are Dublin, Clonakilty and the West Cork Model Railway Village, Bantry Bay and its House, Cobh, the last place where the Titanic stopped, and my favourite place is probably Kinsale with its view of the sea and all the colourful houses.

And finally I want to give some pieces of advice for future Erasmus students: Firstly speak constantly English, even with French people if you really want to improve yourself (I did it and it has positive results), make friends as soon as possible of all nationalities, try out new things, and finally enjoy every moment of your stay because one semester is really, really short!!!

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