As soon as I decided to study at the University of Namur, I heard of Erasmus stays abroad. I decided I also wanted to be an Erasmus student one day.
After a few administrative details, I received a letter: “Dear Sandrine, I am pleased to advise you that you have been accepted for admission to University College Cork for the Autumn Semester 2010 under the ERASMUS programme.”
This is how I landed at Dublin Airport on a sunny (!) day in September with quite a lot of luggage. I was alone in a new country (well, not actually alone as I had to meet Marie – the other Erasmus student from Namur – in Cork) and it was the beginning of my Erasmus adventure. I then discovered how incredibly friendly Irish people are: this is not a legend. However, it is true that their accent is different from anything I had ever heard before, any time I asked them to repeat what they just said, they did it, more slowly and articulating better.
It was quite difficult for me to come into contact with a lot of Irish students as I did not live in a university accommodation. In fact I had no classes with Irish students either. Though I chose three courses for visiting students (Introduction to Anglo-Irish literature, Aspects of Irish Folklore and Introduction to Modern Irish), I also had a French-English translation course, but for that class, the university staff decided to separate French native speakers from English native speakers, so Marie and I were in a group with French students only (and no Irish students).
It is the main quadrangle.
So I was not living in a university accommodation. Living in Ireland is expensive. University accommodations are terribly expensive (renting a room is about €500 per month). This is why I decided to share a house, which was much cheaper but... I lived rather far from everything (and I wasn’t the only one who thought so). So I will just advise the next Erasmus students going to Cork to either rent a university accommodation or spend a few days in a B&B and look for a place to stay when they are actually in Cork. That will make their lives much easier.
How can you then meet Irish students if you don't have any classes with them? Join a society or a club! I joined the fencing club (it was total chance) and learned the bases of the coolest and most wonderful sport on earth (fact!). UCC Fencing Club was the place where I met real Irish people (and also Americans, Chinese, Germans, Canadians, and...oh no, no English people...) and learned how to say “pop-corn” in sign language as well as the “worm dance”. We went to a few competitions; I went to Galway and Dublin (under snow) for the first time in my life.
Marie and I also visited Waterford (but that town was not really impressive) and Kinsale. The day we went to Kinsale it was raining all day and there was a lot of wind but we had great craic, taking pictures of basically everything that could be considered interesting or cool or stupid or worth being in a picture. I also visited Blarney Castle and its park (which is not that far from Cork; I would say only a thirty minute bus ride, and which is really worth visiting!) as well as Cobh (which used to be the harbour from where migrants left Ireland to go to America).
When people think of Ireland, they think of green, wild landscapes. This winter was rather special in Ireland because there was snow and the landscapes turned white. It made everything even more magical.
Here is a list of a few things that I will always remember about Ireland: cars are on the left side of the road (and the steering wheel is on the right side of the car); chips, cheese and garlic is addictive, as well as hot white chocolate (don't you forget to go to Butler's on Oliver Plunkett Street and Ó Conaill's on French Church Street! By the way, Ó Conaill's is the place where I had the best hot chocolate of my life. And I know what I'm talking about.); Cork is the most beautiful city in the world; one pint is 568ml and it's only €3.50 at Án Bróg before 11pm (by the way, “An Bróg” means “the shoe”); Lennox's has the best fish and chips of Cork; there is very often live music in pubs; if you are an international student you can enter for free at Gorby's on Friday nights; a student cinema ticket at The Gate is €5.50 before 4pm; you cannot walk on the grass of the Main Quadrangle or you will not graduate; nothing is better than Belgian chocolate; fencing is great; you can very often see rainbows; Ireland is great craic.