Barry O’Driscoll is the Regional Manager – India & South Asia for Education in Ireland. Enterprise Ireland manages the ‘Education in Ireland’ national brand under the authority of the Minister for Education and Skills. His work involves marketing and promoting Ireland’s offer to students from India, South Asia, Mexico and Colombia. Barry has a background in international business and languages and has a MBS in human resource management from Dublin City University. He has over ten years’ experience working with organizations in the areas of training and education as well as international business development.
Choosing to study abroad is probably one of the most daunting yet exciting decisions of a student’s life. It may bring with it some feelings of anxiety and being overwhelmed. However, students can easily change their outlook and turn their thoughts of uncertainty to something more positive if they choose to look ahead and plan their journey.
Having a well thought out plan includes applying to the right program and institution in line with one’s career goals, but also building connections in advance, being a practical traveller, and beginning the search for things like accommodation and friends in good time.
First things first, if you haven’t already, you’ll need to shortlist where you want to study your preferred course as Ireland has a number of high-ranking institutions which offer over 5000 diverse programmes. Thousands of Indian students every year choose Ireland because of its selection of courses and highly ranked global universities with world-class teaching and research facilities. It’s imperative to choose a university or college as well as a subject of study that will bring you closer to your future career goals.
Armed with an offer letter, passport, financial and supplementary documents, students can apply for their study visas. These documents should be filed and kept at hand when the student is ready to travel. Leading up to the departure, there is a lot a student can do to prepare for a smooth transition to ensure they are well-equipped to make the most of this overseas experience.
An important decision that students often delay is selecting the right housing and booking it well in advance. Since where you will stay will impact your overall wellbeing and experiences as a student, take time to consider your options and choose a place according to cost, distance, sharing options and facilities available. Most institutions in Ireland provide living arrangements for international students on and off campus, however, student housing is always in high demand, so rooms and apartments can lease quickly.
If you are considering renting from a private landlord or if your chosen institution can’t offer you anything on its own residential premises, make sure to reach out to the accommodation office who can help provide a list of trustworthy private properties and landlords in the area. Wherever you choose to live eventually, be sure that you completely understand the terms of the rental agreement before signing anything.
Packing your bag requires some shrewd thinking and sorting out the unnecessary from the essential clothes and articles. Students should consider Ireland’s fluctuating climate- the country is known to experience all four seasons in a day sometimes! Summers range from a mild 20-25°C while in winters the temperature can drop to 3-5°C. So, remember to pack layers with you that will prove most beneficial during your time in Ireland. Those who don’t have enough winter wear may consider buying affordable ones locally in Ireland. Besides, as a student, make sure to pack your electronics like laptops, iPads, tablets, international adapters, and chargers because your program will be a combination of online and printed module materials.
It may also be useful for students to look up detailed information about their institution, so they feel settled when they are in the new surroundings. Check out the campus map and routes around that you can explore. Read up your syllabus and modules and see if you can take along any material or books that may prove handy.
Once your travel arrangements are made, you must keep all your important documentation like the air ticket, Covid certificate, passport, identification documents, visa papers, and immigration forms safely and at hand. It’s a good idea to keep a photocopy of each of these documents separately in case something gets misplaced.
Another definite way of managing life in Ireland better is by looking after your finances. The cost of living in Ireland may be reasonable compared to other cities in the west, but periodic budgeting of expenses as an international student naturally helps. Using your regular bank account once you are in Ireland may prove to be too expensive because of international transaction fees, so it is advisable to open a new local bank account on arrival.
Some Irish banks also allow international students to open a new bank account online to get started on the process before they get to Ireland. If the bank of your choice doesn’t permit international students to apply online, you can book an appointment and go to the bank in person with the required documents to do the formalities on arrival. Usually, banks ask for student ID proof, passport, the offer letter, and address proof among other documents.
When it comes to managing your expenses, you can start by figuring out your inevitable expenses based on your parents’ or your own savings and income. Get a clear idea of the cost of your tuition fees over your entire course, as well as your living expenses including accommodation, food, textbooks, and money required for additional expenses. Consider your monthly fixed expenses such as on phone bills and rent, and then plan how much you would require for each month. Always keep an estimated amount in your budget for emergencies or unplanned outlays.
Moreover, getting accustomed to living independently can be hard for international students who are prone to moments of homesickness. One way of overcoming this is by learning how to cook home food, for a feeling of comfort and familiarity away from home. Besides, picking up basic cooking skills is a cheap and healthy way of living abroad so remember to get some tips and do some experimenting with the help of family members. Another key skill is housekeeping. Doing your own laundry, ironing and cleaning are all tasks that take practice to get right, so seize the chance to help out around the house weeks ahead of your departure.
Finally, let’s not forget the relief we feel on finding a known or friendly face in an unfamiliar setting. it’s important to start expanding your network as soon as possible and find Facebook or LinkedIn groups that help you connect students who will be attending the same institution. You can also connect with other Indian students already studying abroad to gain some helpful tips and guidance on student life in Ireland.
Once in Ireland, international students should consider joining clubs and societies within the first few weeks as it becomes a lot easier to settle in and make friends. See the options available to you on campus and ask yourself which sport or activity you’re interested in or pick something entirely new. It is essential to meet other like-minded students outside of your classroom and country as well. Since Ireland draws students from all around the world, this will be an opportunity for you to meet students from diverse cultures and build your friend circle.
Studying abroad is about much more than just lectures, assignments, and theses- it is a chance for students to broaden their horizons like never before. If you learn to develop personal coping habits like journaling, exercising, among others that can help you to deal with these changes, you will truly enjoy and revel in your study abroad experience!