Haley Howard - Engineering from a Study Abroad Students Perspective!
My name is Haley Howard, and I am a second-year American student currently doing semester 2 in Ireland. I decided I wanted to do a semester abroad a year ago, and two of my friends decided that they wanted to come with me. We all had our hearts set on Italy, but there were just not any accredited schools that had the courses I needed for my Chemical Engineering/Pre-Med degree. I am doing undergraduate research in the organic chemistry department at the University of Tulsa this summer. The research starts May 21st, but every school I looked at in Italy, England, France, Germany, and the Netherlands had finals week on June or even July. My friends' excitement about going abroad was being dulled with each prospective school that was perfect for them but did not have the modules I needed. It was beginning to look hopeless when I bumped into a student who had just done a semester at UCD.
She could not praise the school highly enough. After looking at over a dozen colleges and being disappointed at the schedule conflicts or lack of modules, I dragged myself to my computer and looked up "University College Dublin"; I am so thankful I did! Not only was the school in the top 1% of universities in the world, but it also had a renowned ChemE department and an equivalent module for every class I needed to take this semester. The last possible final is May 18th, which would give me just enough time to take the research position. The campus looked absolutely beautiful as well, which was just a bonus on top of the academic credentials of the school. So, after some research, I let my two friends know that I had found our school, and here we are in gorgeous, green, gregarious Ireland.
I am so happy we are here! Dublin is an amazing city with lively pubs, a thriving culture, and bus drivers who will patiently explain how the system works to three American girls who are all in the Science and Engineering fields but still can't seem to comprehend why paper euros don't work on the bus but coins do. (We could not get our student Leap Cards fast enough). I am a teaching assistant in the chemistry labs and am in a few clubs at home, so I was worried I would go stir- crazy with not having enough extracurricular options at UCD; was I ever misinformed. I'm learning basic Gaelic with the Bord na Gaeilge and I am also a member of the food society, the international society, the musical society, and the volunteering society. Other clubs like literature, archery, mountaineering, and kickboxing are so accommodating that they are letting me attend events even before I officially sign up. Not only is everyone incredibly friendly and fun, but, perhaps most importantly, I am also really enjoying the modules. The professors are all very well-informed and confident teachers, and I adore the system of placing the majority of the learning responsibility in the hands of the students. I love my home university, but those instructors assign homework that can easily require an extra 20 to 30 hours of study each week, unlike here at UCD. All that extra work does not me let absorb the information any better than the student-led approach here at UCD, and it gives me more time to enjoy life and pursue my many interests.
In summary, I have more free time, more clubs in which to participate, a gym with a rock wall open to all students, AND I understand the coursework more completely. It would be difficult to find a school with an environment more perfect than this one. My friends and I are so glad that we found UCD and would not want to be anywhere else. (Sorry Italy!). Much like the girl I met who convinced me to consider UCD, I cannot recommend it enough to any prospective student. I have even started to wonder what my parents would think of me just staying here to complete my degree! I have three months left here, and I am already sad about leaving, which is the ultimate sign of a semester abroad well-spent.