There’s plenty of student accommodation around UCD, but I was still lucky enough to be able to get a room in the University residences on campus considering the sheer volume of people who applied. Of all of the residences though, my one is obviously the best with Ashfield Student Residence standing out in the category of student accommodation and being worthy of several awards this year in the Biannual 360 International Accommodation awards. So without further ado;
The “Weirdest wall artwork” award Each apartment in Ashfield is spacious with six bedrooms with ensuites and an open plan kitchen/dining/lounge area. They’re arranged in four buildings around a central courtyard with about 20 apartments each and being brand new last year are modern, clean and kitted out with fancy appliances. However some interior designer must have gone mad at the cheap IKEA wall art as every room has mysterious artwork nailed to the wall. Every night I have to sleep under the watchful gaze of a Macaque monkey, while dinner is presided over by strange deer/people hybrids standing around a car. But I suppose you get used to it.
The “You never know how much you miss an oven until you don’t have one” award Yup this is a pretty big one. Toaster, kettle, microwave, stovetop all check but alas there is no oven. For a nice big modern kitchen that was a bit of a shock upon arrival, but aside from mum’s dearly missed lasagne recipe I found that you can still make a lot with just a stovetop. Rice, pasta, couscous, stir-fries, eggs, steak and more are all still on the menu, and anyway if I get really desperate I can always buy a microwave meal for one to get me through the cold winter nights to come.
The “Most convenient convenience store” award This is actually a shout out to one of the other residences on campus here; Merville Student Residence has a convenience store in it, like literally in the same building. Midnight snacks and emergency milk have never been so easy, and plus they do a mean chicken roll for lunch.
The “However the nearest actual supermarket is a half an hour walk away with no direct bus” award I mean Centra is great, but sometimes doesn’t quite cut it.
Although fantastic, it has to be said that even moving to the other side of the world has not allowed me to escape the housing crisis as Dublin has it even worse than Auckland, with rent for a semester (particularly on campus) costing up to €4000. Overall though I think it’s worth it. Being on campus means that you’re in the thick of everything that’s going on, and it’s an easy walk to any classes, the health centre or gym. My flatmates are awesome, we’re all exchange students so have become good friends and with 24 hour reception there’s no worry about if anything goes wrong and no concerns about security. If I’m going to be stuck here for the next 10 weeks, I think I’ve got a pretty good deal.
Well, after almost a year of planning and prepping and 7 weeks of travel through the UK and Europe I’ve finally made it to the other side of the world to University College Dublin in Ireland! I’ve been here a grand total of two weeks now and it’s been full on getting everything set up and launching back into classes. From having to last-minute change papers (or modules as they’re called here), visit the Immigration Office to approve my visa and the endless bureaucracy of setting up a bank account, to the excitement of being in a new city and country and exploring all of the things Dublin has to offer there has been a lot to take in!
To start the story off, UCD is located about a 20 minute bus ride south of the centre of Dublin on a self-contained American-style campus, but it’s still super handy to get into town with a Student Leap card giving you discounted fares on public transport across the city. In the centre of the campus is a pond complete with fountains and swans, with the main axis of faculty buildings stretching away down either side. The campus is surrounded by sports fields, student accommodation and plenty of green space and trees to relax and read on a sunny day, and if you sit still for long enough an inquisitive squirrel might even come over to say hi! It’s a truly different experience to Auckland, the campus feels like a real community and it’s enjoyable to walk around the modern buildings between classes or grab lunch in the restaurant and you’re never far from something going on.
Checking in to accommodation was easy, and kicked off orientation week which was packed with campus tours, welcome events, faculty orientations, a Céilí (traditional Irish dance), walking tour of the city, exploring the pubs and clubs in the evening, but most of all meeting so many people from around the world and Ireland too. There were too many events to be able to go to them all but the highlight for me was definitely trying my first pint of true Irish Guinness at the storehouse brewery in town, with grand views across the whole city.
Weather in Ireland is a bit fickle though, and it was a shock to the system being back in the wind and rain most days (I even had to break out the hat and scarf on the first day of class), but there have been some stunning days thrown in and some adventures already. To cap off the first week I took a road trip to go camping with some new Irish friends to the Cliffs of Moher which tower 120m above the Atlantic Ocean on the west coast of Ireland. It was pouring with rain when we first got there but we got to wake up in our tent to stunning views along the coast and a brilliantly sunny day which all the more made up for it. Oh and castles. On the drive home we even stopped in a country pub to watch the All Ireland Gaelic Football final, which was louder and crazier than any rugby match I’ve ever seen. I could barely understand the rules or the other people in the pub shouting at the TV but it was a sure-fire way to launch into the full Irish cultural experience! I have a sneaking suspicion the next four months are going to be a lot of fun!