Photo credit: Camerin C., CIEE
When I first came to study abroad in Ireland in 2009, it was only meant to be for one semester. However, just a few weeks into my studies at the University of Limerick, I knew that I wanted to be here for the long haul: I’d fallen in love with the country, with the school, and with all the incredible people I’d met and the experiences that I had had.
I ended up enrolling in a four-year program -- the BA in Joint Honours, where my studies focused on Criminal Justice and Psychology -- and, after graduation, I moved up to Dublin to continue the adventure (and a year after my move, I enrolled in a Master’s of Arts in Journalism at DCU). And I can honestly say that my time studying abroad was an experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
Ireland is a country with an incredibly rich history, a vibrant and immersive culture, and picturesque landscapes. And thankfully, the country’s well-connected public transport makes it even easier to embrace all of the experiences that the country has to offer. While studying abroad in 2020 may not be quite what you had initially planned it to be, there are still plenty of amazing experiences that you can still have while studying abroad in Ireland this year.
Before diving into the list, let's address the "elephant in the room:" yes, you can still study abroad in Ireland this year. Ireland is open to students and study abroad programs are still offering incredible opportunities to learn and live on the Irish isle. You'll need to navigate new procedures with getting a student visa, plus health and safety regulations -- but if you're willing to put in the work, you can have an incredible study abroad experience in Ireland in 2021 and beyond.
Oh, and one more thing: if you need extra help making Ireland affordable this year, check out our scholarship to study abroad in Ireland! You could win a full-tuition waiver, stipend, and even flights. Click here to start your application before the deadline on December 6th, 2020.
1. Road Trip the Wild Atlantic Way
Photo credit: Elizabeth G., IES Abroad
Everyone's talking about road trips as a great way to travel safely right now -- the same applies during your time in Ireland!
If you’ve been spending a lot of the semester in the library, you may feel like you need a bit of a change of scenery once Reading Week rolls around. So, why not take a few of the days off to plan a road trip along the Wild Atlantic Way?
The driving route is 2,500km long, stretching through nine counties and three provinces, from Donegal's Inishowen Peninsula to Kinsale in Cork. The Wild Atlantic Way features more than 1,000 attractions along the way (even if you’re only planning to explore a small section of the route). From Connemara to the Cliffs of Moher; the Burren to the Slieve League Cliffs, there’s something that everyone will enjoy.
2. Embrace Irish Culture at Galleries & Museums
On the weekend, or between classes, dive in and explore Irish culture beyond the classroom by visiting some of the galleries and museums in Ireland.
And no matter where you’re studying in the country, there’s no shortage of amazing museums -- from Dublin’s Kilmainham Gaol and EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum to Cork’s The Glucksman and the Blackrock Castle Observatory; The Hunt Museum and Thomond Park in Limerick to the Claddagh Ring Museum or the Galway Fisheries Watchtower Museum in Galway.
Be sure to check any museums or galleries before turning up, as some may have changes in hours or reservation requirements to help reduce the number of people visiting.
3. Join a Campus Club or Society
A lot of campus clubs and societies aren’t meeting in person at the moment. However, joining one of them is a great way to get involved in college life, as well as meeting new people, if you find one to join that’s still holding events in a safe way.
Whether you’re looking for something sporty or a club that will let your creative side shine, there are so many options out there, depending on which school you’re studying at. And definitely make sure to check out the college’s International Society -- it’s the perfect way to meet other students from all over the world who are going through the same experience as you.
4. Hike to Lough Ouler (The Heart-Shaped Lake)
Looking to do something outdoorsy and perfect for social distancing after a busy week of coursework? the hike to Lough Ouler, the heart-shaped lake, could be the perfect solution. (It really is heart-shaped -- look it up!)
Tucked away at the side of Tonelagee mountain, this trail in Wicklow can be a bit more of a challenge. However, it's definitely worth it for those incredible views.
5. Pour a Perfect Pint at the Guinness Storehouse
If you have no classes one afternoon, why not check out the Guinness Storehouse? (Again, be sure to check the hours and such to make sure you'll be able to visit!).
It’s definitely a bit more of a touristy experience -- but it is also a blast. Especially if you use your pint voucher for the pull-your-own-pint masterclass, where you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness.
And once you’ve explored all the floors of the Storehouse, make sure to head up to the Gravity Bar in Dublin for some unforgettable views of Dublin city.
6. Spend Weekend Mornings at the Local Markets
After a busy week of classes, why not spend a Saturday morning at your local market? Outdoor markets are a great way to shop local but still be safe.
Galway, Cork, Limerick, and Dublin are among the places that have farmers’ markets and food markets that are full of fresh produce and handcrafts -- a lot of which is at student-friendly prices, if you’re looking for a new way do your weekly shop.
7. Visit the Book of Kells & the Long Room
It may seem like we're stuck in a timewarp lately, but some things are truly timeless: the Book of Kells is one such Irish experience that will always be there!
Spend an afternoon between classes learning about the 9th-century medieval manuscript, as well as the rich symbolism and artistry behind it. Handcrafted more than 1,000 years ago, you’ll have a chance to get an up-close look at the Book of Kells as you step inside the Treasury.
You’ll also have the chance to visit the Long Room, which has been a working library since 1732 -- and is home to 250,000 of Ireland’s most ancient texts.
8. Explore Phoenix Park (& See if You Can Spot Bród)
If you’ve got the afternoon off from classes, why not go for an adventure in Phoenix Park? It’s just a few miles from the city center and there’s so much to do: from a visit to the zoo to the cycling and walking trails; meeting the deer to planning a picnic (weather permitting).
If you pass by the Áras an Uachtaráin -- the official residence and main workplace of the president of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins -- make sure to keep an eye out and see if you can spot his dog, Bród. (He has his own Twitter!)
9. Day Trip in the Footsteps of Westeros Warriors
Winter is coming -- and Game of Thrones fans will definitely enjoy having the chance to follow in the footsteps of the warriors of Westeros with a tour based on the hit TV show.
If you take a break from studying one weekend and hop on a day tour from Dublin, it’ll give you the chance to walk through Winterfell or stroll down the King’s Road. You can even make a long weekend out of it and spend the Bank Holiday weekend exploring Northern Ireland.
10. Study Without the Weight of Tuition
Yes, you read that right. As you saw at the beginning of this post, you can study abroad in Ireland without worrying about tuition if you're the winner of the full-tuition scholarship to study abroad in Ireland that's going now through early December 2020.
To apply, you'll need to submit your personal info as well as a creative essay and photo -- but the chance of studying in Ireland without thoughts of tuition will be well worth the effort to craft an extra essay right now!
Whether you’re studying abroad in Ireland for one semester or the whole year, there is so much to see and do during your study abroad adventure. From road tripping along the sprawling coastlines to immersing yourself in college life, you’re going to have the experience of a lifetime.