Why did you choose to study at Trinity College Dublin?
When I was applying to colleges as a high school student, I was looking for a scene that would challenge me personally and academically and also feed my curiosities. In this search, I happened upon information about a dual-degree program between Columbia University in New York City and Trinity College Dublin. After looking into all that the program entailed, I decided to apply to both the dual degree program as well as each school independently. Eventually, I received notice that I had been wait-listed from the dual-degree program, but I was accepted into Trinity. I evaluated my other college acceptances and visited the campuses before deciding that I wanted to explore the unknown; I had never been to Ireland, so choosing to study there was a risk I knew I would have to undertake. However, my desire to travel around Europe and study in a world-renowned university far outweighed the anxiety of the unknown; I felt secure in knowing that Dublin has a reputation for being a friendly, fun, and safe city, so I jumped into the deep end and put down my payment at Trinity.
I was also greatly compelled to accept the offer from Trinity based on the course I applied to—as an 18-year-old, I knew that I wanted to pursue a law degree and also had interest in politics. Thus, having the opportunity to dive right into the subject matter that I truly care about was a massive incentive. I never had to take elementary English courses, but instead was continuously offered ways I could enhance my degree through Certificate programs like the one I participated in or various Trinity Electives that were outside the direct subject matter of my degree. Hindsight has the potential to cause regret, but I can confidently say that moving to Ireland and attending Trinity has been the most rewarding experience, and the best decision I could have made for myself.
What was the application process like at Trinity College Dublin?
As it has been a few years since I went through it, the process may look a bit differently now. To apply to the Law and Political Science course, I had to send in the usual components of American college applications such as an ACT score, a high school transcript, and letters of recommendation. I also had to complete a series of essays that focused on why I had interest in the course and what I would contribute to the Trinity community if accepted. Trinity has a rolling admissions cycle, so I found out my result fairly quickly, and I was given several months to make my decision if needed, which was very helpful in weighing my decision against other acceptances.
What is the international student experience like at Trinity College Dublin?
One of the most noticeable aspects of the international student experience at TCD is that other international students tend to approach you – I found that upon walking onto campus I met other American, German, Canadian, Spanish, and Polish students who have an unspoken bond given the nuance of each individual experience. My closest friends who are non-Irish understand exactly what it is like to move to Ireland and to study in a foreign university. Trinity also does a lot to support its international students whether it is through events celebrating cultural holidays or hosting social hours for students to meet—there is always something to do. TCD offers a program called “Smart Start,” which is available to international students who want to arrive a week-or-so early to Dublin, move in, and explore campus and the city before everything kicks in. This is a great way to make Dublin feel more familiar and like home and enable you to really enjoy the Fresher’s Week activities. In my experience, it has not always been easy to be an international student on campus; there have been times where I have encountered anti-Americanism that was upsetting and unwarranted. Trinity has great systems in place to help students in situations similar to this including international officers, the TCD Student Union has an international officer, and a student counseling service.
The transition to Trinity as an international student is also made easier through a service called Student 2 Student, which is a mentorship program every first year is automatically placed in. Second, third, and fourth year students will volunteer their time to show their assigned group of first years around campus, answer questions throughout the year, and be a key source of contact throughout the Trinity experience. I still message my mentors for advice! Trinity really does a great job of supporting the international students and not making them feel like the “other.” As a last note, I want to say that being an international student at Trinity also means that I have been afforded great opportunities that I know I would otherwise never have—the most prominent of these includes my publication in the joint Law Review between Kings College London and Trinity College Dublin for my article titled “Constitutionalism in Nigeria” and my upcoming participation in a legal symposium in Brussels where I will present research in the area of Irish family law and how the Covid-19 pandemic impacted this field. Nowhere else could I have been offered such incredible opportunities to take advantage of, and they will forever mark my career toward future legal endeavors.
What is it like to live in Dublin as an international student?
This is great question! While I have so many answers to provide, the one that outweighs the rest is the ability to travel has been the greatest gift I have ever been given. Living in Dublin as an international student for me meant taking advantage of exploring a beautiful country with rich history and stunning landscapes. I have loved taking the train across the country and being able to see the niches of Ireland that are less known. Going to Trinity, I have many Irish friends who have opened their homes to me all across the country and really made me feel welcomed. In addition to seeing Ireland, living in Dublin provides students with easy access to the EU. Since moving to Ireland for college I have gotten to see Poland, Austria, the Czech Republic, England, Germany, France, Italy, Portugal, and Scotland. To fly to the continent is wildly inexpensive and so much fun.
When I moved to Dublin, one of the drawbacks I recognized was that I would be missing out on the traditional American college experience, which I am; however, that is replaced by spending a week in Rome with my best friends. It’s hard to beat!
Once the adjustment period to moving to Dublin is complete, it is really easy to live there and enjoy all that the city, and by extension country of Ireland, has to offer. I really encourage all students considering Trinity to do it—since leaving the US, I have learned far more about it than I could have imagined. I have been able to unplug from my previous everyday norms and expand my horizons. To me, that is the authentic international student experience—being challenged and embracing the new. You learn to roll with life as it comes, and you most certainly gain a stronger form of independence and confidence.
What is the cost of living like in Dublin?
In all honesty, Dublin can be an expensive place to live; given the current housing crisis, trying to find affordable accommodation is the greatest battle living in the city. However, it can be done! Outside of student accommodation options, Trinity offers accommodation officers to assist in searches and especially help international students where needed. The cost of living otherwise is as expensive as you make it— for example, of course, if you go to pubs in the city center, the prices will be greater than elsewhere. While it is fun to splurge on a night out, there are also fun, affordable things to do in the city. Many museums or famous sites will offer student discounts, and societies at Trinity will do the same, organizing events or trips for students at a largely discounted price to the usual.
There are also so many fun, free things to do like exploring the parks or walking along the river. To travel around Ireland is made less expensive through purchasing a student Leap Card which enables students to “tap-on” to the LUAS (essentially the tram system in Dublin), the DART (a train that runs along the coast), the Irish Rail, or the bus lines. However, if a student is in the city center, Dublin is a very accessible city to walk in. Living in Trinity Halls in my first year, I was able to save money through simply walking the 40 minutes to and from campus. When it is not raining, it’s an easy walk! Trinity also has on-campus dining options, but most students tend to cook for themselves, which can also help in saving money.
The last thing I would comment on is the tuition prices – for me, studying at Trinity is significantly less costly than doing so in the US. While not every international student has the same experience, for me I have found that my tuition is very affordable compared to the other colleges I was accepted into. The Trinity College Dublin Student Union (TCDSU) has petitioned the college to maintain affordability especially for international students as the Covid-19 pandemic removed on-campus learning opportunities. Having the support of the SU certainly helps keep the College aware of the student experience and the true cost of living.
What have been some of your favorite activities outside of the classroom?
I absolutely love to travel as I have previously discussed, and once the pandemic clears, I will be booking as many flights as I can! I also love to hike and be outside—Trinity has a Hiking Society, but I also love heading out with friends on spontaneous trips. My friends and I are also coffee-fiends, so we have been to an embarrassing amount of coffee shops in Dublin, which is always a lot of fun to explore. I love spending any and all of my free time with my friends – we have picnics in Phoenix Park, explore the countryside, go to a cool pub or club in town, or make dinner together and hang out at home. On campus, I have also been really involved in extracurricular activities that have shaped my Trinity experience. For one, I serve as my class’s representative on the Student Union, so I attend meetings and organize fun social events for my course mates, which I have loved. In pursuing my law degree, I have been involved with Law Society, enabling me to participate in Moot Court, Commercial Negotiation competitions, and the Trinity Women in Law program.
In the 2020-21 academic year I served as the Editor in Chief of The Eagle, which is Trinity’s legal gazette; through this, I was able to engage with the whole student body and publish exceptional pieces, including an interview with Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland. I also served as the Head Law mentor for the Student 2 Student mentoring program, and that was a great experience in getting to know younger students and providing advice where applicable. Trinity also has a great gym space, so for any students who enjoying working out, you will be good to go! Overall, both Trinity and Dublin alike provide an open opportunity for students to pursue passions and interests that they please—there is no limit to what you can do, and if you do not see something available that interests you, everyone will support you in starting your own thing. Outside of class, I try to keep busy, but everyone is different; finding the right balance is key to being able to get a lot out of the Trinity experience whilst also having the free time needed to do everything you want to do!