If you dream of spending your weekends exploring rolling green hills and centuries-old castles, the Emerald Isle is just the place for you. Home to gorgeous natural features, fascinating mythology, great literature, and, yes, a lot of potatoes, Ireland is waiting to inspire you.
Ireland isn't just a pretty face, though -- it also boasts some of the world's best schools. In fact, the country's seven public universities are all ranked among the top 700 in the world. In your time between classes, you can spend your days following James Joyce's footsteps through the streets of Dublin, exploring the old churches of Cork, or strolling along the canals of Country Kildare.
Most of Ireland's top universities -- including University College Dublin (UCD) and Cork (UCC), Trinity College Dublin, and Maynooth University -- offer direct enrollment options for international students. Enrolling in a local university can save you money and offers more flexibility in course choices, so it's a good option if you're on a tight budget or don't want to be constrained by your home university's requirements.
If you are planning on enrolling in an Irish university, you'll need to meet all the local requirements, which include maintaining a minimum GPA (usually a 3.0), submitting transcripts and test scores when relevant, proof of medical insurance, and a financial statement for immigration. Applications for fall semester or a full academic year of study are typically due between mid-May and early June.
Studying abroad as an exchange student gives you most of the benefits of direct enrollment, without the headache of navigating the application and financial aid processes on your own.
If your home university has an exchange agreement with an Irish university, you'll be able to enroll and attend classes at the Irish university, but you'll keep paying your regular tuition at home and don't have to worry about making sure you'll receive credit for your courses abroad.
While enrolling directly in an Irish university might be appealing to the more independent types out there, it isn't for everyone. Studying abroad through a third party provider can make the whole process much smoother and less stressful, since these organizations can help coordinate everything from visa applications to finding housing.
Providers do charge a fee, so this isn't necessarily as affordable as direct enrollment, but for many students the price tag is worth the peace of mind that comes from having someone else take care of all those pesky little details.
Depending on the school and the amount of time you'll be studying, you'll pay tuition either by the semester or academic year. Tuition fees at Irish universities run between €12,000-23,000 per year, with the Dublin-based universities at the higher end of the scale.
If you're on an exchange or studying through a provider, you'll be paying your regular tuition at your home university or the program provider fees instead.
Cost of Living
As in most countries, rent and other costs will be highest in major cities (like Dublin) than anywhere else, so factor that into your budgeting. If you're living off-campus, you can expect to pay anywhere between €400 (for a shared room) to €900 (for a studio) per month in Dublin, and less in other cities. Because there's generally high demand for on-campus housing, prices will usually be closer to the higher end of the local market (if it's not already included in your tuition or program fees).
Food expenses will run anywhere from €70-100 per week, while an average bus trip costs about €2.5 -- or you could get a bike (and a helmet)! You'll also need to account for books, extra fees, your cell phone plan, travel and other personal expenses. Overall, depending on how many of these costs are also included in your program fees, you should plan to spend somewhere between €5,000-8,000 per semester.
EU/EEA citizens don't need visas to study in Ireland, but citizens of other countries (including the U.S.) do need a visa if they plan to study in Ireland for more than three months. You can apply online up to three months before your date of travel to Ireland. Applications can take up to 8 weeks to process, or even longer around the holidays, so be sure to give yourself enough time.
Visas cost €60 (single entry) or €100 (multi-entry). You can find the full list of required documents and more details about the application process on the Irish Naturalization and Immigration Service website.
Many Irish universities have scholarships and funding available for international students, either through general financial aid, research grants or specific scholarships for students enrolled in particular programs or from certain countries. UCD participates in the IIE Generation Study Abroad scholarship, which offers funding for U.S. students enrolled in universities abroad.
There also may be funding or scholarships available through your home university, so it's worth talking to your study abroad office before you start taking out any extra loans.
Oldest University in Ireland
Trinity College Dublin is Ireland's oldest and possibly its most famous university. It was founded all the way back in 1592, and has been educating some of the top minds of Ireland (and the world) ever since. Trinity's famous alumni include poet and author Oscar Wilde, novelist Samuel Beckett, writer Jonathan Swift, and former Presidents of Ireland Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese.
Biggest University in Ireland
Ireland's biggest and most diverse university fits right into the country's biggest city. University College Dublin, just a few miles south of the heart of the Irish capital, serves more than 32,000 students across its 330-acre campus. Founded in 1854 (making it just a teenager compared to Trinity) as the Catholic University of Ireland, it became UCD in 1880.
UCD bills itself as "Ireland's Global University," with more than 7,000 international students representing 120 different countries and Global Centers in six international cities, including New York, Beijing, and Kuala Lumpur.
Quirkiest Degree You Can Earn in Ireland
If you religiously watch the Triple Crown races, here's one for you: Maynooth University offers a full Equine Business degree. The program combines a general business degree with a special emphasis on equine business, covering thoroughbred and sport horse breeding and riding, and its management in Ireland and internationally.
If your interests are more bovine than equine, you may want to direct your attention instead to UCD's Dairy Business program, which prepares graduates for a career in Ireland's rapidly changing dairy farm industry.