Ever since Ireland joined the EU, Dublin has expanded into one of Europe’s coolest, most cosmopolitan cities. Cultural, vibrant, and historical, it offers the excitement of a city like London or Berlin with a more friendly, down-to-earth vibe, made possible by its friendly, down-to-earth locals.
If you are looking for an unforgettable European study abroad experience without the language barrier, Dublin should be at the top of your list. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can call the city home -- you’ll be tapping your toes to a traditional Irish band in your local pub, a pint of Guinness in hand, in no time.
As the cultural capital of Ireland, there is always something fun or interesting to do in Dublin. Meanwhile, its compact layout, welcoming locals, and large international community make it easy to settle in.
Culture & Immersion
You shouldn’t have any trouble immersing yourself. Dublin’s international community will welcome you with open arms, but so will the locals. Irish people pride themselves on their “craic” (pronounced “crack”) -- essentially, their sense of humor. They are fun, friendly, and welcoming, and well worth getting to know.
Make sure you make an active effort to look beyond the other international students when meeting new people -- making a couple of Irish friends is the easiest way to start feeling at home.
Culture Shock & Support
As an English-speaking country with a globalized Western culture, you aren’t likely to experience a huge amount of culture shock in Ireland. At most, you will have some trouble understanding someone’s accent or slang or, as an American, you will have to suffer through the constant assumption that you’re a tourist.
There are some differences between Irish and American culture, but they are subtle. For example, Irish people tend to be non-confrontational and are not always comfortable talking about their feelings. Learning to pick up on these cues will make you blend in faster.
Dublin has a huge community of expats and overseas students. If you’re feeling homesick or need help settling in, it’s easy to find people from anywhere around the world. Your university is likely to have loads of support for international students and there are also plenty of meetups you can find online.
Unlike most places in the US, almost no one drives in Dublin. You may need to get used to walking everywhere or taking public transport (it’s better for you and for the environment!).
The Irish do love a good pint and a trip to the pub, but getting visibly drunk is generally frowned upon. As with most countries around the world, this is slightly different in student communities. Know your limits and stay safe -- although chances are the eye-watering price of a pint will keep you from overindulging.
Insider Tips on Studying Abroad in Dublin
Avoid relying on the Dublin buses, as they are famously unreliable. They are often late (or don’t show up at all), and you have to pay full fare for every bus you take, even when you have to change. Don’t be intimidated by the weather and make walking your main form of transport.
Speaking of the weather, it’s more unpredictable than outright bad. It does rain often, but it’s usually for a short time, so don’t let the promise of rain discourage you from leaving the house. A great rainy day activity is enjoying one of the city’s museums, which are mostly free.
You are likely to get a lot of support from your university, and the lack of language barrier is definitely going to make things easier for you. Make sure you use all of the resources available to you to make the transition easier.
There are three ways you can enroll in an Irish university: direct enrollment (enrolling directly with the university), direct exchange (enrolling through an exchange program with your university, and third-party provider (paying a third-party organization to take care of application and enrollment)
Aside from this, pretty much any subject you could want to study will be offered in one of Dublin’s universities. These include Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, Dublin City University, and the Dublin Institute of Technology.
Most universities have their own student accommodation. You will have your own private room (sometimes en-suite, sometimes not), and share a kitchen with other students. Places are limited, but some universities give priority to arriving international students.
There are also several companies offering private student accommodation. The arrangement is pretty much the same as a university dorm but tends to be more expensive. However, these private dorms are often more modern and have nicer facilities.
Alternatively, you can look for a regular flat to rent. Many people prefer this since they can feel much more at home than in student housing. Housing in Dublin isn’t cheap, so it's likely that you're going to be sharing with flatmates.
Dublin is relatively small, and you will rarely need to walk more than half an hour to get anywhere within the city center. The main forms of public transport are the bus, the DART (suburban commuter train), and LUAM (city tram).
It’s a relatively bike-friendly city, and cycle lanes are growing, but cyclists should be careful -- most Dublin drivers aren’t too used to sharing the road yet.
Ask anyone what they like least about living in Dublin, and chances are they will say the cost. That said, there are ways to keep the expenses down and still have fun. After all, isn’t being at least a bit broke part of the student experience?
Cost of Living
Eating and drinking out is expensive: that iconic pint of Guinness will set you back €5 to €8, and a cheap restaurant meal will cost around €15. Students usually save by cooking at home and shopping in cheaper supermarkets like Lidl or Aldi.
Rent in the city pretty much matches the cost of living in other major European cities like London or Paris. A studio flat in a central area can easily cost upwards of €1,200 (about $1,300) a month, but you can save money by sharing with flatmates or living in student accommodation.
After you are accepted at a university, you will need to apply for a long-term student visa. This can be done online and can take up to 8 weeks to process, so make sure you give yourself enough time.
You will need to apply for a Single Entry visa (€60) to enter the country for the first time. Then, you can register with the Irish Naturalisation & Immigration Service (INIS) as a resident as apply for a Re-Entry Visa so you can travel outside the country and come back.
EU and EEA Nationals do not need a visa to study in Ireland.
Can You Work While Studying in Dublin?
EU and EEA Nationals can work freely in Ireland. For everyone else, your student visa entitles you to work up to 20 hours a week during term time and 40 hours a week during holidays. This means you can easily make some money to help you fund your studies.
There are plenty of scholarships available to help students cover tuition and living costs in Ireland. Some of these are funded by the Government of Ireland, while most of them correspond to specific institutions in both Ireland and in countries around the world.
Several American colleges have connections with Irish universities, which is particularly useful for exchange students.