Ireland may be a small country, but it looms large in the minds of many around the world. As a result of unique cultural traditions, postcard-perfect scenery, and some of the region’s highest regarded universities, students from around the world have been coming here for years to study abroad.
Although you might need to train your ear to get used to the lyrical cadence of the Irish brogue, classes are taught in English. This means you’ll have access to more courses of study in English than you would in many other countries.
Likely, what will impress you even more than the ancient castles, impossibly green landscapes, and timeless natural features will be the Irish people themselves. Spend just a little bit of time in this island nation and you’ll make friends to last a lifetime. It won’t take long to learn the true meaning of the Gaelic saying, "Céad míle fáilte!" or “one hundred thousand welcomes.”
As the capital and largest city in Ireland, Dublin is a great location to go for your study abroad. In addition to its many world-renowned universities, such as Trinity College and the University College Dublin, this hip cosmopolitan center is full of sights and activities to keep you busy while outside of the lecture hall.
In Dublin you can knock back a pint of fresh Guinness after class while experiencing the authentic Irish student experience. With Ireland’s largest airport nearby, Dublin also makes it easy to explore other parts of Europe.
As Ireland’s second city and the cultural capital of the country, Cork is another excellent place to study abroad. Even though it’s one of the biggest cities in the country, Cork has retained a small-town feeling with just enough urban energy to keep it exciting. While in Cork, you’ll have easy access to the rugged and stunning Irish countryside for weekend trips and cozy pubs for meeting friends after class.
Not far from the dramatic Cliffs of Moher and Connemara National Park lies the small city of Galway. While walking through the twisting alleyways lined with centuries-old houses and pubs, you may feel like you’ve been transported back to an earlier age. Indeed, in Galway, you’ll likely hear as much Gaelic as English. That’s not to say that Galway’s universities have been left in the past. Innovative programs at the arts-focused University and the National University of Ireland, Galway provide unique and dynamic educations for anyone looking to study abroad in Ireland.
Best known as the grim and gritty setting of Angela’s Ashes, Limerick demands to be experienced in a new light. Charming yet understated, Limerick is fast developing while retaining a strong connection with its heritage. You’ll see new art galleries located in the shadow of the imposing 13th Century castle that dominates the city. While here, you can receive an outstanding education in the Liberal Arts from Mary Immaculate College or study the cutting age of technology at the Limerick Institute of Technology, one of NASA’s research partners.
With different types of housing available, visa requirements, and dynamic student culture, there’s a lot to keep in mind when planning your time in Ireland.
How to Choose a Study Abroad Program in Ireland
For such a small country, Ireland certainly offers a lot to choose from when considering a program. Don’t worry! There’s the right program for you here. To make it count, look for a school and program that will help you fulfill the course requirements of your home university.
You can choose to enroll directly in an Irish school or through a study abroad program. If you choose direct enrollment, you’ll find yourself studying side-by-side with your Irish peers for the authentic Irish student experience. Conversely, you can enroll in a study abroad program through either your home university or a third-party which will help guide you through the complexities of finding and arranging your placement. It all comes down to the level of independence you’re searching for.
While studying abroad in Ireland, you’ll have a number of options available for housing. Staying in your university's residence hall is a popular choice. This is often included as part of university exchange programs and will provide instant access to a community of students like you.
Alternately, you can opt to live in off-campus housing. There are usually simple, but comfortable student apartments located near schools. Another option is to find a placement with an Irish family as part of a homestay. While at a homestay you'll experience first-hand the true meaning of Irish hospitality.
You’ll need a student visa if you plan to study in Ireland for more than three months. To get this very important paper you must provide several pieces of supporting documents including a signed letter of acceptance from an Irish institution of higher learning and proof that you’ve paid your course fees. You’ll also need proof of private medical insurance, which some colleges may arrange on your behalf.
Fortunately, the visa application process is pretty straight forward. Once you have the required documents, you can apply online up to three months before your arrival in the country through the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service.
Social Life & Student Culture
It won’t take you long to realize that friendliness and hospitality are central traits of Irish culture. Don’t be surprised if curious but well-intentioned strangers strike up a conversation with you. They're likely just eager to make sure you’re enjoying their country.
You’ll find that much of the Irish social scene revolves around the pubs. Ask around and find out which pubs are popular with students in your area. These are wonderful places to meet new people and make lasting friendships. What may start out as just small talk early in the evening could end as a deep and meaningful conversation with a new friend by night’s end.
Health & Safety
Overall, Ireland is a very safe place to study overseas. Violent crime is nearly unheard of in rural areas. In cities, such as Dublin, most acts of what the Irish call “criminal mischief” occur in the wee hours when the pubs close and are typically linked to excessive drinking. Ask your local classmates which neighborhoods to avoid and practice common sense when in unfamiliar settings.
In the unlikely event that you should need medical treatment, rest assured that Ireland has well equipped and modern hospitals. Keep in mind, that your foreign medical insurance will not be accepted and you will have to pay all costs up-front. However, many study abroad programs offer medical insurance, which it’s better to have and not need than the other way around.
There are inevitable costs to studying abroad. Luckily, there’s a wide range of funding options and scholarships available to help make this amazing experience more affordable.
Typical Program Cost
While there are less costly places to study abroad in the world, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better value in an English speaking country. That’s not to say there won’t be significant costs. Tuition for a semester-long program will likely cost at least $15,000. Some more intensive programs may cost twice that much. Luckily, your student visa also allows you to work a limited number of hours in Ireland, helping offset these costs.
Besides working during your study abroad, there are other avenues to funding your time in Ireland. Check with your home university or placement program for scholarships, loans, and grants. These will help offset tuition and possibly even the cost of your flights.
There are also numerous third-party scholarships out there. Take a look at some of the ones below. If it looks like you qualify, it’s best to apply sooner rather than later as competition for this money can be fierce.
- The US-Ireland Alliance has a scholarship specifically for Americans looking to study in Ireland. Their George J. Mitchell Scholarship Program offers scholarships for Americans in graduate level leadership programs to study in Ireland for a year.
- AIFS offers numerous small scholarships for high-achieving students looking to study in a variety of other countries, including Ireland.
- API is another great place to apply for scholarships for your study abroad in Ireland. They may not be large scholarships, but it could be enough to cover your airfare.
- The non-profit USAC grants over $2 million in scholarships each year with the goal of helping many young scholars study internationally.