Attractions: Ireland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. The pace of life there is very different from here at Notre Dame. People really take the time to appreciate the natural beauty around them and are eager to start friendly, warm conversations.
Within Dublin, I loved to explore the city. It is charming and exciting, without being intimidating, like many big cities can be. Walking through Trinity College, strolling down Grafton Street, or being in the heart of the city at “the spire” on O’Connell Street, and listening to live music in the many pubs were some of my favorite things to do in the city.
Just quick train ride outside of the city is a quaint little coastal town called Howth. My friends and I spent the day there one Saturday, hiking the cliffs along the seashore. I love how close the sea is to the city yet how much of a getaway it feels like.
The best part of Ireland is the countryside. The vividly green rolling hills, winding streams, farmlands outlined by ancient little walls made of gathered stones, and the majestic mountains cannot be beaten. My favorite place in Ireland is Kylemore Abbey on the west coast. The historic abbey reflected in the serene surface of the lake is positively picturesque. Galway, Clare, and Connemara are counties that must not be missed. Also on the west coast are the Cliffs of Moher. This is one of the most popular sites in Ireland, and one of my favorites as well. The ocean looks so impressive from the top of the windy cliffs.
Faith: There is a very strong faith life in Ireland. Personally, I felt it most when I was admiring the natural beauty of the Irish countryside. At UCD there are daily masses offered on campus. The O’Connell House has mass for the students pretty regularly, and the House of Brigid Staff are absolutely outstanding. Notre Dame Campus Ministry also had a pilgrimage for all of the Notre Dame students studying abroad in Europe. About 40 of us went to the west coast and climbed Croagh Patrick. It was a refreshing retreat and an excellent experience. Ireland is a Catholic country, so you can find mass all around if you look for it.
Food: The food in Ireland is pretty good! Some common pub foods are fish and chips, shepherds pie, and beef or lamb stew. The Hairy Lemon Pub in Dublin has amazing food and is a great place to go. At UCD, the students cook for themselves, so we went to the grocery store (Tesco) about once a week to get the week’s meals to prepare. I made a lot of chicken, pasta, carrots, and eggs. Other students got pretty creative and made soups, chili, stir fry, and things like that. Cooking is actually a lot of fun, and I liked preparing my own meals.
One of the many benefits of the O’Connell House is Monday night Coffee Hours. About an hour before class starts, students share a casual meal together, provided by the O’Connell House. It is nice to be together and bond with the other students. The Intro to Ireland class and the trips we take really create a strong sense of community among the ND students.
Housing: I lived on campus at UCD in an apartment-style dorm called Roebuck. I had 5 roommates, who were mostly from ND, and all American. Some of my friends had more international students, and we each enjoyed our housing situations. I appreciated having my own room and bathroom, and it was nice to be in a dorm with other ND students to hang out with.
Local Celebrations: Halloween is pretty big in Ireland, and my friends and I went on a “ghost bus tour” which was like a haunted house on wheels. We made several stops throughout the city, and it was a fun way to celebrate Halloween.
Christmas in Dublin is magical. There are Christmas markets in most major cities, and the decorations go up very early. It is a most wonderful time of the year.
Transportation & Travel: The best way to get around Dublin is by bus. The most common buses used were the 39a and the 145. Most students got a “Leap Card” which is a bus pass, and opted for the “rambler” package, which is the most economical in the long-run. The bus system is pretty easy to use, offers free wifi, and is fairly frequent.
Within Ireland, I used Irish Rail to get to counties on the west coast. the train rides are just a couple of hours and there is free wifi offered on the trains. It is a great time to study, get work done, or just enjoy the landscapes rushing by.
Within Europe, RyanAir is usually the cheapest option for flights. Sometimes the airports can be far from the major attractions, but there is usually an aircoach of some sort to bring people to and from the airport.
I highly recommend traveling around Europe and seeing as much as you can see. Ireland is an ideal location for further travel around Europe. However, I would caution people getting over ambitious with travel by recommending that you make time to travel around Ireland itself in addition to Europe. My favorite places were in Ireland, and I chose Dublin for study abroad because I wanted to experience Ireland. There is so much culture and beauty, soak it all in and have a great time!
Location: Dublin (UCD)
Attractions: Ireland is the most beautiful country I’ve ever been to, and this program makes sure that you have the opportunity to see it. The mandatory Intro to Ireland Course takes the group on two trips over the course of a semester, to the West of Ireland (Galway, Cliffs of Moher) as well as to Northern Ireland (Belfast, Giant’s Causeway). Additionally, Ireland is small enough that travelling to other places such as Glendalough, Cork, Dingle, Ring of Kerry, etc. are fairly easy. Dublin as a city is also wonderful!! It’s small and easy to walk, and the bus system takes a little getting used to but becomes very easy to navigate. The ND Dublin Program is such a supportive program and will provide so much more to you than other programs. The O’Connell House is one of the best resources – it gave the group a way to come together each week and provided a home base in city center (plus free food!).
Faith: There are many Catholic masses available to students in Dublin, and it was fun going to different churches. Additionally, the program organized several ND student masses throughout the semester. Dublin is a diverse enough city that other faiths are represented as well.
Food: The Dublin program staff make sure to give you a taste of traditional Irish food! Although it wasn’t my favorite type of food, there were always some form of potatoes and the scones are wonderful in Ireland!! Also, Dublin is such a diverse city that you can find almost any type of food you want.
Housing: I lived in Roebuck Hall, which is fairly modern. I really liked the fact that I had my own bathroom within my single room.
Local Celebrations: St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin is amazing!! The Dublin program staff make sure that the entire weekend is an awesome experience.
Miscellaneous: Going out in Dublin is one of the most fun things to do! There are so many small pubs that have live music. You won’t have a lot of day-to-day homework, so going out during the week is actually possible. I liked to enjoy Dublin during the week, and travel into Europe on the weekends.
Transportation & Travel: Dublin is a really easy place to travel from, especially with all of the cheap Ryanair flights into Europe. Take advantage!!