The first week of school is always exciting–at least for me. Being back on my home university’s grounds, hearing our clock tower bells, and just the buzz of campus. More exciting perhaps, is the first week of campus at University of Limerick. From all the hype of freshers week, the adrenaline rush that is ‘scheduling’ your classes, and anticipation for what’s to come. It is sure to be one of the highlighted times of your stay.
If I were to make a list of my top 5 to do’s they would be;
1. Sign Up
For everything and anything, join clubs and societies- especially the international society. From the lips of every orientation leader, and Irish student, it is the most revered society here. They take great care of international students and have absolutely the most fun parties on campus. You don’t want to miss these, they are every Friday night at Stables. I was able to attend the first week’s festivities and met people from all over the globe. I was so glad to get to meet them and to hear about their lives. Getting to know people and their personal stories is one of the main reasons I wanted to study abroad!
2. Go Downtown
I cannot stress this one enough. Societies and clubs are great for making new friends, but the sites of Limerick city and travel are some of the primary reasons for studying abroad. Take advantage of that. Learn the bus routes and just go and explore. I would suggest seeing the Milk Market on Saturday mornings. I got the most delicious crepes while there and the selection and variety of items is out of this world! The colors and smells are so vibrant and each shop is unique and intriguing. It’s also where I met locals. Most of my experience up to that point had been confined to the AIFS group I’d traveled over with, but breaking out a little bit and only going out with one other person gave me the opportunity to interact more naturally with locals and truly experience the culture everyone has talked about.
3. Figure Out Your Classes
I know, I know I just teased you all with fun non-studying related things, however, you are here to study. You may have classes picked out but then you get your schedule and it looks very different from what you imagined. Don’t panic. This is normal; scheduling classes or setting up your “timetable” is different here. It won’t all be correct (although if it is cheers to you!). Spend time in the international office and they can help you get it right by giving you comprehensive class lists, an understanding of how tutorials work, and eventually how your modules need to be set up. I found that I was most unprepared for the work involved in setting up my timetable. It had been automatically generated for me but it had significant issues. Learning how to set up my timetable and how it all worked proved to be an important lesson in patience and general culture.
4. Meet and Greet Your Housemates!
With all of the excitement of signing up for classes and societies, going around town, and planning your travels, you may have forgotten to look just across the hall to your most valuable resource, your housemates! From Irish students or international students, your house may be very mixed. It’s part of the fun and you won’t regret a moment of it. Get to really know them; the Irish are extremely warm and you’ll be invited out with them quickly after meeting them. Enjoy their hospitality and their knowledge.
Many of them may have already traveled abroad and can give you tips and tricks as to what to see, where to go, and what to avoid- both in Ireland and outside of it! My housemates knew I was a Harry Potter fan so they detailed how to get a studio tour booked (nearly 3 months in advance is average!), and what else to see while I was in London. In addition, several of my housemates were just returning from a holiday in Spain, so they had some fun stories and great tips on how to travel in Spain.
5. Call Home
As much for your sake as your mother’s. In all seriousness, you are going to have fun this semester–without a doubt. You are also five hours ahead (at least) of your family and friends and will be separated from them for four months (or more). Do take the time that first week to Skype, Line, Facebook, Text, E-mail, Call or otherwise get a hold of them. It doesn’t have to be some sort of grand event. Just assuage their fears and let them know you’re here and having a good time.
No one is going to pretend that going abroad is easy. You will need a support network. Your family, however, is a little far away. So if you’re struggling, look into some of the other opportunities at UL. The University provides free counseling and other services if you’re having a rough transition. Also make sure to talk to our representative from AIFS. I can personally attest that they are great advocates on your behalf and really want to make sure your stay is as comfortable as possible.
I hope you all are excited! The University of Limerick won’t disappoint: diverse, exciting, and new, it’s everything you forgot to ask for on your birthday in one neat little package!