In this post I intend to share with you some of my experience in Cork in general and what is is like to study in UCC (University College Cork), in particular regarding academic life support, food, accommodations and socializing.
In 2014-2015, I was a bit frustrated when found out that my chosen course (Education of Science at DCU) was not available to international students. It is offered just in part time and then I learned that part time programs are not available for international students. The alternative suitable course was Analytical Chemistry at UCC which meant that I would move from Dublin – bad news indeed as I liked Dublin and did not plan to move from it. However, now in 2016 after several months of living and studying in Cork I believe it is a very nice, beautiful, hilly and quiet place to be in, so I no more regret moving to it. UCC main campus is awesome too, I like it. By the way, UCC has many different buildings in or out of the main campus so it teaches you walking.
Academic support for international students:
The Analytical Chemistry course that I am doing is a good one in many ways. One of them is that the employment rate is high and according to the course coordinator, 80% of last year students are employed now. Although I am not sure if international students are part of this percentage but it sounds promising. In addition, this year I think most of students if not all got their first choices of the five projects they ranked out of 15 projects offered and some of these projects are abroad not in Ireland. Although the timetable might be a bit annoying because it is not so fixed and some classes are sometimes cancelled without prior notification but that is not so bad, considering the kindness and flexibility of the course coordinator. Also, the lab supervisor is such a helpful and kind woman.
Regarding English language, if you wish to improve your proficiency, UCC Language Center, located in the main campus, offers free part time English classes for UCC international students in different levels and courses. My Saudi classmates and I are taking these classes with a focus on improving fluency and these lessons are proving quite helpful.
Food and restaurants:
UCC has about fourteen canteens and restaurants in its different buildings, about six of these are in the main campus. They offer a variety of sandwiches and soups for breakfast and lunch. When I am looking for chicken or meat choices I would love to have them as halal. A restaurant of UCC located in Brookfield Health Science offers halal food and the chef is a Malaysian Muslim man. There is also another halal restaurant just in front of the main campus gate.
Cork city center is just about 10-15 minutes walk from the main campus. I have no problem with finding halal chicken and meat as a number of shops offer that in the city center. I would also strongly recommend to try salmon fish sold in the English market. Although I am not a fan of restaurants but I do dine out some times. There are a number of Indian and Turkish restaurants that offer halal and delicious food in their menu, Nosta and the Istanbul are my personal favourites.
We sometimes find it a bit difficult to socialize with the native classmates maybe for reasons related to cultural differences and languages. However, in the analytical chemistry course it gets a bit easier because of the laboratory work that requires working in groups. The other very good environment that I have found for socializing is the Cork Islamic Information Center (CIIC) located in 73 Shandon Street in city center. There I met different people from more than ten different nationalities, even some are not Muslim but they are there for availing some services like free Arabic classes. Most of time we communicate in English, so it is another good opportunity to practice English.
In the same location, there is a sports center, what is special about this sports center is that it has specific times for women only. Therefore, I am delighted to have this service just minutes from my flat and about 25 minutes from my college as I go sometimes after the college. It is indeed a very good place to talk to people and make new friends too.
Sometimes in the CIIC, I can find scarves and very nice jackets that are used as hijab, you can go to the women room there to find out more, if you are interested.
If you are planning to study in Cork next year and you are reading this post, what I can advise is just try to find your accommodation here in Cork before leaving to home for the summer unless if you are happy to spend about more or less six weeks starting from September to look for one. In 2016, accommodation situation in Cork was not nice as I and about four other students I know, went to our classes in September and September while still moving between Hotels and B&Bs. And you can image the situation when you also have children!
There are many other facilities and supports I did not mention for example: hair cutting facility in the campus, the library and career office service. Some of those service and facilities I got to know them when visiting international office to find out. you can get all the information you would be interested in and more by visiting them on Western road just 3-5 minutes from the campus.
Saudi Student Ambassador