Monday, April 23, 2007

Going to School in Ireland at DCU

Going to School in Ireland at DCU

Below are some tips and factoids that might help the next class of Americans or others to transition to DCU/Ireland/Dublin a bit quicker and enjoy their stay a bit more.

I have decided to divide this up into headings for the sake of organization and the inevitable indexing of Technorati and Google. It is also done somewhat in the order in which things might become important.

Application Process for DCU

Student Aid for DCU

Student Housing at DCU

Arriving in Dublin

First Day

Food

Drinking

Weather

Traveling Dublin (Bus, Taxi, Trains)

Peccadilloes of DCU

Housing

Food

Office Hours

Library

General

Peccadilloes of Dublin

Expense

Bus System

Application Process

  1. All in all I would say it scores high on convenience if you understand up front that anything that is this important will have to be handled from “cradle to grave.” I applied online. It was fairly intuitive and easy to navigate. All of the links on the website did not work however. There were even novice mistakes made that were easily fixed by adjusting the URL if you knew a little about HTML. When I called to inquire about the problems it was obvious that the right hand did not know what the left was doing. My advice is to stay on top of the process and don’t be afraid to double check by making a few phone calls.
  2. You will be required to mail some documents. My original mailing was misplaced for a bit.
  3. I was notified by the head of my department at DCU that I was accepted before I got the official notice in the mail or the change on the application website appeared. That was very nice of him and that is exemplary of the way the School of Law and Government offices have handled any request I have made.

Student Aid

  1. You can receive Stafford Loans and Plus Loans to go to school in a foreign country. They must of course participate in the loan program. DCU does participate. (Though not always with top efficiency.)
  2. I have been over all disappointed at the way DCU handles student aid for US students. The international office (the point person for aid) has only a limited understanding of the intricacies of aid in the US.
  3. It is important to note that the DCU international office will certify that your enrolment period is from September to September. One year. That precludes you from receiving additional Stafford aid for the time you work on your dissertation over the summer. In the States you can receive aid while working on your thesis. Not here. If the school year ended in June and the dissertation period was looked at as summer school you could receive additional aid. But it is not.
  4. There is NO AUTOMATED ANYTHING when dealing with US aid over seas. It is all done by fax and mail. It takes ages to get your money. DO NOT rely on your aid check overages to pay for anything the first two months of each semester. (including accommodations) It can take that long for the checks to be sent back and forth across the ocean. As well, your promissory note and other paper work is not transmitted it is mailed. You will be responsible for moving the paper work and seeing to it that it gets to the right person. Most of this is automated in the States. But not here.
  5. You can not cash the overage check without an Ireland bank account. Your only other option is to mail it one more time across the ocean. Opening an account here in Ireland is easy…too easy. Getting a credit line/card here is too easy as well.

Student Housing

  1. First the good. Folks at housing are very good at answering you questions via email. I never waited more than 24 hours on a reply.
  2. Second semester they gave me an extra week to pay. That was very nice of them.
  3. Accommodations (student housing) keeps the best hours of any office on campus. They take a long lunch like everyone else but they are also open a bit later.
  4. For graduate students there are a few options. I recommend the College Park graduate residences. Get the “deluxe” room. I think that is what it is called. You have a double bed and a pretty good size room. The actual room and accommodations are the best I have seen at any college. Plenty of space. Internet in your room, free for post grads.
  5. Laundry facilities here suck. It is very expenses and takes too long. More on this later.
  6. Your mail is downstairs and everyone has an open box for mail. This is where you will pick up you care package from home as well. The mail is often mis-boxed. More on this later.
  7. You have to vacate your room (just your body not your stuff) twice a semester for them to spray for bed bugs. No shit. It could also be more if some “knacker” from the country brings them back with them and contaminates the dorm.
  8. You have to leave your room for fire drills twice a semester as well.
  9. You have the intrusion of room inspections twice a semester as well. More later.
  10. The cost for me was about 5,000 euro. An ok option might be living near campus. I like the social nature of being on campus. Even though I have MANY complaints I would suggest being on campus.
  11. You are supposed to sign in over night guests well in advance and pay money. HA! Never heard of a soul doing that.
  12. Ummm…apparently “En Suite” means that you don’t share bathrooms. I didn’t know that. Why not just say the rooms have there own bathrooms?

Arriving in Dublin

  1. In 2006/2007 I paid about $700 US round trip from Charlotte NC to Dublin.
  2. You enter the country without any hassle. Have your paper work ready. Proof of enrollment and proof of where you are staying. Have the address.
  3. Baggage Claim is downstairs just like in every other Airport in the world and the buses and taxis to the school are just outside. Buses to your left and taxis to your right. Don’t take the bus your first day you cheap bastard spring for a cab.
  4. The taxi drivers are hard to understand. They will also take you for an extra block or two to get the fair up to 20 euros. It should cost NO MORE than 18 or 19 euro to get to or from DCU.
  5. If you arrive before you have accommodations at the school you can stay downtown and get a jump on touring the City Center. (downtown Dublin) Or, you can stay at the Regency on Swords Rd. It is walking distance to campus in good weather, reasonably priced and has a nice pub on site.
  6. Go to the international office on your first day even if you have no other business there and say hello. You will need them eventually and it would be good to stand out and make a good impression.
  7. If you are going to the DCU campus residences from the airport you need to tell the driver to take you to the Ballymun Rd. entrance. The other entrance is Collins Ave. This is not near the dorms. Accommodations is well marked and easy to find.
  8. The campus is small and easy to navigate.
  9. Ballymun Rd is also were you will get most of your food, taxis and buses. Go visit the Chipper (fast food burgers and fries) and the Spar convenience store your first day. The Spar on campus, if it is open, sucks for the finding the necessities you left at home.

First Day

  1. How exciting for you! Go up and talk to people. Everybody expects Americans to be loud and social. Don’t disappoint!
  2. If your first day is orientation day…expect to be bored. Go to all the meetings you are supposed to go to but then only go to places that you can meet people.
  3. For the first week I planed breakfasts with people I met. Everyone eats breakfast. It is also a good way to find out what others are doing and invite yourself. No one knows anyone. It is ok and expected that you invite yourself. No body knows you well enough to know you’re an asshole.

Food

  1. If you are American you are going to be disappointed.
  2. The cafeteria is only open until 4pm.
  3. The food is marginal.
  4. The price is outrageous. (They charge for hot water for the tea you brought with you!)
  5. The Spar shop on campus is expensive but cheaper than the Cafeteria. (canteen)
  6. The Spar sandwiches are very good. I suggest putting sweet corn on your sandwich…trust me!
  7. The Spar breakfast is much better than the campus cafeteria…unless you are a fruit and cereal person.
  8. If you are a vegetarian you will find DCU and Dublin very accommodating. If you are a vegan…you suck you dirty hippy…shave your pits and wash your ass. Seriously, most things you buy that might be vegan or vegi are clearly marked.
  9. Food is expensive. VERY expensive. Going out to eat every meal will break you. You WILL HAVE TO COOK. So expect to eat noodles and pasta. You will need a pot if your roommates don’t have one. Utensils if you roommates don’t have any. And dishes if…
  10. Pray for at least one Irish suite-mate. They will have the dishes, utensils, etc.
  11. Food is expensive.
  12. The food tastes different. Not always bad…but different. Bacon here is country ham at home. Ketchup here is generally sweeter and spicier. The food is sweeter and with less salt. The burgers here are not great. But they will do in a pinch. The sausage is not what Americans are use to. Try it any way.
  13. There is not much choice on or near campus for food. A medium Dominos pizza delivered, that tastes a lot different, is 17 euro or over $20. There is a Chinese take out place (called “take away” here) that delivers. I never felt well after eating it. Give it a shot. The chipper up the street on the other side of the Spar shop will be your best bet for a meal when you first get here and about once every two weeks.
  14. You can get 90% of all your groceries from the Spar shop off campus. It is well appointed. Other than that you can walk about 3 quarters of a mile up to the Tesco supermarket. It is in the Omni shopping mall. There is also a Pizza Hut, Mc Donalds, Burger King and Subway there. The cinema is at the Omni as well.
  15. Food is Expensive!
  16. You don’t have to tip. But if you are American you better. We did. 10% is plenty.

Drinking

  1. Ireland is known for beer…there must be beer everywhere…therefore it must be cheap. WRONG. Beer is about $5 for a pint from the pub or just under $4 per can/pint from the store (called Off License). If you want to drink on a budget…drink liquor or wine. Liquor is more expensive than home but wine is about the same.
  2. Get buzzed before you go out. Getting drunk at the bar/pub is too expensive. If you are a professional drinker like me and some of my friends you can expect to be drunk at around $120-$160 dollars for one night if you like to buy people shots and rounds. If not, $45-$60.
  3. Shots here are half the size as home and twice as much money.
  4. The drinking age is 18. Having been around a group of drunk 18 year olds…I am a firm supporter of the 21 year old drinking age in the States.
  5. There are two bars on campus that close on the weekends and one only stays open most nights till 8pm and the other till midnight.
  6. Off campus and near by is the Slipper also called Matt Wheldon’s. The students drink in the back of the pub and the old folks drink in the front and never the twain shall meet.
  7. Again no tip required. I give the bartender a euro every 3 or 4 drinks or so.
  8. The bartenders in Dublin suck because there is no tipping.
  9. Near enough to campus is Drumcondra. There are many bars here and it is a quick bus ride and generally less crowded than downtown.

Weather

  1. Windy
  2. Rainy
  3. Windy, with sun for 20-30 minutes at a time.
  4. The Irish wind does not like umbrellas.

Traveling Dublin (Bus, Taxi, Trains)

  1. The best buses downtown (City Center) leave from Ballymun Rd. the 19A (the quickest), the 4, the 13 and 13a, the 11.
  2. Taxis downtown are about 12-17 euro.
  3. You can get a train or bus to anywhere in Ireland. Ireland has a decent train service all over. They also have local trains/trams.
  4. You can rent a car and travel Ireland if you like. The prices are ok. One catch. The steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car and the car is driven on the wrong side of the road. It takes a little getting use to but if you are vigilant you will live and have a good time touring Ireland. Get and automatic because the shifter would be on your left and that is CRAZY!
  5. Make friends with someone who has a car.
  6. The Bus fare right now is about 1.40 euros to go from DCU to the City Center. It just went up a nickel over Christmas.

Peccadilloes of DCU

Housing

  • Too many intrusions. Between the inspections, spraying for bed bugs and fire drills you feel as though you are kicked out of your room once every two weeks.
  • Your mail is more often than not mis-boxed. Check the boxes beside yours. That is where your mail will be.
  • The deadbolt locks on your doors are not deadbolts. They are electronic locks and the accommodations staff or whoever can key into your room at anytime.

Food

  • Food is Expensive.
  • The Canteen SUCKS. It is a big rip and the food is not very good.
  • In the States college café food is not great either…but you don’t have to pay much for it.

Office Hours

  • Offices take long lunches and most close at 4:30.
  • Many offices are closed at inopportune times.

Library

  • It is not that great. Kinda small and the staff is rude.
  • There is a café downstairs that serves marginal food that is generally a little bit cheaper than the canteen. I is a good place to get coffee and chat with friends.

General

  • I got the impression that DCU thinks of students as profit centers. Nothing is “included” every detail is paid for over and above tuition.
  • Books here are more expensive and there is NO buy back like home.
  • You do not actually graduate until November of the next year you start. Plan for that. Even though classes are done in May and dissertations are handed in around the first week of September (for some programs, others sooner) you will not be a graduate until the first day of November.
  • Grades are different.

Peccadilloes of Dublin

Expense

Ireland is expensive and Dublin is SUPER expensive. Prepare accordingly. Everything here is at a premium. It gets on your nerves after a bit.

Bus System

They don’t stop when they are supposed to and the night link fares are about the same as a taxi split 3 ways.

4 comments:

Meghan said...

Hey, LOOOVED your blog! I am applying to DCU for this upcoming fall. Do you mind if I ask a couple quick questions! You seem to be WAY more informative than the DCU staff is. How long did it take to find out if you got in? When did you end up receciving your extra loan check? I am a little worried, I have money for two months saved, but if there are any snags.... would love to chat with you sometime if you wanted to... email is frazieme@gmail. Thanks a Million, Meg

Anonymous said...

Hi Ben,
I am also going to be attending DCU this fall. I also have some questions, and would appreciate any advice you can offer. My email is: chigirl77@hotmail.com. Thanks and hope to hear from you! - Beth

Anonymous said...

Hi Ben,
Like your other two posts, I am also considering a masters program in the fall of 2008 and am from the US. If you have a bit of time, I'd love to hear a bit more about your experience with the joys of financing your education at DCU, and your overall impressions of your experience at DCU- quality of education, career services, etc. Thanks for posting such an informative blog!
Talk to you soon, Kelly - collinskelly2004@yahoo.com

Anshu Nicodemus said...

hey your blog is pretty informative dude. and about the driving in Ireland, hahaha I understand what you mean...I'm from Dubai and used to drive there and now all of a sudden I'm driving on the wrong side here in Ireland...!! crazy stuff, takes time to get used to...btw, I was wondering if you could be a bit more specific about how much the food costs in the canteen?
email id is anshu.nicodemus@gmail.com
i need to do some serious budgeting before I start with my classes, so your reply would be appreciated...

thanx a million...!