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Navigating the First Month of the Irish School System

By Katie King


Back home, I know my schedule for the next term before upcoming final exams even appear on my radar. I research what professors are teaching which sections, how much work each class will be and how many books I’ll have to buy for the upcoming quarter. I can craft a schedule where classes don’t start before noon and having class on a Friday is unheard of. I’m able to plan my school, work and social life with ease from the comfort of my bed.


This was not the case in Ireland.


I received numerous emails in the months of October and November about which classes would be available for international students for the next semester. I scoured the lists trying to figure out 1) which classes I needed to fulfill certain requirements for my degree and 2) if any of these classes would be interesting to me. I found about ten courses that fit the bill, submitted them to my study abroad application and thought “alright, they’ll have the perfect schedule waiting for me once I get there”.


On about the third day of orientation, still jet-lagged and sleep deprived from the 8-hour time difference, we were finally doing scheduling. I sat in the classroom with all of my fellow American students hoping that the classes I wanted would appear on my schedule. I was handed a sheet of paper stating that I was registered for four courses. Thankfully, they were all classes that I needed for my degree back home. I was filled with relief until our directors said this was the tricky part. Even though we were registered for said courses, we might not be able to take all of them.


Irish students are given their schedules for the coming term a few days before the term starts. They don’t have to worry about scheduling conflicts or whether or not they’re getting into the right modules for the semester. Since it was up to us, we had to figure which classes worked in a schedule. It sounds easier than it actually was because DCU does not use an application like “Schedule Builder”. I had to go back and forth between the timetables to make sure everything aligned.


Some classes are only once a week and the student gets to choose what lecture or discussion they prefer to go to and some classes occur multiple times a week and it is up to the lecturer (they don’t call them professors in the Irish school system) to decide how they set up their classes. Further, class times are subject to change throughout the first two weeks of the semester, meaning you might have to re-do your schedule after you’ve already been in classes for two weeks.


These challenges shouldn’t deter you from studying abroad. Learning about the Irish school system was first intercultural challenge that I had to conquer during my time here. It seemed daunting at the time, but now a month in to the school year, I can barely remember why I was so stressed out about it. The CIEE team was always available help solve problems and advocate for us on any issues we had. Studying in another country is going to be full of challenges wherever you go but at the end of the day, we all go abroad to experience new cultures and ways of living, and overcoming cultural challenges such as building a new schedule makes us more adaptable and gives us confidence to overcome any cultural challenges we might face throughout the rest of our travels.


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