I fell in love with Ireland. Irish people are heartfelt and funny, nature is gorgeous and there is live music everywhere, everyday. I studied at Cork Institute of Technology in Bishopstown. My course of study was Creative Digital Media (BA Honours). I think I was the first media student from TAMK in Ireland so far? Therefore, there was a great deal of misunderstandings though. To prevent anyone else to go through this: TAMK don’t have a contract with CIT in Creative Digital Media, only with the Fine Art students. After all the trouble I had to go through, I got a permit of exception from CIT to study one semester in Creative Digital Media and I’m truly grateful for that.
It was very heart-warming how well the Student Society kept an eye for students’ well-being and how much there were organized trips and events by the International Student Society as well. In addition, we had a chat with our course lecturers from time to time as they wanted to know how we are keeping up.
In Ireland after school clubs were a big thing. There were a whole lot of sport clubs and society clubs to choose from. One of my best decisions during my exchange was to join the CIT Canoe Club. That was basically how I truly got to know Irish culture as the whole club was full of Irish students. I had the chance to make Irish friends and have long chats with them about life in Ireland. There were meetings outside the canoeing as well. Their team spirit was incredible and I felt very welcome. There was always help offered in everything before I even asked for it. I got to see more of the beauty of Irish nature as well. One of our trips became one of the most incredible experiences in my life. We drove to a bioluminescent lake of Cork on a dark night. We kayaked around the lake under the wide and starry sky. I even got to see Saturn and Mars in the sky. If you touched the water, it started sparkling! I felt like I was in a fairytale.
My free time in Ireland included kayaking, jogging with my roommate and seeing my other friends. One of the best things were road trips around Cork County and Galway. I really enjoyed that all of my friends lived so near, so we could walk to the campus together and have dinners at our student apartments. As I had French roommates, the best ones I could have wished for, sometimes I felt like I got to know French culture even better than Irish. I got very familiar with Frech foods and ways of life. We had a custom to prepare both French and Finnish dinners together and talk about our cultures. I taught them some Finnish and I learned some French as well (my roommate still remembers “rock, paper, scissors” in Finnish).
But back to Ireland – I really liked Bishopstown. Its size was perfect. You could find anything you needed and there were always people around but it still had the feeling of a small, heartfelt town. We participated in the events of international student society, went to the movies quite often, including Cork Film Festivals and of course visited quite many pubs. We had one favorite place, called Franciscan Well, as they had delicious brick oven pizza.
Speaking of food, fish and chips dish was as good and common as it is in England. Even though the traditional food of Ireland is meat stew, different sea food came a cross more. Not a surprise though, as Ireland is an island. What comes for Irish drinks, I really liked fresh Guinness and Beamish as they are very soft and tasty. However, Irish Coffee and Orchards Thieves cider became my personal favorites. If you are having a night out, a strong recommendation for Baby Guinness as well!
My courses in Ireland were Applied Animation, AV Technology, Creativity Innovation & Teamwork and Web Design Basics. Compared to my course of study in Finland I had less lectures to attend but much more assignments and tests to do. I really liked that we had two exam periods, the first one in October, so everything didn’t build up for December. One thing I was really shocked about as a Media student was the poor equipment. In Finland we have a large storage of different cameras, lenses, lights, recording equipment and basically almost anything you could think of needing. In Ireland we had a couple different Canons, one or two stands and not a single light or even a reflector. In addition, the “equipment storage” wasn’t open every day during the week and there were certain days for rental and for returnings. This made scheduling quite challenging with other students and modules. When we had to do the music video with two Canons and zero budget, I started to appreciate our circumstances in Finland in a new way.
I was told in advance that in Ireland there can be very thick accents. I was a bit worried at first how I could manage, with school especially. It was comical how shocked I got in the very beginning of my way to Ireland, as I sat in the airplane and the first announcement came. I couldn’t understand a word. So many thoughts rushed in my head how hard this would become, until the announcement came in English. The first one had been in Irish.
So, I didn’t have a hard time with the accents after all. Cork accent is very nice to mind, actually. All my lecturers spoke loud and clear. I had only two times when I couldn’t understand what someone was saying and both of them were older people, one was a janitor and one was a bus driver with a very thick Cork accent.
Being in exchange offered lifelong memories and friends. My self-esteem grew as well as my interest towards other countries and cultures. I learned a bunch of new things and I got better with speaking English, significantly. After being exchange, some kind of longing for living abroad again arose. I can’t wait to go back to Ireland again.