Beyond Belfield: Aoife Kennedy


Having decided to study abroad for her third year in Law, Aoife Kennedy was placed in DePaul University in Chicago.

Kennedy chose to study in the one of America’s largest cities, on the recommendation of a friend and fully endorses the experience, saying “I definitely would recommend [Chicago] to anyone thinking of studying abroad.”

Depite leaving the comfort of the familiar, Kennedy commented that “it was not difficult to become a part of the international community.” She found aid from the staff of her course programme office, who also organised talks informing interested students about the the opportunity.

Once in Chicago, Kennedy’s experience was placed under the control of DePaul University, a prominent American institution, known for the calibre of its legal courses, of which Kennedy availed whole-heartedly. She mentions that she was impressed by the range of topics available in her studies such as Trial Advocacy and Mediation, subjects she would not have had the opportunity to study in UCD.

On arrival, Kennedy found that DePaul University provided ample information for foreign students.

“They gave us access to reports written by UCD students who had spent a year at DePaul University, which was great because it gave us an idea of what to expect in terms of our classes, our accommodation, jobs, and advised us on the city generally.”

The appeal of an English-speaking university was not lost on Kennedy, allowing her to study subject topics relevant to her degree and at a high level; “the standard of teaching was really high and that is what made our classes so enjoyable,” she confirmed. She went on to explain that the assessment during her year out was much like the Irish system; “we had to take four classes each semester and the assessment was pass/fail.”

Ms Kennedy was aware however, of prominent differences between Ireland and her host country. “The most obvious differences I found were probably between political views,” she explains. Kennedy continued to say that despite the American students’ focus on this topic, “it did not affect my time there in any great way, probably because I was there for such a short time.”

While students who choose to study abroad enjoy much freedom of movement and study, it is important to note that it comes at a price. Travel and accommodation can often prove important issues when relocating anywhere, let alone another continent. However, although money was a consideration, Kennedy found that the cost of living in the U.S. compensated the expense of her move. “There probably isn’t a huge difference in the cost of the year [in comparison to a year studying in UCD]… as it is cheaper to live in Chicago than Dublin.”

So although international students may joke about the excessive partying, one must remember that an exchange is a serious undertaking, which stands out on your academic record, and thus must be sufficiently researched before you step on the plane; unless you’re going to a party school, of course.

In conversation with Sisi Rabenstein