Beyond Belfield: Stephen Manning


Back in UCD, fourth Commerce and Italian student, Stephen Manning talks Italian language, business and rugby.

Stephen Manning opted to embark on an Erasmus year in Verona, Italy in an attempt to improve his fluency in the language. It was the first time he lived away from home so after 21 years, it was a daunting but “great” experience.

Manning overcame his initial apprehensions about Verona by integrating himself with Italian society. “I found it initially difficult but I was in a very fortunate position because I was playing rugby while I was out there. As a result, I was learning the language of Italian, the language of Italian business and then the language of Italian rugby!”

While his year abroad was a huge advantage for Manning as a language student, he also noted that non-language students would also benefit from a year abroad. Manning recognises that the life experience gained by partaking in an Erasmus offers is an enriching opportunity for all students.

The Erasmus programme offers a unique opportunity for university students to sample an entirely new culture and lifestyle. Manning warns against students seeing their time away as a year of idle freedom, away from the stress of their course in UCD. Manning notes that he knew people who “spent their nine months away watching TV or on MSN messenger”. “That is such a waste. You get what you put into it.

Although it is an academic programme, Manning notes that his host lecturers were “all more lenient towards Erasmus students, having minimum of 48 hours to complete rather then achieving marks.”

Naturally when embarking on a new life abroad, the fiscal obligations are a huge consideration. Manning found that although there is a grant given to UCD students, it is insufficient to facilitate a life of luxury.

“British students were getting several thousand pounds (in grant aid), and they didn’t have to pass exams. There were no academic requirements for them. This seems unfair as the grant of €900 that I got was nowhere near enough to live independently for the duration of the year”.

Despite the financial disadvantages that he believes he had compared to his British counterparts, Manning praises the administrative infrastructure of UCD in dealing with Erasmus students. The International Office in UCD provided Manning with all the information that he needed before embarking on his year in Verona.
Manning also describes the International Office’s proficiency in helping him obtain a new laptop when his was lost. “There was one waiting here for me to pick up two weeks later!”

His experience abroad enlightened Manning to the benefits of studying in UCD. “We are very fortunate in UCD as we have high quality facilities. In Verona there wasn’t even a wireless network!” However, Manning does praise Verona students as being highly welcoming.

A year studying abroad is often described as an experience of lifetime. Similarly, Manning’s Erasmus saw him having a life-altering epiphany.

“I realised my life long ambition to play rugby passed an amateur level.” Playing in front of 3000 people who were “screaming at you in a foreign language” is an experience that only an Erasmus can offer.

Manning believes that his Italian experience will be a huge asset when he starts his job hunt. Needless to say it improved his fluency in the language but also made him address the fact he has ‘responsibilities’ and has to be “completely responsible for my own actions!”

In conversation with Sarah Costigan