As another year’s International Week goes by, Kate Rothwell asks why so many students move country in order to study at UCD

There’s no denying that UCD is a university with worldwide appeal. Conversations in numerous languages can be overheard when walking through any part of the campus, which is hardly surprising considering that last year, over 19 per cent of UCD’s student body was made up of students from outside of Ireland. Many of these were Erasmus or exchange students who spend just one or two semesters of their degree at UCD, but others make a more permanent move, and come to Ireland in order to study a full-time degree.

Sebastian Jähne is one such student, having moved from Berlin to study Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at UCD. Now in his second year of the degree, he explains that the disorganisation of universities in Berlin and a desire to travel were two of his main reasons for studying abroad. “It was a good decision to get out of Berlin. I don’t think it’s too good to stay in one place for too long.”

Gosia Soltys, from Szezecin in Poland, is in her final year of studying Linguistics and German at UCD. She originally began her studies in Poland, but finds that the system of continual assessment at UCD is much more student-friendly. “I think it’s easier [here]. You study a lot as well but you don’t notice it. In Poland, it’s basically studying the week before the exam. Here you have to work all semester.”

Post-degree plans among these few students are, as for the majority of students in Ireland, not exactly clear-cut. Further study is becoming an essential and desirable option for graduates, but international students are just as concerned about the price of Masters or PhD programmes and the job opportunities that may or may not arise during the next few years.

Lisa Schultz, a first-year student of Sociology and Information Studies from Frankfurt, will decide whether to stay in Ireland for a Masters only if job prospects improve and if her desired courses are available. “If I find anything here, perfect; if not, I’ll go on looking. But I might not go back to Germany, there are so many other countries.”

Soltys doesn’t foresee going abroad to study as being an option, as personal connections will keep her here in Ireland. “I actually would like to do a Masters somewhere else but I don’t want to leave Ireland. I have a boyfriend here, and to be honest I have no choice. I have to do a Masters here.”

European students make up much of the international body at UCD, but there are also many students who travel from even further afield in order to discover what the Irish education system has to offer. Mariam Amusan, from Lagos, Nigeria moved to Ireland as a teenager to do her Leaving Certificate, and has since graduated with a BA in Economics and Sociology.

She is soon moving back to Nigeria in order to work, but plans on returning to Ireland or England to do a Masters the following year. She admits that being so far away from home was difficult at first, but sees the advantages of the experience as making it more than worthwhile. “You have that international perspective, you learn a new culture […] You grow up faster as well.”

Hijaz Zainudin, from Kuala Lumpur, studied Medicine at UCD and is now working as a doctor back home in Malaysia. He speaks fondly of his time at UCD, but acknowledges that without the support of a scholarship there he would not have been able to consider studying in Ireland. “Everything there is expensive. Never in my life would I be able to pay [by] myself to study there.”

Irish students are well aware that a degree here comes at a high price, but for international students who could have easily studied in countries where both fees and the cost of living are often far less costly, an Irish education seems all the more expensive.

The ever-rising registration fee would dissuade Jähne from recommending Ireland to others as a place to study, while Schultz is of the opinion that studying in an English-speaking country is an advantage worth paying for: “It’s definitely worth moving or at least spending a year abroad, if not the whole degree.” However both Schultz and Soltys felt that employers in Ireland had a preference for native English speakers, which regardless of their fluency in the language proved a disadvantage when job-hunting.

UCD can currently boast an international reputation and a multi-cultural student body. Diversity is a key element of being a reputable university; so let’s hope that UCD continues to offer students an education that is worth travelling for.