The majority of outgoing exchange programmes for the Autumn trimester of the 2020/21 have been suspended by UCD. International students are still welcome in UCD.
Each university has made its own decision regarding Erasmus. DCU have also cancelled Erasmus, with students having the opportunity to complete their fourth year in Ireland instead; “DCU decided, with regret, to cancel the Erasmus year abroad and outgoing student mobility for the full academic year 2020-21 for degree programmes with a structured year abroad”. NUIG has cancelled Erasmus for the first semester. However, several other colleges and universities in Ireland are allowing Erasmus and exchanges to go ahead, including Trinity College and TU Dublin.
Many students, such as those in Commerce International, Law with French Law, and other courses where a foreign language is integral to the degree, are now in a situation where they cannot go on a year abroad, a compulsory part of their course. As the students usually do not spend their third year in UCD there is no course plan or modules already available, therefore UCD has had to improvise.
Aoibhín Collins, a third year Law with French Law student, spoke to The University Observer about her experience of her year abroad being cancelled. Collins stressed the importance of the year abroad, explaining that French Law is “complex”, and students “need French teachers to teach it”. She also expressed how her language skills will “suffer” without the opportunity of immersion, and she feels “the value of her degree is being reduced” without the year abroad.
Emphasising that although she understands planning with Coronavirus was difficult, Collins felt “let down” with UCD’s handling of the situation. The course was told the exchange would go ahead, then told 3 days later it was cancelled. She explained that half her class, who are studying a dual degree Maîtrise, were allowed to go abroad, while the others were not. Collins expressed that although she is “very happy” for those students, “it’s disappointing for those left behind”. She feels the programme could have gone ahead, as her partner university welcomed the exchange.
UCD has substituted the year abroad for online lectures on French culture. Collins has chosen to go to France independently, as she explained living in Toulouse is “much cheaper than Dublin”. She described the summer as an “incredibly stressful” time. Collins described her personal disappointment as the year abroad was what she had “most looked forward to since applying for the course in sixth year”. She spent the summer au pairing in France last year in preparation.
With no indication otherwise from UCD at this time, many Erasmus and exchange students remain hopeful that they will be able to study abroad in the second trimester of the academic year.