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Shannon Flannery

SFU Student Undergraduate
Arts + Social Sciences
Study Abroad

Experience Faculty
I attended exchange from January to May in 2023 at University College Dublin in Ireland. I was able to earn credit towards my Psychology degree and create memories that will last for a lifetime. Going on exchange has been my favourite part of my undergraduate degree and I cannot express how much personal growth I have gained from this experience.
Experience Details
Introduction + Preparation
Location Research

When planning for exchange, I had spent a lot of time researching information that I thought would be useful for my semester aboard in regard to transportation, immigration, and accommodation. UCD offered three zoom sessions with incoming exchange students that I found very helpful as they allowed students to ask questions at the end. They outlined transportation, accommodation, course selection, arrival details, and other general tips to get students prepared. As well, I found that general online research about the immigration process was helpful.

Financial Preparation

The cost of living in Dublin is one area that I wished I had done more research on. The exchange rate on the euro at the time was not ideal (1.47 Canadian = 1 Euro) and Dublin is a very expensive European city. Rent was around €1300 euro per month which averaged around $1800 Canadian per month for on campus accommodation (Glenomena Residence Building). However, groceries were a lot cheaper in Dublin as compared to Vancouver for the most part. I typically shopped at Lidl or Aldi as they were on the cheaper side. I would suggest bringing some Euro with you because many of my roommates who did not ran into some problems at times. However, most places in Dublin take credit or debit. I would definitely spend a lot of time managing your monthly spending before planning to study in Dublin.


In regard to packing, I would suggest that you pack a rain jacket, heavy jacket, mittens, and a toque. I was in Ireland between January and May and found that the first few months were cold and windy. The wind in Dublin can be very cold, but for the most part the weather is similar to Vancouver. As well, I would bring an adapter so you can charge your phone and other electronics. Ireland uses the three-prong plug (same as the UK). If you find you have forgotten any clothing pieces, there are lots of shopping options in Dublin (take the 39A bus toward Ongar from UCD to get to the city) or you can visit a nearby mall called Dundrum (take the 17 toward Rialto to get to the mall). Dundrum is a major mall that has many shopping options.

Travel and Transportation

Travel and transportation were fairly easy once you get the hang of things. The transportation system uses Leap Card (similar to a Compass Card) and they offer discounted prices for students. Once you arrive in Ireland, you can go on the Leap Card website to order your student card which will be mailed to your address within 14 working days. You are able to load money through the Leap Top-Up digital app. I would suggest using the “Citymapper” app as it was very helpful for navigating the bus system or I found that Google Maps was accurate as well. There are many other options beyond the bus, Ireland has Uber or Free Now, the Dart (which is a train), and the Luas (like a streetcar). When arriving from the airport, I would take the Air Coach (bus number 700) as it brings students directly to UCD. You can either prebook a ticket or buy one at the airport after arriving.

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

During a few days of the week at the beginning of the semester, UCD officials will be meeting students at the airport. They have a helpful YouTube video detailing instructions for students arriving ( I had arrived earlier and had done some travelling with family, so I did not use this option, but my roommates found it to be helpful. UCD will send out an email regarding instructions for students outlining the details. There was an entire week dedicated to orientation with different events for students to show up to. They offered immigration sessions, welcome events, specific school welcome (i.e., I had a school of social sciences and law welcome session), campus tours, and events that teach exchange students about Irish culture. I found them to be very helpful for gaining information to ground myself and to meet new people from all around the world.

Accommodation and Living

On-campus accommodation fills up very fast so keep a close eye out for when UCD allows students to select residence. Keep in mind that on-campus accommodation is costly, but off campus accommodation can be upward to €2500 per month. I lived in Glenomena and really enjoyed my space as I had a bedroom, ensuite bathroom, and shared a living space and kitchen with 5 other roommates. Most accommodation at UCD does not include a meal plan but are equipped with kitchens.

Learning and Adaptation

UCD is very similar to SFU in regard to lecture formats and schedules. The spring trimester is 12 weeks with a 2 week break around March. Keep in mind that courses at UCD are referred to as “modules” and most students take around six modules each trimester. I took five modules and found that it was not too stressful to manage. I had plenty of time to become involved with the UCD community and travel around Ireland.

Cultural and Environmental Observations

Ireland is full of amazing places to visit. I recommend Cliffs of Moher, Giants Causeway, Wicklow Mountains, Bray, and Howth. UCD International Student Services has trips they offer throughout the semester as well. My friends and I would book day trips on weekends with tour companies in order to get around without access to a car for places farther away, such as Cliffs of Moher or Giants Causeway. Dublin is full of heritage and exciting places to visit. Dublin Castle, Trinity Library, Grafton Street, Irish Emigration Museum, the Irish Rock n’ Roll Museum, St. Stephens Green Park, or the National Gallery of Ireland are great places to start. I would also suggest travelling around Europe during spring break if you choose to study aboard during the Spring trimester. Ryanair had very cheap flight options that made traveling around Europe very affordable. I travelled to the United Kingdom, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Austria, Czech Republic, France, and Spain. I gained cultural insight while living in Dublin and having the opportunity to visit other European countries.

Social and Extracurricular Activities

UCD has a number of different clubs and societies for students to join. They had refreshers week during the second or third week of classes where students can learn what is available. Every club has an Instagram page and there is a club’s website where students can learn what UCD has to offer. There are two gyms, a student cinema (tickets are under €7 for students), basketball court, and a swimming pool located on campus.

Reflection & Tips

Going on exchange has been one of the most fulfilling experience I have ever had. That being said, challenges and hardships are bound to happen. Slow down, take a breath, and you will figure it out. Whether it be struggling with the grading system, having a hard time adapting to this life change, learning to live on my own for the first time, or making mistakes learning the lay of the land, I was able to adapt. One major challenge I had in the beginning was making connections with other people due to being nervous and introverted. However, I was lucky enough to become very close with my roommates who became my family during exchange. Make connections with other people as I found that this made my experience more memorable and enjoyable.

Most Valuable Aspects of This Experience

Reflecting on my experience, I wish I did more research on places I wanted to visit both within Ireland and more broadly in Europe. I also wished I did more research on the type of over-the-counter medication you can find in Ireland. I ran into some minor issues not being able to find some over the counter medication while studying aboard, so keep that in mind.

Advice for Future Students

Exchange can be one of the best experiences of your life, but you need to embrace the experience with open arms. Go to orientation events, meet people, go outside of your comfort zone, say yes to trying new things, make mistakes, and don’t be afraid if things do not always run smoothly. I was very nervous about going on exchange and learned that I am capable of more than I thought I was, and I was always able to overcome challenges or figure it out. Exchange has been one of the best decisions I have ever made and cannot recommend it enough to other undergraduate students!