Anyone who has studied at university will have, at least once, dreamed of becoming an exchange student because it is a special experience only given to university students. I also dreamed of becoming an exchange student, so I spent most of my time at university preparing to participate in an exchange and studying TOEFL. Thanks to my effort, I got accepted to my first-choice university and studied there as an exchange student. My semester there was extremely meaningful and completely worth the struggle I endure to go there.
Emerald color of Ireland
Ireland is an island country near the UK. The country was ruled by the UK for many years, so it reminds me of the period when Korea was under the Japanese Colonial era. Dublin, the city where I stayed, is the capital of and biggest city in Ireland, but compared to other cities in Europe, it is very small. I could even walk across the city from one end to the other. Picturing Dublin as an exotic European city will only lead to disappointment upon arrival. However, you can meet a lot of kind people in Dublin who will welcome you kindly with words like "sweetie" or "honey".
'Galway', term you may have heard in the lyrics of Ed Sheeran's "Galway Girl", is a local city in Ireland. Galway is famous for its glorious landscape such as the Cliffs of Moher, and being the city where Harry Potter is set. Besides Galway, Ireland has lots of local cities like Belfast and Cork that have beautiful green landscapes. I was tired of all the electromagnetic waves in Seoul, so the emerald color of Ireland was therapeutic and relaxing. Above all things, Ireland, the country of Guinness, is heavenly for anyone who enjoys drinking beer. My home was 10 minutes from a huge Guinness brewery, which was also a tourist attraction for visitors to Dublin. The first Guinness I drank in Dublin was unforgettable. Ireland has as many pubs as the number of restaurants. You can easily grab a tasty cool beer anywhere in Dublin.
Griffith, my second university
I studied at Griffith University, and the student body was as inviting as the student body at Sookmyung. Although Sookmyung has a small campus, the campus at Griffith is even smaller than that of Sookmyung. However, both professors and students are passionate and generous, so I enjoyed my university life there with them very much.
The biggest surprise at Griffith was that professors and students are on very friendly terms, similar to friends. Being familiar only with the relatively strict school culture in Korea, honestly, my first impression of Griffith was stun. On the first day of my business administration class, I observed students greet their professors by their name. Ireland has no honorifics in its English language so that may be natural, but I still was shocked. They freely exchanged opinions during discussions in class and students openly refuted the professor's opinions during the class. Through the discussion, I was able to listen to amazingly fresh and creative ideas.
Media class that centered on pop culture was most memorable for me. During the class, one professor introduced himself as a fan of Lady Gaga, and students in the class asked him to sing one of her songs. He took up the challenge and sung a medley of Lady Gaga's songs. Students applauded as if they were attending a concert. He was a male professor with gray hair, so the fact that he sang was unimaginable for me. The shock I felt at that time is still so memorable.
Age, seniority, and school ID number are of no importance when making friends in Ireland. In fact, some of my Irish friends were three or four years younger than myself, and others, I never found out their age. Thanks to the precious relationships I made in Ireland, I enjoyed the semester pleasurably. On Friday nights, I had fun at an escape café, which was conducted in English, joined an annual school party, and held a Korean food party that included both soju with beer. The day I left Dublin, I cried so hard because I felt like I was losing my friends. This experience as an exchange student in Ireland was a precious opportunity for me to meet many lifelong global friends.
Travel anywhere in Europe
No exchange student will remain solely in the university city. In my case, my grades from the Griffith university were only P/F grades, so it was not possible for me to get credit for them. As a result, I spent more time playing than studying, and I did a lot of traveling.
Ireland is the hub or Europe's low-cost flagship airline, Ryan Air, and it is even more affordable than Korea's low-cost airlines. For example, a flight from Dublin to London costs only 9 euros, which is about 13,000 won, for a one-way ticket. Moreover, with an ESN card, which is issued to all students attending European schools, it is possible to receive a 20% discount on airfares and bring onboard a 20kg carrier for free. Students with a European student ID are all eligible for free admission to all three major art gallaries in Pars, namely The Louvre, Musee D'Orsay, and Musée de l'Orangerie. With all these benefits available to me, I relished my time as a student attending an European university. I went on a trip whenever I had a break.
Want to be exchange student once again?
This question is always posted on the bulletin board of Every Time app to exchange students. It’s where interested students go when they are thinking of being an exchange student. Honestly, the decision to go on an exchange was not easy. I did it during my seventh semester when most other students are busily preparing for a job. Nevertheless, every time that question is asked to me, I always answer immediately, “Yes, I would do it all over again and apply wholeheartedly for an exchange program. Of course, living in a foreign land far from Korea wasn't always exciting. The process of dealing with certain matters that came up was stressful, but it also made me become independent. That aspect alone made me mature and grow internally. Ireland is a country with people of various ethnicities and cultures, and that alone allowed me to broaden my outlook on the world and hear others’ diverse thoughts. There are still plenty of nations in the world I’d like to visit, and I sometimes feel only living in Korea is somehow boring. I once dreamed of getting a job in Korea, but now I dream of a career that will take me out to the world.