Lucas Brun is a second year arts student originally from a town just north of Lyon, France. Having moved to Ireland as a child, he has a unique perspective on fitting in in a University as an International Student.
Dear international student, my fellow overseas pal, welcome to the UCC student community. Whether you moved here as a small child years ago or landed two days before your orientation, congratulations on becoming a Cork student!
You might be reading this on the bus back from your registration, still feeling overwhelmed by all the information you have been given today, and you are probably still confused, and perhaps a little apprehensive about starting your college life. We’ve all been there! The fact that you are an international student surely worries you a little bit too – the change of culture, homesickness or even the language barrier. Let me reassure you by letting you know that every first-year student, even Irish students, that was around you during orientation was as petrified as you that day.
Luckily, you’ve made the right decision and were accepted into UCC, one of the most diverse and welcoming universities in the country! Out of the 22,000 people studying in UCC, a large number of them are international students just like us! Trust me, there is nothing more charming than walking from the student centre to the Boole Library and overhearing conversations in German, French or Arabic. And not only is there a strong diversity and many welcoming people on campus, but the university itself has a lot of resources available to make your time in UCC a great one.
One of the first things to check out are the clubs & societies on campus. This is the easiest and best way to get involved and meet new people. There are a lot of great societies that will help keep in touch with your culture. For example, you have the French, the German or even the Hispanic soc (amongst other cultural societies). As a French person, I have attended a few events organised by the French soc. From food and wine degustation to a screening of the French presidential debate, it was almost like being at home! It is an amazing way to speak your language with fellow compatriots or students who have an interest in your culture. ‘An Chuallact’, the Irish language soc, sometimes run events aimed at international students who want to learn Irish, so if you want to pick up a ‘Cúpla Focal’ they’re for you!
Of course, your identity and tastes are not simply reduced to your nationality, and another great way to integrate into the student body and form lasting friendships is to go to socs that allow you to meet like-minded people. Political, religious or course-related socs are a great place to go for this. If you have a particular hobby or are sporty (or not for that matter), there are over 150 societies and sports clubs to choose from. So whatever you dig, you will find someone with the same interests! What’s great with UCC is that you can join as many societies and clubs as you want for free! So seize the opportunity!
While this article seems more like an advert for UCC societies, I would like to point out other ways to get involved and meet new people on campus. UCC has some of the strongest student media of any colleges in Ireland. We have a bi-weekly newspaper (the most prolific student newspaper on the island, which you are currently reading through), a monthly magazine called Motley and a 24/7 radio station UCC 98.3 FM. It is incredibly easy to contribute, and you can find all the information you need online. I really hope to hear from you, dear reader, and hopefully see your name come up in an upcoming article or radio show!
An alternative way to contribute to UCC’s vibrant student life and encounter new faces is through student politics. In your first few weeks of lectures, you will be electing your class representatives, and that could be you! It more than likely seems daunting, but you will be representing freshers just like you, and the older reps and Students’ Union officers will help you settle in your new title, and will make you feel most welcome. Student politics will allow you to meet all sorts of people as well as giving you the satisfaction of helping change things for the better for your classmates.
Of course, if you are not the sort of person to be interested in being overly invested in extra-curricular activities, you can always strike up a conversation with your lecture hall neighbour. Freshers are always a little bit anxious, and that means that everyone around you should be more than happy to make a new friend. So don’t be scared and randomly go to someone in your group and introduce yourself. Some of the people that I’ve spent the year with were people I met on my orientation day.
Changing from the secondary school setting to college culture is a huge transition for everyone. Do not let yourself feel particularly submerged by the change because of where you come from. I moved to Ireland exactly ten years ago, in 2007, and spent my entire secondary education in Ireland. I had to learn about Irish culture without any older siblings attending an Irish college, yet, I felt the exact same feelings of excitement, enthusiasm, dread and confusion as my Irish friends who were more acquainted with the Irish third level educational system. So remember, we are all in the same boat, so do not be afraid to ask for help or try to figure things out with your new course companions.
So once again, welcome to UCC, and I sincerely hope and believe that you will have an awesome time among us!