Criostóir is a graduate of the BA European Studies undergraduate programme. He graduated in 2020 and describes his experience of the course below.
Why did you choose UL/this course?
I chose European Studies at UL due to the fantastic range of interesting modules on offer. I always knew that I wanted to study languages at university, but I also had a strong interest in other humanities and social science subjects. This programme allowed me to continue my study of German, pick up Spanish at beginners’ level, and to gain a good grounding in other disciplines such as Politics, Sociology and Economics. I was also attracted to UL because of its amazing campus and student life.
This programme allowed me to continue my study of German, pick up Spanish at beginners’ level, and to gain a good grounding in other disciplines such as Politics, Sociology and Economics.
Describe your typical day:
A typical day in my first year at UL would start out with breakfast and a chat with one of my housemates in our campus accommodation. Then I would pack my bag and take the short walk past the flagpoles and along the tree-lined pathway at the university entrance to get to my lecture. Lecture sizes can be quite large, especially in first year, and this can be daunting at first. However, faces soon start to become familiar and friends are easily made. After my lecture I would typically walk with a friend to our next class, if we have one in common, or we would go our separate ways if not. Afternoons can be filled with tutorials and labs. Tutorials take place in smaller groups and are the perfect environment for getting to know your classmates and teachers better. We have more tutorials in language modules than in the others, and it is quite common for our teachers to get to know us very well and remember all our names. These classes are, therefore, a lot more intimate and this can be quite comforting as a new student. This might be followed by a lab, which is similar to a tutorial, but in which we have equipment which allows us to do activities such as listening comprehensions. When I have finished my classes for the day, I might pay a visit to the library to do some reading, find a book, or do some printing. Then I would follow the path back out past the university entrance and the flagpoles to my accommodation, where I would find my housemates cooking and hanging out in the kitchen. I would cook my dinner and chat to my housemates about our days, all the new experiences we are having, and how we are settling into our courses. Evenings would be filled with a visit to The Stables, a Club or Society event, or an evening in with friends.
In what way did your course prepare you for your career?
The BA in European Studies at UL is a broad, interdisciplinary course, meaning that it can prepare students for a career in a very wide variety of areas. As someone who did not know exactly what type of career I wanted to pursue, but who had a broad range of interests, this course was perfect for me. Developing language skills at university level opens up many doors when it comes to jobs in Ireland. Since graduating, I have been working in a German-speaking role in a multinational here in Ireland. European Studies also allowed me to explore things that I never knew I might have an interest in. For example, I chose Sociology as one of my elective subjects and I now hope to start a master’s course in Sociology in the near future. This is not something I ever would have thought about in secondary school, but European Studies at UL allowed me to test the water with various disciplines and find something I really enjoy.
Developing language skills at university level opens up many doors when it comes to jobs in Ireland. Since graduating, I have been working in a German-speaking role in a multinational here in Ireland.
Any memorable “firsts” at UL?
My most memorable experience at UL was definitely my involvement in Clubs and Societies. In my first year I joined the committee of the Environmental Society and was involved for most of my time at UL. I made great friends there and had many amazing and formative experiences, including organising an educational trip to Malmö/Copenhagen, and representing our society and UL at the 2017 Board of Irish College Societies Awards.
What are the differences in studying a language at school versus in an undergraduate degree?
Studying languages at university is different in that there are many more opportunities to actively use and apply your language skills. Most teachers are native speakers, and most classes are taught exclusively through the language being studied. The UL Language Centre also has a great selection of resources and runs excellent events such as language discussion groups led by native speakers, and the language exchange which takes place at the start of each semester and allows students to meet native speakers of their target language. There are also many opportunities to meet speakers of other languages in more casual settings, for example through Clubs and Societies, as UL is such an international campus. Students of languages at UL are also privileged with the opportunities to go abroad on their Co-Op and Erasmus semesters. These are brilliant opportunities to be fully immersed in the target language, which is the best way to improve fluency. Although there are great opportunities and resources in UL, language learning is also much more independent than at secondary level. Therefore, I would advise all new students of languages at UL to be proactive, use their initiative, and take advantage of the resources and opportunities made available to them in order to maximise their success in language learning.
Students of languages at UL are also privileged with the opportunities to go abroad on their Co-Op and Erasmus semesters. These are brilliant opportunities to be fully immersed in the target language, which is the best way to improve fluency.
Any advice for incoming students?
I would advise all new students of European Studies at UL to make the most of the fantastic opportunities available to them, be it academically or in Clubs and Societies. There are great resources available to students to aide your learning and, in my experience, teaching staff are always very helpful and accommodating if you have any extra queries or difficulties. Never be afraid to ask! There will always be amazing opportunities to make new friends and have amazing experiences in you Erasmus semester, in Clubs and Societies, and through other extra-curricular activities. You will never have enough time to do everything that interests you, but don’t be afraid to try new things and expand your horizons!