Conclusions

I know it’s been a while since my last entry, but I haven’t forgotten about the blog. So let me wrap up things briefly. My absence was mainly due to a lot of college related stress … and due to visitors, travelling around Ireland, and just having the craic 🙂
Phew, so many assignments and exams! I totally underestimated the workload I had to do. While there were hardly any assignments during the first month, there were quite a few compulsory assignments in the last two months. Especially the course Advanced Computational Science led to major headaches.
I have never been faced with continuous assessment in university and neither with compulsory attendence during lectures. This is certainly a rather subjective issue, but I prefer to have an end of semester exam only. Other than that I can’t complain about the teaching at UCD.
Exams are held like in Uppsala, i.e. squeezing more than thousand students in a windowless exam hall. You have to pay for the cloakroom though and exams usually take two hours instead of five.
All in all I am quite satisfied with my college experience although I would not want to continue studying at UCD.

Beside studying I did two roadtrips along the west coast of Ireland. I mainly stayed on the Wild Atlantic Way and I saw everything between Connemara and Dingle which is close to the Ring of Kerry.

The second time I went to county Donnegal and the Slieve League cliffs. Although the Cliffs of Moher are the most famous cliffs in Ireland, the Slieve League cliffs are higher and more beautiful in my opinion:

So after all, what are my favourite places in Ireland?
The most beautiful landscapes I have seen were the Mizen Head, the Loop Head, the Dingle Peninsula, the Slieve League cliffs, and Dunluce Castle. Around Dublin I can highly recommend the Bray Head, Howth, and my personal favourite: Killiney Hill.

Now that my Erasmus experience has come to an end I can say that I did everything right by going to Dublin. I would do it again. I am thankful for all the experiences I made, all the people I have met, and the numerous friends who visited me here in Dublin to distract me from studying … no seriously guys, you came in multitudes 😀

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St. Patrick’s Day

Finally an entry about why I came to Dublin in the first place and why you really didn’t miss anything if you spent your St. Patrick’s day anywhere else.
I was looking forward to this day for a long time, made plans about my outfit and where to go. Finally on that day I went to see the parade in the morning. Unfortunately I was too late to get a spot to see properly what was going on. But at least I can tell that it wasn’t the party I was looking for. The parade is more suitable for families. However, I don’t regret going there and here are some pictures I took:

After the parade I stayed in the city centre, mainly in and around temple bar although temple bar was so packed that the police had to close off the area. Beside the fact that the city was more crowded and everybody wore something green it felt like yet another usual day in temple bar: tourists everywhere and you have to wait for ages to get your pint of beer. After pubcrawling the entire afternoon I called it a day and went home a little bit disappointed. Now I get why most of the Irish people don’t celebrate this day in the city centre, but rather stay at home for house parties. Here are some more pictures:

Cork and Kerry

After lots of studying I used my weekend off to travel to Cork and the Ring of Kerry. As all major cities are reachable by the cheap buses, this was the option to travel to Cork. I met a friend there in the evening and woke up almost in the city centre and having the best weather. I liked the city, and I wouldn’t say it’s typical Irish.

The next day we rented a car and drove to Blarney Castle. It was a completely different experience than Dunluce Castle in Northern Ireland, but definitely worth a visit.

We were a little bit disappointed about the Irish weather, but drove towards the Ring of Kerry anyway. Below is a map of the route we took (clockwise instead of anti-clockwise).

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Close to Skibbereen we found a beautiful beach, and the Mizen Head, Irelands most southern point, rewarded us with terrific cliffs.

When we reached Kenmare, i.e. the Ring of Kerry, the sun was already about to set and we didn’t see much of the landscape. However, after waking up in Cahersiveen the next day we got stunning views on the Atlantic.

The last stops were the Gap of Dunloe and Killarney’s national park. It was a shame we just had 1.5 hours left to spend there.

It was another great trip and probably even more adventurous than the one to Northern Ireland. I can definitely recommend everyone to visit Kerry. There are also the highest mountains in Ireland and I would love to come back for hiking.

Outskirts and Northern Ireland

So, what to do in Ireland when you are not studying or hanging in a pub? Exactly: wait for rain, snowfall or hail, take your broken shoes, add a dollop of reckless Erasmus lads, and go hiking. Oh, and don’t forget your traditional Irish tin whistle for the perfect soundtrack to your well planned adventure. If you are lucky one of you has even thought about bringing a self-drawn map for the low battery emergency.

Yes, in the last few weeks I went on several hiking trips. It started with a small trip to Bray which is reachable with the city busses and located at the coast in the south of Dublin. We hiked up to the Bray Head which is a nice lookout and even accesible for the common promenader.

A little bit further north, but still reachable by the city bus, one can make a slightly more advanced hiking trip to the Sugar Loaf. Descending along the river isn’t the best idea though. Maybe we started our adventure on the wrong side of the mountain,since even our self-drawn map couldn’t point out a decent path.

A different kind of adventure was going to Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway last weekend. Everything began with the idea of visiting a friend in Bushmills. I had no idea that it isn’t just a boring village with vast amount of sheep. The Giant’s Causeway is located right next to Bushmills and attracts a lot of tourists.
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The next village, Portrush, is a lively fishing village with some cosy typical Irish pubs. Between Bushmills and Portrush I found the first castle ruin. It is a beautiful place and definitely worth the admission fee.

We also went to a rope bridge, but paying the fee for the bridge was a huge rip-off. The bridge is not really special and one can also enjoy the spectacular cliffs without paying the fee.

Moreover, I stayed in Belfast for two nights. I expected it to be a little bit like Dublin, but it is nothing like that. It is way more industrial and has a completely different character. I needed some time until I decided to like the city. I got to see the West Belfast Murals and discovered a really cool typical Irish pub called the “Dirty Onion”.

I would say it has been the most interesting and scenic part of my Ireland adventure so far. I would highly recommend to explore the north coast as well as Belfast.

Studying at UCD

Studying at UCD is slightly different than studying at Uppsala Universitet or Universität Hamburg.
All the modules I have chosen are worth 5 credits and are taught over the whole semester. Every lecture takes 50 minutes and most of the lectures have a classroom atmosphere, which means that there is a lot of discussion rather than just the teacher presenting slides. Most of the lectures come with an optional tutorial where students can work on their homeworks while receiving help from teaching assistants.
Even if there is an exam in the end of the semester, it is usually only a part of the assessment. Homeworks, logs, and even participation in discussions is necessary to get good marks.

It wasn’t easy to choose modules. I have already tried to register modules when I was still in Sweden. When I arrived in Dublin I heard that two of those courses were taught in Fudan (China) and another one was a masters course (I am somehow not allowed to choose master courses). After trying to register several other courses, I finally found 5 modules which don’t have any timetable clashes (it’s impossible to register courses which don’t fit perfectly in your timetable). I chose the following modules:

Theory of Games
Advanced Computational Science
Object-Oriented Design
Connectionist Computing and
Introduction to Robotics.

Execpt for Theory of Games all of the above courses are interesting and taught well. Especially Connectionist Computing and Object-Oriented Design are super exciting and given by lecturers with a lot of experience in research and industry.
Introduction to Robotics is a course for computer scientist, but with mainly engineers attending. In fact, we play with Lego robots.
Theory of Games seems to be an interesting topic, but unfortnately the lecturer has a slow tempo and seems to have forgotten that this is a module for mathematicians.

All in all I am happy with my choices especially as the modules cover a wide variety of topics. If there weren’t so many free hours combined with an extremely pricey dining hall…

Kilkenny

Being in Kilkenny today, especially in the castle, felt like a déjà vu. Oh right I have been there before. Even if it was 10 years ago I remembered some places. Nevertheless the city was bigger and way more boring back then.
Except for maybe one or two exceptions everyone on this trip came from the US. That means I have learned a lot about the differences between America and Ireland, especially concerning food and drinking habits.
We explored the city center first and I have finally made it to the spire of St. Canice’s Cathedral:

We grabbed a cup of tea (tea is big in Ireland) in the lovely little café called “The Hole in the Wall”. This is a definitely must see in Kilkenny. Make sure to learn about the history of this place while being there.
As we didn’t have much time left, we rushed to the castle to catch our tour.
After an hour of history we moved on to the Dunmore Cave, the darkest cave in Ireland. Why was everyone so scared of bats? Aren’t those rather cute little fellas?

Unfortunately I didn’t get to take more pictures, but I hope you have got the idea that Kilkenny is worth a visit.

Orientation Week

Finally I have got some minutes to write a new entry. It has been a busy week.
Since I didn’t really find more attractive alternatives, I moved into the flat I mentioned in my last post, on Monday. It is nice to finally have a place that I can call home. I even got a second bed in my room which might be perfect for visitors 😉
After that the orientation week started. Unfortunately I have to disappoint everyone who is thinking of Uppsala’s crazy orientation week because it is not really like there.
The first difference is the lower number of international students and events hosted by the university. And also, most of the events focus on organization rather than social interaction and getting to know fellow international students.
I received my UCard which is basically my student ID, and I need it for entering the library, printing, and I can even purchase items in the various shops on campus.
The second card I bought was my student leap card which is the bus card for students. With this card the bus spend will be capped at 5 euro per day or 20 euro per week which is, as far as I know, the best deal you can get in Dublin. I think, however, about getting a bicycle.
Most of the students I have met so far are from Germany, France or from the US and study something related to finance or business. I really haven’t met any people from other programmes yet, but that will change on Monday, I guess, when I go to my first classes.
It has been a great time so far, and I especially enjoy the various pub nights.
Tomorrow I am going to visit Kilkenny, so you may hope for some nice pictures.