As we enter into the new year, Hilary term welcomes us with the return of many of our fellow students from their adventures across the water, while others disembark from Ireland to embrace the Erasmus experience ahead of them. Whether you are applying for your upcoming exchange programme, are currently abroad, or you went away last term, there is much to learn from the stories of those who left Trinity to study elsewhere.
In the first article of this series, I spoke to Kylie Quinn about the time she spent on Erasmus in Barcelona last term. Originating from Dallas, Texas, Quinn is in her third year of Law and Political Science in Trinity. While in Barcelona she attended Esade Ramon Llull University and took seven modules, ranging from World Law Trade to Negotiation Skills. Quinn was joined by several others in Law, and described how there were other Trinity students in the same city from a variety of different courses.
Discussing the application process, Quinn recalls the stress she felt while attempting to organise her upcoming months in a different country. She describes the initial application as “nerve-wracking but straightforward, short, and mainly administrative.”
“It is a recurring problem faced by Erasmus students that their two universities — Trinity and the host college — are poor at communicating with one another, leaving the student unsure of who to turn to organise their time abroad.”
However, when it came to choosing modules, Quinn recounts it as being “one of the most stressful experiences in my college career.” She goes on to tell us that “classes were not finalized until two weeks after the exchange … I was physically nauseous every time I thought about the uncertainty of whether I had enough ECTs or whether they would be validly accepted by Trinity.” It is a recurring problem faced by Erasmus students that their two universities — Trinity and the host college — are poor at communicating with one another, leaving the student unsure of who to turn to organise their time abroad.
Despite the initial lack of organisation and stress that went hand in hand with this, Quinn expresses her adoration of the city itself and the appreciation of the opportunity to travel abroad. Talking about the modules studied in Barcelona, Quinn recounts them as being “modern and practical, and I could not take any module like them in Trinity … It let me step outside the rigid module selection of my course for a semester which resulted in finding a new passion for accounting despite being a Law/Politics student.”
Having come to Trinity from America, Quinn was used to the initial culture shock that so many students experience when they leave home. She found it challenging to adjust to the new foods and modes of transport at the beginning but soon settled in, embracing the lifestyle and getting involved with sports teams. By joining the volleyball team, she was able to travel to Rome for a competition. However, she found it difficult to combat the language barrier while in classes, stating that “people weren’t willing to speak in their ‘school language’ outside of class in order to become friends with foreigners.”
“Quinn explains that the classes abroad were more focused on continuous assessment weekly.”
Comparing her college experience in Spain to that in Dublin, Quinn explains that the classes abroad were more focused on continuous assessment weekly. As well as this, the lectures were much smaller than what she was used to in Trinity. The classes were longer, lasting 2-3 hours instead of the 50 minutes that we are familiar with. She describes studying abroad as “feeling more like a really advanced high school, whereas Trinity feels more like a dumbed-down PhD program”.
Despite the negative aspects in terms of administration and organisation, Quinn would still recommend participating in Erasmus if you are given the chance to. She advises students to “be prepared to advocate for yourself constantly before, during, and after the exchange”. One must be able to handle the paperwork, emails and communication that is required before heading off, but if you are willing to dedicate yourself to the process and look past the minor flaws of the application, Erasmus is something extremely worthwhile and enjoyable.