Assessing the prospects for future international students at Trinity

Speaking with students from outside Ireland about their time studying in College, we can identify the areas the administration needs to improve upon


With the proposed increase in international students, it is more important than ever to examine how past students from outside Ireland have experienced being a visiting student at Trinity. The students contacted for this article have all on the whole had mostly positive experiences but it is obvious that the college needs to improve in some areas.

The accommodation crisis in Dublin is difficult when you are an Irish student, so coming from another country makes it very difficult to find accommodation that is affordable. One student, doing law remarked that it took three weeks to find affordable accommodation, and he got little help from the college with this, apart from a “bit of help” from the SU.

They suggested that a workshop be provided for Erasmus students to help them with finding accommodation, and a specific room with computers and advice if you had questions. It was pointed out by all students that they felt left alone by the college to find accommodation in a foreign city.

The Wi-Fi was another issue that regularly cropped up in students’ responses. All mentioned how bad it was, but in relation to home universities it didn’t appear to be worse, and in some cases better. The problem was in its reliability, and this is something that the Provost needs to address, both for Erasmus and home students. The fact that the Wi-Fi is so unreliable, even if it is accessible in all of our classrooms, is not acceptable for a modern university.

Access to the internet needs to be reliable and fast as so much of course content, timetables, lecture slides and contact with lecturers outside of class time is conducted through the internet. Even if the Wi-Fi was comparable to home universities, it is something that could enhance both Erasmus and home students and is an important thing to address.

The experience of Erasmus students with the courses they were studying while here differs wildly and needs regulation. One student describes arriving at the history department to sign up for modules and being told that the module options they wished to take, which they had got information on the department website of, was outdated, and that they wished to do probably didn’t exist anymore.

The course meetings for history and social science took place at the same time, they were left very unclear about what modules they could take, and the only information available was at the department meeting, which clashed. The other Erasmus students they met had the same experience, and were left going from department to department, with no assistance from the college, hoping to get the signatures for the modules they wished to take, but not knowing if they could take them.  

The same student signed up for two modules with another Arts Department as the description interested them and had a lecturer that did not follow the course description and regularly turned up 15-20 minutes late. The lecturer in question sent other people to teach the module, invited guests, showed videos and did not manage to cover the course outline. “Since the only way Erasmus student have to choose their modules is their description, it is not easy to know which courses not to take”.

This is a huge shortfall on behalf of the college. If international student numbers are to be increased, the system for choosing what to study needs to be overhauled. Much like the TSM students that seem to fall through the cracks, international students do not receive support when liaising with different departments, and there is a lack of communication between different schools. This was not the majority experience, and seems to be the same issues that TSM students face, with the added barrier of language and being unsure of the system.

Despite this, all students mentioned how much support Trinity gave them via the International Office. It was noted to be quick and effective with resolving problems. The fact there were meetings organised for international students in the Global Room, social events organised by the Dublin University International Student Society and lectures on Irish customs and culture were hugely beneficial, and all the students reported how this made their experience positive and helped them integrate into student life. Most students said that Trinity was more supportive than their home universities, and the student experience was incomparable.

The range of clubs and societies really surpassed all the students home universities, and really aided international students with integrating into college life. The freshers fair was mentioned as an incredible way to make friends and see what college life has to offer. The facilities in the sports centre also surpassed those in several students home universities, and one student says on his experience of College “Trinity is definitely a genuine student experience, whereas my home university is just the “functional” place where you try to get as much knowledge as possible in the quickest way. Contrary to Trinity, I don’t keep a lot a memories from my home universities, I just need its diploma.” The only negative thing mentioned with regards to student life was the fact there could be more social events for internationals.

The facilities in the library were mentioned as being better than home university, although being in the Berkeley and Lecky was likened to being in a soviet bunker. The students seemed impressed with the system of counter reserve, and most noted that although grades did not matter in an erasmus year, they spent a lot of time studying or working on projects in the library.

One student remarked that although they spent so much time in the library, they never figured out how to take out a book. Special library sessions for erasmus students that focus purely on practical skills would benefit here.

The fact that the teaching method in Trinity differs widely to many countries is something that Trinity could provide support on. Two students mentioned how the struggled with the teaching methods used in Trinity, and how unstructured they are compared to France, where the contact hours are greater, and the lectures are much more specific in learning outcomes. It was very difficult to come from that Trinity, where there are large booklists and learning is very self directed.

This wasn’t seen as a negative, it was just very different and students struggled to adapt without help. Being unsure of this system meant that the courses the student undertook felt very superficial, and they felt left behind. Not understanding what to read meant that often they were confused in lectures. A practical session explaining how lectures at Trinity work (particularly with regarding to Arts) and how house reading lists would enhance international students experiences of the academic side of an erasmus exchange.

This would also be beneficial to first year students. It is something the college can easily provide support on, and individual departments could make sure students understood in relation to the requirements of their course

Between 2012/2013 and 2014/2015 Trinity student body coming from outside the EU has increased by 30%. This year ten new student exchange programs were signed in the US, Latin America and Asia, bringing the number of places for Trinity Students to undertake an exchange to a non- EU country to over 100.

Over a quarter of the student body now have the opportunity to undertake an international exchange including Erasmus. The students in Trinity are evidently putting in huge effort to welcome international students, and as their numbers increase the college must do likewise.