Explaining the exodus of international students to Trinity

Why are more people choosing to come here from all over the world?

Whenever you start a conversation, and the topic moves to schooling and “where do you go to university,” this is almost always followed by “why did you choose this university” or “is there a reason for why you went to another country for university?.” Every student has a story to tell for why they went to their specific university. This could be that they visited and it just felt right to be there, leading to their application and admittance. Maybe they know a student at the university, and in casual conversation heard some cool stories that made them research the school, leading to them discovering their dream course of study. It could even be word of mouth, or going to a school based on its reputation. Whatever the reason may be, Trinity College Dublin clearly has a large influx of international students flying from across the globe to study. 

Based on a TCD Global Relations overview, Trinity welcomed over 4,600 international students from around the world in 2019. This number rose steadily, as in 2020 out of 18,407 registered students, a total of 26% were international students. As of this year, the number has risen by 2%. Based on the Times Higher Education 2021 ranking, Trinity College Dublin is currently ranked as the 8th most international university in the world, as well as the most international university in the European Union based on student body, staff and international reputation. Considering international students now make up around 28% of the student population, this statistic makes sense.

With international travel opening up slowly again, and restrictions lifting, there has been the promise of more in-person activities and learning, as well as a return to a more normal university experience than there was in the year prior. The number of international students has gradually increased, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, and there has been some reasoning behind this that is clear. Everything went online, and suddenly many students were stuck inside for a year and a half, learning on zoom and missing the classroom experience vital to many courses. Along with this, the social element, that arguably is one of the most important parts of the university experience, has been absent for virtually every student. 

Now that universities are opening up, including Trinity, and students can sit around on campus, talking to friends or waiting for a class to start, or go to club or society events. All of this has been an integral part of the return to campus, and this is great for international students as they moved from around the world into their student accommodation and apartments around Dublin. The question is, what made them make this huge step and come to Trinity College Dublin in the first place? 

“In the past few years, Trinity has been put in a more public eye internationally due to Sally Rooney’s critically acclaimed novel, Normal People.”

In the past few years, Trinity has been put in a more public eye internationally due to Sally Rooney’s critically acclaimed novel, Normal People, which was turned into the series that was predominantly filmed at Trinity College. The representation of student’s lives at Trinity, or the lives of Connell and Marianne, were beloved by many people around the world and the series gained extreme popularity when it was released. This kind of exposure gave many prospective university students a peek into Trinity, showing shots around campus and a portrayal of Dublin’s student life, possibly attracting students to apply to the university in search for parts of the experience and Dublin city life. 

“Due to the university’s fame, more students around the world may be inclined to apply and attend for its undergraduate or postgraduate courses.”

Even before Normal People, Trinity has always had fascination surrounding it due to it being a central tourist attraction in the city of Dublin, with many people looking to visit the Book of Kells and the Long Room. There are fascinating tales around Trinity College Dublin, as any university founded as long ago as 1592 would have a rich history. Due to the university’s fame, more students around the world may be inclined to apply and attend for its undergraduate or postgraduate courses.  

First year student Eric Zaksauskas, coming to Trinity College Dublin from the United States, said that he “heard about Trinity firstly from friends and then personally researched the college.” He continued: “I was certainly interested by the societies and by the independence that you need to have to go to college in Ireland.” When asked about why he chose to come to Trinity, said: “I chose Trinity because of its history, its very specific courses, and because I’ve always desired to live abroad at some point in my education career.” Trinity gave him options that he may not have been able to find in the US, and a different kind of historical significance that would be a new experience.

He chose to study in another country as he “didn’t fully agree with American universities’ general education approach, and because I thought studying abroad would give me a new perspective and further strengthen my communication abilities.” 

Many first years, including international students, are coming to university for the first time, excited to experience college life, or student dorm life. Eric is excited “to live in a new country, get involved in societies and to study something that I love.”  

Jess Daniel, an American student who is studying abroad at Trinity for the semester, says “I decided to study abroad and come to Ireland because I visited a few years ago and fell in love with the Irish culture and people, and knew I wanted to come back and study an at institution as well-renowned as Trinity if I ever got the chance.” She continues: “I really loved the fact that many international students come to Trinity, and I chose it because I wanted to meet people from all over the world with different backgrounds and different stories, and learn more about their experiences in order to broaden my perspective.

Jess has loved being at Trinity so far, finding it “a very welcoming and intellectually curious environment,” and she looks forward to the rest of the semester and getting more involved in the Trinity community. 

Many students choose to study abroad, for a short or longer time, to gain different perspectives or to experience different cultures, and whether they go for a certain course or because of stories passed around about campus traditions, the experience is something that shapes each international student in one way or another. 

Julia Bochenek

Julia Bochenek is a Staff Writer for Trinity News, and a Junior Sophister English Studies student.