By Tadgh Healy
Hi everyone! I’m Tadgh, a third year English Literature & Philosophy TSM student and I’ve just completed my first week studying abroad at the University of California, San Diego.
From the early signs, it’s clear I’ve been incredibly fortunate to land where I am. I chose to study in San Diego primarily because of the quality of education – and in my particular case I had read (and enjoyed) the work of a couple of the professors here, so jumped at the opportunity to be able to sit in their lectures.
However, California of course also has its non-academic attractions. I took advantage of my visa which allows entry into the US up to 30 days before the start of term, so have managed to see a good bit of the state. I can vouch that the beaches are equally as beautiful as Sandymount Strand, the national parks a match for any postcard of the Irish landscape, but also, and perhaps said less often, the Americans I’ve met have been unfailingly welcoming.
The comparisons don’t stop there. The San Diego campus of the University of California was founded in 1960, and the architecture reflects this. Think of TCD’s Berkeley library, but spread over the nearly 2,000 acres of the San Diego campus, and you’ll get a feel of what it’s like to walk between classes here. Brutalism gets a lot of flack, however I hope it comes across in the pictures why this reputation isn’t deserved.
I’m living on campus at what’s called the International House, where half of the students are from the US, and the other half from everywhere else around the world. My housemates for example, all of whom are exchange students like me, are from Tokyo, South Korea, Hong Kong and Slovakia. The novelty of this set-up makes for an atmosphere where everyone is naturally curious about each other. (I’ve actually just sat down to write this blog after coming back from an event where students share meals from their home countries.)
Getting to grips with a new place to study, a new administration, online portals, library systems, and just happily fumbling around in general, does remind you of starting university again. However, just as with first year, if you can share that experience and seek the help which is out there, it feels more like exploring than fumbling. The International House also acts in a similar way to the JCR in Trinity Hall – there are social events, weekly language conversation tables, and even a live-in mental health therapy dog. There’s also a talk being put on next week called ‘What is Brexit?’, but I’m not sure I have the heart to attend just yet.
When I knew that I would be studying abroad, I made a point of trying to speak to American students in lectures and around campus about any differences between the academic cultures of America and Ireland. Quite unanimously, they thought their workload in Ireland considerably lighter than what they were used to. I’ve only been in lectures for a week, but my initial feeling is that the Americans made a good point. It’s difficult to measure these things, particularly with Arts subjects, and I’m not sure it’s helpful to do so because any good academic will tell you there are always more books to read and more questions to ask if your interest is there. But I can say that my timetable has more contact hours, and more exams than I have been used to. There is more formal structure to my learning here, and I hope this rigour will benefit a student with a talent for idleness.
Finally I should mention that after two years studying in Dublin’s city centre, I have grown very fond of Mexican food. So for me, one of the attractions of California, and San Diego in particular, is its proximity to Mexico both culturally and geographically. If anyone reading this is considering studying abroad in California, and looking for more ‘pros’ in any list you might be making, the burritos here really are the best I’ve tasted.
(I would be very grateful if this information didn’t reach the wonderful staff at Mama’s Revenge of Nassau Street.)
Thanks for reading and cheerio for now!
Above: House Mates