Leon is one of our international students who is in his fourth year in Trinity. Here he lets us know about his experience of studying History and Political Science at Trinity, one of our Top 10 Courses.
Your name: Leon Kohl
Where you’re from: Germany
Your year of study: 4th year
Your programme of study / course: History and Political Science
What made you decide to study your course at Trinity?
Ireland is a fascinating place to study History and Political Science. It is an island with a very rich history spanning such fascinating historical periods as early Christian times, Viking Ireland, the Gaelic and Norman Middle Ages, the Elizabethan period and revolutionary Ireland. History is still well alive today in Ireland, with a significant impact on Irish politics and historical evidence such as historic buildings and archaeological sites that can be encountered everywhere in Dublin city centre and across the island of Ireland.
I have always been fascinated by the way in which history shapes the world of today and not only is History & Political Science the perfect degree programme to examine how the past has shaped the present, Ireland is the ideal place to study if you want to witness the continued importance history has on our contemporary world. Although open hostilities have ended in Northern Ireland, century-old sectarian divisions continue to shape politics in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland’s party system’s main divide goes back to the country’s civil war in the early 1920s.
Trinity’s History and Political Science Departments are both ranked in the global top 50 and Trinity offers a world-class education on its historic campus in Dublin city centre, only a stone’s throw away from a range of different museums and the government district. Both the curriculum as well as the learning environment in Trinity are very international. Students can study Irish, European, American, African and Asian history and politics and can take courses in international relations while studying in a university where one in four students is an international student. Students also have the opportunity to use one of the more than 300 partnership agreements Trinity has and study a year abroad at a leading university.
Being home to the low-budget airline Ryanair, Dublin can also be seen as the gateway to Europe. Over the last four years I have taken advantage of the low fares of flights from Dublin to destinations all over Europe and explored many European countries together with friends I made in college.
What, if anything, was the most challenging thing about moving to Ireland to study?
The most challenging thing about moving to Ireland for me was to leave my friends and family behind and to move to a country I had never been to and where I had not known anyone before I arrived. I was very excited about getting to know a new country, new people and a new culture and starting my life as a college student at a university with such a vibrant student life, however, I was a bit scared at the same time that I might have difficulties to make new friends and was worried that I might get homesick.
How did you overcome the challenge?
When I arrived in Dublin, all my worries that I might have problems settling in in Dublin turned out to be unfounded. I stayed in Trinity Hall in first year, a residential campus for about 1,000 first-year and visiting Trinity students, and lived together with thirteen flatmates, all of whom were new to Dublin and about half of them were international students as well. As everyone “in halls” was new to Dublin, everyone was trying to make new friends so it was very easy to get to know people.
Making friends in my course also turned out to be not difficult at all. As teaching is done not only in lectures but also in small tutorial groups, I could quickly get to know my fellow students as well as my professors and lecturers. Students can also choose to join one of the more than 120 student societies or 50 sports clubs, which is definitely a very easy way to get to know people. In my first year, I joined the volleyball club as well as the History Society, the Society for International Affairs and the world’s two oldest student societies, The Hist and The Phil, debating societies which have hosted speakers such as Joe Biden, Angela Merkel, Amy Poehler and Pete Wentz over the last few years. I became particularly involved in the History Society, which organises both academic talks as well as many social events, such as pub quizzes, club nights and trips both within Ireland as well as to European cities, for students who either study or are interested in history, and within the first few weeks I was able to get to know most people in my course.
In general, I have to say that people in Ireland are very, friendly, welcoming and open-minded and Trinity has created a very inclusive environment and offers many support services to students struggling with academic or personal problems so that I have always had the feeling that there are people who are there for me if I need help.
What aspect / module of your course have you enjoyed studying the most so far and why?
The best thing about the BA in History and Political Science at Trinity is the great selection of modules. Students are able to choose from a range of different modules and can study the history and politics of different continents as well as different time periods. From my first year, I could choose the modules that I wanted to study and build my own curriculum.
If you had one piece of advice to any other students about to start your course in Trinity what would it be?
My advice for everyone starting my degree at Trinity is to become involved in societies and the History society in particular, since it is the easiest way to get to know your classmates and a great way to explore Ireland and its history.
What is your favourite thing about Dublin?
My favourite thing about Dublin is definitely the people here. People here are just so open-minded, friendly and funny and their laid-back attitude has really made me feel at home in this busy, multicultural and historic city. There always seems to be something going on in Dublin and while you can find pretty much anything you can think of and enjoy the advantages of living in a large capital city, Dublin is not too big so that you do not feel lost in the city. There are also so many places nearby which are ideally suited for quick getaways – be it one of Dublin’s coastal suburbs, a hike in the Wicklow Mountains or a trip to the breath-taking west coast of Ireland. Dublin is also a very young city with great nightlife.
What three words would you use to describe Trinity to someone who’s never been here?
Historic, inclusive, open-minded.