Studying Abroad in Cork, Ireland – A Love Story

A study abroad experience is something I had dreamed about since I was in high school and searching for the right college to go to. Picking to Ireland was the first right thing I did and studying abroad in Cork was the best thing I did.

As most people would be, I was extremely nervous to study abroad in a foreign country, luckily Ireland is English speaking and any contact with program advisors, housing, or the University were nothing short of excellent.

Studying Abroad in Cork Is Right Where I’m Supposed to Be

Once arriving and settling in, there were too many moments to count when I felt like I had picked the perfect place and I was exactly where I was supposed to be. These moments consisted of; making friends with the locals, going to the same pub on Tuesdays to hear our favorite local performer, meeting the kindest and most genuine people from near and far, not needing my maps to get to a local restaurant or pub, and many more. Cork was home and an adventure wrapped all into one and I would go back any chance I got.

Studying at the University College Cork

One of the greatest gifts Cork gave to me was a course I took at University College Cork, it was called Irish Folklore with Shane Lehane. This lecture changed my world and it was beyond incredible. I got to learn about the old fairy legends, unique Irish and Cork festivals and celebrations, traditions, and much about butter and potatoes. This class taught me the point of tradition and the importance of it, Shane referred to it as the vernacular. Shane was the coolest guy, he built a boat with his buddies, is a beekeeper, and gave the most entertaining lectures about the fairies. By the end of my time at UCC he was one of my favorite things about Cork.

Bonding With the Locals

Similar to Shane, a local as well as an incredible person, the local people of Cork were what made the city so wonderful. Con and his family that run the fruit and veg store that was by my apartment became my source for local information about Cork, Ireland, and all the people in it. They waved to me when they saw me walking along the road and those were moments that I felt most at home. Along with Shane, Con, and his family, I developed quite a liking to the owner of my favorite coffee shop, 107 Barrack St. and the best bartender at Costigan’s, OG. All of these folks have the kindest souls, are warm and inviting, and building a relationship with them was one of the best experiences I had in Cork.

I could go on and on about how much I love Cork and why, but to round it out, the live music was exceptional. Cork Jazz Festival was the most unique and thrilling weekend in town, but every night and every weekend there was a band, singer, or guitar player somewhere in the City Centre. I have always enjoyed music, but it is clear to me that after my time in Cork wherever there is live music, is the place to be.

Deciding to Study Abroad in Cork, Ireland

It’s easy to see all of the reasons that I loved Cork, but I didn’t know these would be the things I loved when I was selecting where to study abroad. The process of deciding where to study abroad can be extremely easy for some or the most difficult thing for others, for me it was somewhere in between. There were quite a few reasons I picked Cork for my study abroad experience and I definitely took some important topics into consideration.

Cork is a small city, I live in a smaller town and go to school in a big city, so it seemed like a good fit to experience a culture I hadn’t been exposed to yet. I am nowhere near fluent or even conversational in a foreign language and I felt as though an English-speaking country would be the best fit for me, little did I know there would be a course offered to learn the old Irish language! Another reason I chose Cork, Ireland was because my family has Irish heritage among others, and I decided it would be amazing to learn about the Irish Diaspora to the United States as well as history older than any I had ever been a part of. For these reasons, as well as wanting a unique experience from my friends or others at my university, I chose to study abroad in Cork, Ireland and I am beyond grateful that I did.

Ireland as a country has so much to offer in nature, sights, tradition, adventures, cities, towns, and coastlines. Living in Cork gave me easy access to Dublin, Galway, The Cliffs of Moher, Killarney National Park, Cobh, and the Great Atlantic Way, but it also gave me the best city to call home and always come back to. Pack your walking shoes, umbrellas, and curiosity, and let yourself fall in love with Cork, as I and so many others already have, good luck!

Holly Smith attends the University of Chicago, Loyola. She studied abroad in Cork, Ireland. To learn more about Cork, visit the USAC website.