Undertaking an MA in Ireland: what American students need to know before jumping in


By Jenny Schaeffer, student on the MA Sociology (Youth, Community, and Social Regeneration)

Many people (in Ireland and abroad) have questioned why I chose to study at the University of Limerick. For some, it is hard for them to wrap their heads around what this experience is really like — so I figured I’d attempt to put it into words and answer some of the more common questions that get thrown my way.

Lookout spot on the Wild Atlantic Way in Dingle


What are the benefits of studying in Ireland?

The biggest draw for me was low tuition costs. A similar degree would have set me back double (or in some cases triple) the price in America. You can also use US federal and state student loans and grants to fund your education. I also received a scholarship from UL, which helped cut down costs. Plus, Americans conveniently do not need to apply for a student visa (though there is a €300 yearly immigration fee). I find Ireland to be affordable and the cost of living is relatively low and comparable to my hometown back in the States, too.

I was also drawn to UL because they offered an accelerated, single-year masters program that directly aligned with my professional and academic interests. Importantly, I also have the opportunity to receive a quality education by studying under distinguished scholars on a modern campus — similar to my experience back in the states.

Cliffs of Moher

How do you find Ireland? Do you like it?

I really enjoy Ireland! The landscapes are beautiful, the people are friendly, and there are plenty of activities to involve yourself in. While the weather isn’t always something to write home about, it is relatively mild year-round — so unless it is particularly nasty outside, it never really seems to prevent anyone from doing outdoor activities.

While the public transportation services aren’t spectacular and taxis can be expensive, it isn’t terribly hard to get around the city. Limerick City and Castletroy are walkable and bikeable, too.

Walking trail at the University of Limerick along the Shannon River

Traveling to different cities and villages is also relatively easy. I have already covered a lot of ground and I’ve seen a good bit of the country by bus (€3 to €30), train (€10 to €30), and car (€35 per day, plus insurance and petrol). Shannon Airport, which is just outside of Limerick, offers many inexpensive international flights, as does Dublin Airport — so weekend getaway trips are always a possibility.

Taken on a trip with the International Society to the Ring of Kerry

What are some of the challenges you face?

Finding accommodation can be complicated as there is a housing crisis in Ireland. Rising rents, housing shortages, and homelessness are crucial social issues that Ireland is struggling to appropriately address. While I live on campus in student housing, many of my friends and peers struggled to secure rooms off campus. My only suggestion is to start looking for accommodation early.

Another issue is employment. In Ireland, American students can work for up to 20 hours a week. Despite my competitive resume, I have struggled to find part-time employment in my field. Luckily, I’ve been able to scrape by (on savings and student loans) but I know that this may be a serious point of contention for others.

The Irish grading system is also very different from the American system. While I am still getting great remarks, it took me awhile to wrap my head around it and I had to adjust my initial expectations.

Day trip to Cork

What is Irish culture like? Have you made friends?

 Irish people are good craic! For those of you not familiar with Irish lingo, ‘good craic’ means fun and enjoyable. I’ve met a lot of friendly and lovely people here, including other internationals. Compared to my experiences in America, it does take a bit more persistence and effort to join established Irish friend groups, especially as everyone has seemingly known each other all their lives.

There is a culture of drinking, so most socializing happens in the pub and out on the town. Limerick luckily has a great nightlife scene. There are plenty of pubs, clubs, and restaurants to satisfy all tastes and the Irish are seemingly always down with any excuse to party!

Sports are also central to Irish life. Everyone seems to play or watch Hurling, Gaelic Football, or Rugby. I haven’t managed to make it to a match yet, but I cannot wait to see a live game and be in a crowd of rowdy and passionate fans.

As a single lady, the dating scene has been a challenge to navigate. In America, it is not unusual for men to approach women and start a casual conversation….but here, that rarely happens! Everyone seems to be on tinder or bumble, which is seen as an accepted way to meet new people. I’m also not opposed to asking men out, but I’ve experienced some mixed reactions with my bold techniques. For now (at least) Irish men remain perplexing and bewildering creatures.

At Bunratty Castle

Lately I’ve also been volunteering as a way of building my connection to the community. UL has a great portal to connect students to opportunities on campus and around town. Also, there are plenty of student organizations to join, like the International society or the Kayak club. These groups host fun events, trips, and get-togethers and serve as a great way to meet new people. In addition, I’ve made friends with my peers in each of my classes. They’ve been a great support and are a welcome addition to my network.


Would you do it again? Should I consider studying there?

All in all, I am extremely happy with my decision to study in Ireland. In fact, I can’t seem to get enough, as I am planning to apply for a PhD position at the University of Limerick! If you are considering undertaking a postgraduate course, do not hesitate to consider studying here, as the Emerald Isle will surely serve as an excellent setting for all of your postgraduate dreams.

Overlooking Lahinch, taken on a weekend trip with the Kayak Club

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Leaving UL

I am writing this blog, knowing that I am going to leave UL and Ireland soon. The past two semesters were the best time of my life. In honor of this amazing experience and my time in UL, I want to give you a recap of my Erasmus journey and the time I spend in Ireland.


University of Limerick – UL

UL was the most welcoming place I have ever been to. The international office did an amazing job to make sure that we have all the information and support needed to study at UL. After this introduction I had an amazing time at UL. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect about studying in another country, but all the lecturers, tutors, and the fellow students were really nice and helpful if I had questions. The campus is so beautiful and everything is on one place, which makes it easy to walk to lecture halls, get lunch or just hang out with friends.



During the whole time at UL I met a lot of Irish and international friends. It really helped with making my whole experience even better. Also it is nice to know that there are similar students who are studying in another country away from home. In addition being part of a club or societies was the best thing ever. At my home university we don’t have things like Clubs & Societies. It is a simple way to meet new people and have a lot of craic. Thanks to my Erasmus experience I now have connections all around the world and many new friends for life.


Life in Ireland

Ireland is an open and warmhearted country. Of course there are some differences to Germany, but it is also a good way to learn something new about another country and its culture. For example the Irish weather, a good Irish breakfast on a Saturday morning or that the stores are open on a Sunday. My favorite part is that everybody is so polite and helpful and always apologize for everything.


Adventure – travel

Generally people come to Ireland to travel around and see all the beautiful places. And even though I was here to study I had enough time to travel around a little bit. Also the International Society organized some fun adventures with trips all over Ireland. I enjoyed the wild nature and the beautiful places I’ve been to in Ireland. My favorite trip was the Ring of Kerry. And I know that I have to come back sometime, because there will always be a spot that wants to be discovered.

All in all it was an experience which I will never forget. I learned so much about myself, life and that sometimes you just have to be spontaneous to enjoy the special things in life. Before I say my final goodbye I want to thank all the people I met during my time at UL, the UL Basketball Team, the Trampoline Club, the AHSS Ambassador Program and the International Office for everything they have done for me during this journey. I know that I will miss UL and all my friends. I definitely leave UL with mixed feelings. But I know you always meet twice and I will definitely come back!

My Erasmus journey at the University of Limerick

By Nadine Kimak

nadineHi my name is Nadine and I’m from Germany. I am studying Social Science and right now I’m doing my 3rd and 4th semester at the University of Limerick.

Every time I meet new people they are really interested in why I chose Ireland and what it is like to be an Erasmus student. Therefore I want to share my story and journey with you.

Let’s start at the beginning. According to my academic studies in Germany I didn’t have to do an Erasmus year. But I could choose to do it. I talked to a lot of people who did an Erasmus and also to a boy who went to the University of Limerick. At the beginning I wasn’t quite sure if I could handle two semesters in another country, with another language in the lectures and a new culture. But I also knew that this was a lifetime opportunity and I didn’t want to blow it. I looked at the website of my home university to find out on which partner universities I could go. When I saw Ireland I knew that this is the one I wanted to go to. I heard so many things about the beautiful Islands, so I applied for the Erasmus spot. Luckily I got the spot and so I packed everything together and came to Ireland.

Landing at the Shannon Airport my first impression was that this is the nicest country I’ve ever been to. Everybody is so polite and offers you help. The orientation week and the first couple weeks just kept getting better and better. And you get to know so many people that it is really easy to fit in. Besides I really enjoy the different lecture and grading system. At first doing everything on English seemed complicated to me. But right now it is harder for me to switch back in German when I am writing an email back home ;).

The best about being a student in Ireland is that you can travel around the island. I know that studying here my priority is on my studies. But joining Clubs and Societies, having fun and going on trips should in my opinion also be a part of the time here at the University of Ireland. Because through that you will meet new people, get to know their culture and make lifelong friends.

So far I enjoyed every second of my journey here in Ireland and I hope that it’s continuing to be GRAND! I wish everybody who wants or has to do an Erasmus semester the best time of their lives.

Here is a short video of my Erasmus journey so fare. I hope you like it.


Nadine is an Erasmus student from Germany. She is studying Social Science in Limerick for two semesters. She loves to work with people, do sports and explore Ireland.