International Education, Ireland

1st year at university: ‘A defining moment for international students’

As EduCo Ireland Managing Director Jacob Kestner and his team prepare for the September intake of students at Dublin City University, Dublin Institute of Technology and Maynooth University, it is also crucial for international students to understand that the education that they have completed so far is likely to be very different from the education that they are about to embark on.

Students have to make their first year count. For those joining an International Foundation Programme, it is their “zero year” at university in preparation for undergraduate or postgraduate degree programmes.

“Approaches to studying will be different for many students coming from different parts of the globe. Some will only have had to master the listen-memorise-repeat approach. Now they will be expected to hone their skills in analysis and critical thinking at university,” Mr Kestner points out. “All students need to develop a deep interest in their subject and committed enough to read widely and come to class well-prepared to share their own insights.

“It will be a defining moment for international students,” Mr Kestner adds, “and they will have a positive edge if they approach their studies well prepared. And they need not worry for there will be lots of advice given in lectures and tutorials – higher education in Ireland is renowned for its supportive teachers and professors.”

Attending lectures

Students have to diligently attend lectures, tutorials and laboratory work at all times to ensure that they do not miss out on important material tackled in class. They also get to learn from their lecturer’s insights as well as those of their classmates. However, if it cannot be avoided, their best bet is to talk to their lecturers on how they can make up for the missed lecture. They may also contact the academic staff to seek direction and advise if they miss out on lectures for a week or two after classes have started.

Being present in lectures also increases the students’ ability to express their own view and have their ideas expounded or dissected in class as they gain a better understanding of the subject matter.

Meeting deadlines

Taking responsibility for one’s study means that students have to be aware of deadlines and pay more attention to their studies. Missing departmental deadlines on projects or required essays will have grave consequences on their overall grades.

Students can use their free time in between classes wisely and not wait until the last minute to work on 5 assignments which are due the next day. University lessons require a higher level of concentration and thus, students can use their free time for researching and studying if they’re not working part-time. There is a balance between going to the library and socialising with friends at the pub or shopping centre – and students have to draw the line.

Backing up notes

Students need to keep a photocopy or a saved copy of their notes in a USB or cloud just in case their laptop crashes or gets stolen or lost. While it is pleasant to always look at the bright side, it also pays to be prepared for worse case scenarios.

Recycling books

Students need not buy new textbooks if they can purchase them from a secondhand bookshop or students from the higher level, especially if they’re going to be used for a short period only. They can also borrow the listed books from the library and photocopy them. Or they can buy the books and resell them to incoming students who are in need of them.

Less socialising, more studying

Students should focus more of their efforts to studying before socialising. While it pays to have lots of friends and be popular on campus, they need to always look at their personal and professional goals first and not give up if things get difficult. After all, they are at the university of their choice to study and get a degree that will prepare them for their future career.

Their other activities are secondary to having a great and memorable university life. Thus, they have to make each day count because college life is their turning point into adulthood and its accompanying challenges.