Studying in Europe: Low fees, more choice
With no points race, the chance to mix modules, and courses taught through English, many are seeing past the CAO
“However, once students start a course they have to work a lot harder to stay on it. Skipping lectures is a common enough thing in Ireland; it wouldn’t be tolerated in many of these European universities. Students have to apply themselves from day one.”
Orr says his work schedule is quite tough and he’s had to hit the ground running, from an academic point of view. “Everyone around me is very motivated. About half of the students here have travelled from other countries to study and they’re focused on getting a good degree. It’s good for me because I was very laid back in school and being in a culture of hard work is keeping me on task. I’m only a couple of months in and I already spend a lot of time in the library. The social life is very good here as well, so I have to balance it all out.”
Orr didn’t know anyone coming to Utrecht but he has since met Irish students from two other Dublin schools, Belvedere College and St Andrew’s. “I have friends from 20 different countries already, people I sit in the dining hall with, cook with and go out with. It’s amazing. Everyone speaks English, or wants to learn it, so it’s the ideal environment for an Irish person.”
Orr’s parents and younger sister found it hard to let him go, he says, and they all made the journey on the ferry with him. However, he was immediately assigned accommodation and found it very easy to fit in. “I actually enjoyed walking into a classroom of strangers from all over the globe. At least I didn’t have to contend with a bunch of lads talking about Gaelic.”
By the third semester of this year Orr will be expected to have put some shape on his degree, or at least to choose his major subject. He plans to take all the science modules in the meantime, and a number of humanities and social science subjects. He’s getting a sense of what he wants already, he says.
“I’m very interested in having a minor in philosophy and a major in physics. With the hard sciences, especially in the realm of quantum physics, there are so many different interpretations of what is going on and I think a training in philosophy is useful. It gives you an analytical mindset that many employers value as well.”
Emily O’Reilly’s son Daniel has recently started a course in the Hague University of Applied Sciences. He didn’t go there because his mother has just been appointed European Ombudsman, but because he didn’t get what he wanted through the CAO.
“I was listening to the radio in August and I heard a piece about Eunicas. I’d never heard of it before and I’d never considered study in Europe as an option,” says O’Reilly. “We looked into it and two weeks later Daniel was on a flight to the Hague to start a degree course in European studies.”