'The cost of going to college here is similar to what it would be in the US'


MY EDUCATION WEEK:TARA McELLIGOT (18) from San Francisco. Studying international law in UCC


I get asked the same three questions all the time.

First: “Are you a yank?”

I say, “Yes, but my family’s from Kerry”.

Then: “Are you over here for the semester?” “No, I’m studying here full-time.”

Third question is always: “Why?”

It’s always the same. I’m used to it by now. I know it’s kind of unusual for an American student to be a full-time undergrad in an Irish university, but I’m here for the long haul.

Today was pretty normal. I attended the first-year Moot Court Final in the evening, which was really exciting. Seeing my peers so passionate about current events in law is really inspiring and entices me to get more involved. This actually gave me the confidence to run for a position in the Law Society next year.

I’m living in an apartment that’s part of campus accommodation here in UCC but it’s slightly off-campus. I had a phonecall from my Nan in Kerry wanting to know when I was coming home so she’d know when to have the dinner ready. When I first moved over here, my parents thought that I might visit my grandparents every couple of weeks or so. As it’s turned out, I spend practically every weekend there. Lovely food, free laundry service. What’s not to like?


Lectures this morning and then it was home to pack before heading off to my Nan’s. After my last lecture of the week – criminal law – a friend of mine gave me a lift as far as Killarney. My grandparents live about 10 or 15 minutes outside Tralee so it’s out in the country but not completely isolated or anything.

My parents moved over to San Francisco from Kerry in the 1980s. They ended up meeting up with a group of people from west Cork and just became life-long friends. My sister and I were friends with their kids all our lives really.

It’s a funny thing being American and Irish. Over here, I’m a yank of course, but over there, I get, “Oh my God, you are so not American!”.

My dad has been in the US for about 26 years and he still has the thickest Kerry accent imaginable. It’s so funny. My friends come over and he’ll say something like, “how’s it going?” and they’re like, “Is he talking to me? Is he speaking English?”.


I ran some errands in Tralee with my Nan this morning. We had a nice wander around the square in Tralee – it’s sort of a local in-joke that the square is actually a circle.

I’m not going to lie, my Nan spoils me. It’s nice to have somewhere to go at the weekends. I do love being in Cork though. The city is definitely one of my favourite places in Ireland.


I went to see my cousin playing a rugby match today. He’s only nine. It was really good fun. Those cousins live next door to my grandparents so I often call in for a chat.

I did a bit of study in the afternoon and then, in the evening, another cousin and I went to see the new Jennifer Aniston movie Wanderlust. It was actually pretty funny. My cousin’s only 15 – we don’t see each other all that much so it was nice to get to hang out with him.


I went to mass with my grandparents this morning and we had an early Sunday dinner. Then I packed up and my grandad dropped me to the bus. Then it was back to Cork.

Coming to UCC just felt right. I had applied to nine or 10 colleges in the US and I got into all of them. Getting your college acceptance letters is a really big deal over there and I suppose I felt that I wasn’t as excited as I should have been about it all.

Then I remember being in school when I got the email from UCC saying I had been accepted there – I was so excited. I was freaking out. I just knew then that it was what I wanted. I think my parents were initially concerned that I was coming over here for the wrong reasons – 6,000 miles is a long way but I think they were more concerned about whether I was coming here for the party scene or something.

I explained that I knew I wanted to do law so it made sense to come here and do it in four years rather than doing an undergrad degree, working for a year or so and then going to law school like I’d have to in the States.

The cost of me going to college here, year on year, is similar to what it would be in the US. It’ll be cheaper because I’ll get a law degree sooner and the qualification transfers well to the US so it’s win-win for me.


After my morning lectures today, my Nan called to tell me about a dream she had that she had won €30,000 on a Lotto ticket. We had bought a ticket each a couple of weeks ago. Anyway, she had checked hers and she hadn’t won, so I decided to check mine and it turns out I won €10. I rang my Nan and she was so excited.

My sister and I used to spend all our summers in Kerry. There wasn’t any Skype so we’d speak to our parents once a week over the phone. I suppose that made me quite independent.

I went through a period from about 12 to 14 when I kind of resented having to come here. I didn’t want to leave my friends. I know it was a vacation but honestly it felt like some kind of punishment. Then when I hit 16 or so, I started making friends here and I didn’t want to go back to the US at the end of the summers.

I actually visited the UCC campus around the time I was 16. My mom came here and she wanted to show it to me. I loved it, but I never really thought I’d get to come here.


Looking forward to St Patrick’s Day now. I’m going to the parade in Kilflynn village just outside Tralee. I’ve a couple of friends there and they’re pretty proud of the parade in the village.

Then on Sunday, I’m going to Dingle with a couple of friends from college. We’ll be staying overnight in a hostel. Some of my friends are from the area so they’ll be able to show us around. I’ve heard it’s lovely.

I feel lucky, having multiple homes. Obviously home is where my family is but Ireland has always felt like a second home.

Even when we used to come over for the summer, I remember getting off the plane and breathing in that Irish air – it smelled so clean and fresh. I just loved it.



This is going to sound really bad – Republic of Tellyand Tallafornia– I don’t watch that much TV. I saw Wanderlustin the cinema. It was really good.

I also saw a documentary about GAA players and the dilemmas they face when they’re expected to play for their college, club and county.


Stolen Innocenceby Elissa Wall – its really good.


Ed Sheeran – I’m kind of obsessed with him at the moment.


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