Exchange report - Student at KI
Home university: University of Dublin - Trinity College Dublin
Study programme: Toxicology (Master's)
Exchange programme: Erasmus
Semester: Autumn and spring semester 2021/2022
Name: Oneka Perea Ariznabarreta
Email address:


About the decision

If I had to quickly describe myself in a few words, I was born with a foot outside my home and even beyond my country. I am an extremely curious person, and have the need to keep on exploring our planet without any limits. I was 14 when I first travelled abroad on my own, and the destination happened to be Galway, Ireland. Two months later, I flew back to the Basque Country completely empowered. The experiences I had during this time and the people I met along the way made me confident of my abilities to proper in life, mature, and believe that I could conquer the world. Other countries such as the US, France, Canada, etc. followed and every single trip increased my eagerness to see, learn, aim further. Therefore, when the university were I undertook my bachelor's programme offered me the chance to go on exchange studies, I had no doubt what to do. I packed, gave off the prejudices about cold and loneliness in Scandinavia, and arrived in snow-covered Stockholm that welcomed me almost like no other place before. That is why I ended up returning for my master's degree. And exactly why when we were again offered an exchange stay, I surely said "YES". 

About the destination

In my case, the choice of university was not as important as the choice of country. As I have previously mentioned, Ireland was the first land I visited by myself. When I was a child, my mum used to tell me stories about the Emerald Island that had infinite four leaf clover fields and leprechauns at the end of the rainbows. She also talked about their mysterious and fantastical language, Gaelic, which had a grammar as complex but beautiful as our mother-tongue, Basque.There is a strong connection between the roots of both our cultures; the folklore, with cheerful music, dancing traditions and big festivals; the landscape, with the crystal clear sea towards the horizon, rocky cliffs and green nature inland; the people, with their fervent urge to make everyone feel as warmly received as at home. Although I had already had a glimpse of this during my summer in Ireland, I just needed to see it from the perspective of an insider, a local. Besides, Trinity College Dublin is certainly a leading university worldwide; its reputation definitely caught my attention. I wanted to understand how it feels to walk through buildings dating from the 1500's as if I studied in Hogwarts, almost.  

Prior to departure

On the internationalisation day (somewhere in early December for those going on exchange during the Spring Semester), KI provided us with plenty of relevant information regarding our placements. We were informed about different details and requirements that we had to bear in mind before our trip. Evidently, COVID-19 and additional requisites related to the pandemics were also covered (hopefully not for the coming years). We were also gifted with a KI shirt that enabled us to be great KI student ambassadors while abroad!
On the contrary, the information and help provided by Trinity College Dublin was quite uncertain, messy, and poor. If I am being completely honest, I must admit their Academic Registry office is not as efficient as KI's. 
On one hand, when looking for research groups where to undertake my Degree Project, I received no help or guidance by the International Office at TCD. The International Coordinator of the Biochemistry School was a bit rude and literally told me he could not support me with finding a suitable lab, but that I had to find a place for my Master's Thesis all by myself. After a thorough search on the TCD website, I ended up emailing 20 different PIs and awaited for their replies. Most of my queries were either ignored or unsuccessful, but I had a few interviews with the ones that were willing to take a new student. Eventually, I made up my mind based on how welcoming and experienced each supervisor seemed. 
On the other hand, incoming students for the Spring Semester (called Hilary Term at TCD) are only sent an invitation for the application on late October. Even though Acceptance Letters were supposed to circulate in November, possibly due to COVID-19, they did not come out until mid December. Unfortunately, my application was initially refused without any further details or information on why I was not accepted. By the time I got the response, I had already started working on my project (since the ToxMaster Degree Project begins already in early December) and it would have been really difficult to drastically change plans at that point. It took a lot of pressure from my side for them to realise that there had been a misunderstanding, since they thought I was coming to TCD for taking courses instead. KI's International Coordinator, our ToxMaster Programme Director, and my supervisor at TCD were extremely cooperative when trying to fix the issue. Take home message from this story; make sure that you clearly state what is the purpose of your exchange and ask for collaboration to your TCD supervisor in order to contact their Academic Registry Office.  

CHECKLIST - Before exchange:

  • Search and fix a research group where you will work for the Degree Project
  • Send in application to TCD Hilary Term and await to the Acceptance Letter
  • With Acceptance Letter, register in TCD's online platforms (email, BlackBoard+, etc.)
  • Find accommodation (student residences, private apartments, etc.) and book trip
  • Have a valid passport (valid  up to 6 months after return from exchange)
  • Insurance: Kammarkollegiet (provided by KI) and European Health Insurance Card
  • Pre-departure course on Canvas (hand-in certificate before start of exchange)
  • Sign and submit Code of Conduct (before start of exchange)
  • Take language skill test by OLS+ (not in my case, since my master's is also in English)
  • Financing: Erasmus+ Scholarship, Eurolife Mobility Grants, CSN for study abroad
Once you check all bullet points in the list, you are READY TO START THE JOURNEY!
On my way to Ireland, first picture right after departure and second right before landing. I was so nervous, but extremely excited!

Arrival and registration

First month of remote work

For the Toxicology Master’s Programme, we are allowed to conduct a Degree Project of 37,5 ETCS, meaning that the course already starts in early December. Therefore, during the first month of the project, I decided to work remotely from Sweden, mainly performing a literature search and review to familiarise with my research topic and begin to draft the introduction of my report. This was previously agreed with my supervisor when I wrote the Project Plan for my Thesis during November. The main reason for this was that December is usually a quite stressful and busy time in research labs due to the fact that some work must be completed before the Christmas Holidays. As a results, there would have not been anyone available during that time to train me so that I could proceed with my wet lab experiments.

Adaptation period after arrival

Eventually, I planned my trip for the first day of classes after Christmas Break and flew to Dublin the 10th of January. I was very flexible with the choice of the starting date since I was not taking any specific courses at TCD but rather doing an internship in a lab to produce my Master’s Thesis. However, I wanted to be in Ireland a bit earlier than the official start of the Hilary Term (Spring Semester), the 17th of January, in order to have some time to settle in and adapt to the new environment before the first days in the lab.

My first week in Dublin was pretty relaxed, specially work-wise. My supervisor had to take a sudden sick-leave and thus, I mostly had time to go around, explore the city, the TCD campus, and St James’ Hospital (where my lab was located), work on some safety courses online, and get everything I needed solved. Here is a checklist of the tasks to fix on the adaptation week

  • Sign up as a TCD online portal to appear as a registered student.
  • Receive a COVID-19 booster dose in the walk-in clinics at TCD (probably not necessary for future students, but an advantage offered during my semester abroad).
  • Get started with the Trinity IT Services (TCD email, access library online, TCD Wi-Fi). 
  • Apply for a TCard (similar to Swedish Mecenat Card, it is your student identification, but also used for paying a variety of services across the different TCD campuses).
  • Obtain a Student Leap Card (like SL card, for taking public transport around Dublin).
  • Join some sports clubs and societies at TCD and start participating in student life!
  • Enroll in the free Gaelic (Irish) language courses available for TCD students and staff.
  • Inform about the schedule for the Orientation Week (first week of Hilary Term).

Orientation week and activities at TCD

During the first week of the Hilary Term, TCD organises an Orientation Week with several activities for international students. Unfortunately, upon my arrival in Ireland, the COVID-19 situation was quite critical, and most lectures were being hold online, including the different orientation activities. Despite being on distance, these information sessions were extremely helpful and clarifying to know how to get around. In this manner, I learnt the key things I had to fix during the adaptation period. Yet, it would have been nicer if we were on campus because it would have given us a chance to meet other exchange students face to face and have a guided campus tour. One of the highlights of the Orientation Week was to discover the wide catalogue of TCD Societies (at least 120) and Sports Clubs (about 50). No matter your interests, likings, or preferences, it is almost sure that you will find some kind of environment that suits you. 

Personally, I would strongly recommend the International Student's Society (DUISS), which is one of the most active student organisations at TCD. Whether you are an exchange student, international student, or even Irish, it is a great way to meet people from new cultures and parts of the world, at the same time as participating in super cool activities such as daytrips, weekend travels, movie nights, pub gatherings, etc. During the Orientation Week, they usually plan a Scavenger Hunt around the main campus, i.e., a race against the clock where you have to answer a bunch of questions by visiting several locations at TCD and in Dublin. Because I still knew nobody, I was allocated to a random group with three other lovely girls and we ended up 4th in the competition, winning free tickets to the Glendalough daytrip that was scheduled for the week after! 

Another interesting option is the Global Room, a space on campus that facilitates the integration of international students in TCD and Ireland, in general. They help students with a variety of queries from immigration practicalities to the basics of living in Dublin. Besides, for several Monday evenings at the beginning of each school term, they run the New2Dublin programme, holding international-themed events such as national holiday celebrations, seminars, movie screenings, etc. that will make you feel like at home! Because my lab was located off campus, I only manage to attend the Global Room once, when the Chinese New Year was celebrated, but we had delicious dumplings for dinner!

All in all, my biggest piece of advice is STAY ACTIVE and GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE! You will not regret it.

In the Scavenger Hunt by the International Student Society a couple of weeks after my arrival. A great welcoming activity!


Cost of living

Coming from Sweden, I made the mistake of assuming that Ireland would be affordable, or at least, not as expensive. However, Ireland and in particular Dublin, is an expensive city to live in, mostly regarding accommodation and transport. So as to provide an approximation of my expenses, I paid 750€/month of rent (560€/month being the cheapest for some my friends), bills being an additional expense of 80€/month (and my housing was nothing fancy whatsoever). Public transport can cost 80-120€/month if you are a student (you MUST get a Student Leap Card!!!), depending on how often you use it and if you only use the tram, or also the bus/train. You can safe up in transport by living more central, but then bear in mind that rent will likely increase. Outdoor dining and drinking is somewhat more economical than in Stockholm, but not that much. Despite the old-fashioned railway system and bus network, travel within Ireland is still quite costly. Now, you can easily fly to other parts of Central Europe in a budget, because Ryanair (Irish airline company, in case you did not know) has extremely good connections with many European cities. The rest of the leisure activities (e.g., cinema, concerts, museums, etc.) are similarly priced as in Stockholm. Honestly, I did a lot of hiking and outdoor activities during my time in Dublin, not only to watch my pennies but because the Irish nature offers a special beauty that I wanted to enjoy. If one thing was way cheaper, that was groceries (a can of 400 g of chickpeas was 29 cents ONLY!!!), especially when shopping in Aldi or Lidl (and Tesco for some products has competitive deals too). 

All in all, for a stay in Ireland, you may need a monthly budget of 1160-1420€, expenses divided as it follows:

  • Accommodation: 600-800€/month (depends on the location).
  • Bills: 80-100€/month (in some cases, it may be included in the rent).
  • Transport: 80-120€/month (with a Student Leap Card, depends on use).
  • Groceries: 150€/month (if shopping at Lidl/Aldi/Tesco). 
  • Going out: 100€/month (outdoor dining/drinking/coffee). 
  • Extras: 150€/month (other leisure activities, travel, clothes, etc.). 

In addition, there were a few obligatory costs related to the exchange that I had to pay in the beginning:
  • Flight ticket to Ireland: 100€/round trip (ARL-DUB, with SAS).
  • Sending luggage: 50€/luggage (I used Send My Bag).
  • Student Leap Card: 10€/card (there is no option for eCard). 

Finance your exchange

Despite the high price of an exchange, here is the good news. There are several scholarships, grants, and stipends that will help you to cover the expenses of your stay. Here I list the most important ones in relation to Ireland: 
  • Erasmus+ Grant: Once you have received your Acceptance Letter from the Host University, you will be able to apply for this stipend. However, it is paid by your Home University (KI in our case) and the value of the grant differs depending on your destination, as well as whether you are taking courses or doing a traineeship. In my case, since I did my Master's Thesis abroad, it was considered as a internship (which equals to a traineeship). Although 80% of the stipend is received at the beginning of the exchange, you will need to hand in the "Certificate of Attendance" and have your Exchange Report accepted before you obtain the remaining 20%. 
  • Green Travel Grant: For those of you who may be moving to a country nearby Sweden, it may be interesting to know that KI offers an additional allowance of maximum 2000 SEK if you are travelling by train or bus! Unfortunately, Dublin was a bit too far off for me to make benefit of this stipend.  
  • Eurolife Mobility Grant: As exchange student at Trinity College Dublin, because this is one of the partner institution within the Eurolife Agreement of Academic Co-operation, I also opted for an extra Eurolife Mobility Grant. This is only offered to undergraduate and master students that carry out research mobilities in one of the partner universities of the Eurolife Programme (maximum two students per institutions will be selected). Yet, as nominated student for one of the Eurolife universities, I received a complementary grant of 500€. 
  • CSN for studying abroad: As a Swedish citizen (or other cases), you may also be eligible to student grants and loans from the Swedish government to study abroad. I personally did not apply for this because I had not been getting the regular CSN during my master's programme in Sweden neither. 
Entance building at the main campus of TCD.


Housing situation in Dublin

Not to scare any of you, but the housing market in Ireland, particularly in Dublin is a disaster. I had previously been warned about this before moving to Ireland, but I did not worry too much. I had heard similar things about Stockholm but never encountered a difficulty in finding accommodation. Please, believe me when I say that flat hunting in Dublin is really a nightmare; not only due to the highly priced rents of very lousy, small, and remote rooms, but also due to the fact that there is an incredible shortage of rental properties. These two factors make the basis for the ongoing housing crisis in Ireland.

Some more bad news is that although TCD offers some student accommodation choices in their private residences, do not even for a second trust that you will get one of those. Why? First, because they are often given to TCD scholarship holder students (many of which are Irish); second, because they are usually booked way before you will receive your Acceptance Letter; and third, because they are SUPER FEW. All in all, TCD will not most likely support you to arrange a play to stay. With any luck, perhaps your lovely supervisor may give you a hand and then smooth your path (like it happened in my case). But do not panick, this is just a reminder to get on with it as soon as possible! 

Choosing the right area to live

Dublin is quite a big city, divided by the river Liffey into three geographical zones (Dublin City Centre, North Dublin City, and South Dublin City) and further district each of which has a number code from 1 to 24. You may expect that these numbers represent proximity to downtown, as well as closeness between them, but it is not always like that. Starting from the fact that neighbourhoods in North Dublin City have odd numbers and neighbourhoods in South Dublin City have even numbers, instead. My recommendation is to select a district somewhat close to your research lab, but also a bit central or as close as possible from a mean of public transport (preferably a tram (Luas) or train (DART) stain). The main TCD campus is in D2 (very central), while St James' Hospital, where my lab was located, is in D8 (towards the west). Unfortunately, my apartment was in D24 (southwest); it was ok to go to work since I had the tram right in front of our building, which brought me to the lab in 30 minutes. However, it took almost 50 minutes to Dublin City Centre. 

One more thing to consider is the safety in each district. Some areas of Dublin can be relatively dangerous, specially at night and when you walk alone. In South Dublin City, the most calm and popular areas among students are Ranelagh, Rathmines, and Rathgar in D6, and Ballsbridge and Sandymount in D4. Rents are often slightly cheaper in North Dublin City, and Fairview, Clontarf (D3), Glasnevin, Drumcondra (D9), and Raheny (D5) are nice areas to live. When it comes to "problematic" districts, I want to highlight that D1 and the surroundings of Pearse Street in the city centre have a high crime rate but are fairly safe environments during daytime. In the west, Tallaght, Clondalkin, and Ballyfermot are known for gang fight issues. Yet, I lived in Central Tallaght during my exchange in Ireland, right in front of the Luas (tram) station and next to The Square shopping centre and Tallaght Hospital, and it was a really safe, modern, and nice area.

How to search for accommodation

Despite the lack of housing, the possible existing options to live in Dublin are rather varied. 

Student residences typically consist of a room with ensuit bathroom and shared kitchen and allow you to meet new people and live an active student life, but are in high demand and overpriced (cheapest ones are about 240€/week). 

Private rentals are the most common alternative, since you can find from single rooms, to shared apartments and whole houses. Depending on whether the property is advertised by real estate agencies or individual landords the requirements may vary, but be careful with scammers (there are A LOT). Besides, the cost of bills (electricity, heating, internet) is not always included in the monthly rent. 

Finally, homestays are the perfect way to learn about the city and the culture from locals. It refers to staying at the place of a host family, which tends to be more economical and many times includes bills and even food. I have heard many good stories of people in homestays, and I would have definitely given it a shot had I known about it before. 

Regarding my personal experience, I started looking for accommodation six months prior to arrival, just to test the waters. Initially, I texted private landlords via Facebook (my preferred group was The Ideal Flatmate Dublin) and, but the search was not too successful; either I got no replies, or they wanted tenants that would be working, or I could not come to the viewings organised for the rooms. Via an Irish corridor mate I had in Stockholm, I was offered a room in the house of her Irish neighbour, but it was very far from my lab and I decided to reject it. I also tried to look for a place to stay together with another Basque guy I met on Facebook, but he was more in a rush than me and eventually, he rented something else on his own. In the end, one month before the trip, I discussed the housing issue with my supervisor, who wrote a note in the ad-board at their office. I was so lucky that one of the PhDs working in the same lab had a spare room at his place. Although the apartment was in Tallaght (the bad reputation district far away from the centre), it was easy to commute to work, the tram also took me directly to downtown, I had everything I needed nearby (grocery stores, cafeterias, restaurants, etc.) and got along perfectly with my flatmate!

EXTRA TIPS - For the process:

Just as a brief summary, here are the KEYS that will help you save time in your search for housing. Best of luck!

  • Be aware of and watch out with scams (never EVER pay anything in advance)!
  • Get started with the apartment hunting as soon as possible (never too early).
  • Ask about accommodation to anyone you may know in the city (including colleagues).
  • Come to the city ahead of your stay for having some viewings with landlords. 
  • Find a host family/home to stay at (enriching experience and student-budget friendly). 

The building where our apartment was located in Tallaght and the Luas (tram) station right in front, on my way to work.

Studies in general

The main objective of my exchange studies was to write my Master's Thesis. That is, I did not go to Ireland in order to take courses at Trinity College Dublin, but to carry out a research project on a lab. TCD does not have a Toxicology Department in itself, although several groups work in the field of pharmacology. Therefore, if you are interested in doing a purely toxicological project, I would not recommend TCD as your exchange university. However, I wanted to combine my toxicological background in a more biomedical and applied way. When looking for potential labs, I came across the three main research institutes affiliated to TCD: Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute (TBSI), located next to the main campus; Trinity Translational Medicine Institute (TTMI), located in the St James' Hospital campus; and Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience (TCIN), within the main campus. I directly ruled out the Neuroscience Institute, and got on with contacting PIs that could have something that suited me. A nanotoxicology group at TTMI offered me a spot to join them, but by advice of the previous ToxMaster student that had been placed to this lab, I rejected their invite. After a couple of interviews with potential supervisors, I ended up choosing the one that inspired most confidence; and I did the right thing.
I have no other but gratitude words for my Irish supervisor at TTMI. She was my biggest support from the beginning of the placement to the very end, not only professionally, but also personally. Starting from the fact that she helped me find accommodation in Dublin, to the many times that she dealt with administrative paperwork to fix and confirm my exchange. Her guidance in the cell culture lab was wonderful, and had so much patience making sure I would get all details correctly. She heard every burning (and not-that-burning) question, concern, doubt I had and always gave me extremely useful feedback on any matter. Even when her personal situation became a bit fragile, she never put me aside. And when things got complicated in the lab and deadlines approached, she handled setbacks with such a tolerance, organisation, and fineness. The relationship we had was very nonhierarchical; she talked to me almost as a friend and definitely as an equal. I was allowed to make changes, contributions, suggestions about the project at all times. Although she created the idea for this project, she involved me entirely and made me feel it my own!

When it comes to the differences between KI and the partner university, this broadly depends on the laboratory you work at. I have a few acquantainces that worked in the TBSI building instead, where the facilities seem to be more advanced and abundant. From my experience, labs at TTMI receive less funding and are, thus, more rudimentary. In addition to that, our lab was not even in the TTMI building, but in the Central Pathology Laboratory building, next to the hispotathology laboratories of the St James' Hospital. It was a rather small group with a pre-doc, a post-doc, and a couple of PhDs, and relatively low budget, but this was never a limitation to me. Here are other dissimilarities between the education and hands-on laboratory work at TCD and at KI: 
  • Despite laminar flow cabinets were older than the ones I have previously employed at KI, they were placed in a separate laboratory room that was only used for cell culture (to avoid any external contamination).
  • As mentioned, resources in our lab were a bit scarcer than what I have been used to at KI. For example, we had to share pipettes with other lab colleagues (each of us did not have our own). Yet, our group was perhaps not as big as others, and I cannot claim this to be representative for the whole TCD, since I know that some groups at TBSI received more funding and had newer facilities/technologies than we did. 
  • I was surprised there were no lab technicians in our group; everything related to the lab, waste management, placing orders, etc. was taken care by my supervisor (who is the assistant professor in the group). Again, I am not sure whether this is something particular to our group or a common thing at TCD. 
  • All in all, TCD students that I met (most were postgraduate in their final year of bachelor) have a wide theoretical knowledge of biomedicine, but lack quite a lot of practical experience and are quite unskilled in the lab. I was happy to have obtained proper hands on training before I started my Master's Thesis. 
  • Unlike in KI, TCD students are expected to do a lot of off-school hours; that is, they are expected to read papers and reflect upon them outside the official schedule. This is supposed to be part of their learning process. 
My lab colleague Niamh and I in the cell culture room.

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 4 at KI
Because I carried out my Master's Thesis at Trinity College, I did not take any courses during the period of my exchange. Therefore, I did not submit a Learning Agreement for a credit transfer. It was the professors of our own Toxicology Master's Programme who directly graded my overall performance by assessing the required documents I had been handing in throughout the semester (e.g., Project Idea, Project Plan, Introduction Draft, Thesis Report), my attendance to our monthly meetings, and presentation of my Master's Project at KI. 
Presentation of my Master's Thesis at KI.

Language and Culture

Irish English and Gaelic

One of the requirements to obtain the Erasmus+ Grant is to take the Online Linguistic Support language test corresponding to the official language in the destination country (English for Ireland). However, as part of an English speaking programme at KI, this was not mandatory in my case. Even though English is not my native language, it is our main language of instruction at the Global Master's in Toxicology and mean of communication in my everyday life in Sweden. Overall, I did not expect to encounter any language barriers in Dublin.

Let me clarify that Irish English could not be further from the English spoken in Stockholm. Influenced by the other co-official language in Ireland, the Gaelic, Irish people have created a whole new language of their own, with a range of different accents and dialects. It was definitely not hard to get used to it, but a few selection of words and expressions were a little confusing in the beginning. Yet, Irish people are extremely friendly and will not have any issues to repeat what they have said a thousand times if you need it. And by the end of my exchange, my English vocabulary had probably almost doubled in size; things like "What's the craic?", "Grand", "Lads", and "Wee" became common phrases for me!

On the contrary, Gaelic has nothing to do with English. It is a Celtic language with an incredibly difficult grammar, prononciation, and vocabulary. Even for a person like me that speaks Basque. Because I was very curious about how it sounded and how sentences are created, I registered for the free Irish lessons offered by TCD to staff and students (great initiative, by the way). I joined the Beginners+ (A1+) course because the Total Beginners (A1) class was fully booked and the level was too high for me. I attended one 50 minute-long lesson per week during eight weeks and although it was quite challenging to follow the lectures, it was fun and I enjoyed learning some Gaelic! Slán go góill!

Cultural differences

In general, Irish culture is really similar to my own culture, the Basque culture. Or at least, that is how I have always felt it myself. On one hand, Irish people are super friendly and will just start a conversation with you at any time, no matter if you are a complete stranger to them! They are lively and sociable, mostly when you meet them outdoors, in the street or in a pub. They love celebrating different events; any excuse is good to organise a gathering. 

On the other, they are also a bit "Scandinavian" in the sense that it takes a bit longer to establish closer bonds with them. While they can talk your ear off sometimes, they are considerably reserved about their private life at first. But once they trust you, you will receive an overload of love from them! And same as it happens in Sweden, potatoes are also a national treasure in Ireland! Several CLASHES compared to the Swedish culture may be:

  • Late is the new on time. Unlike the strictness of the Swedish clock, Irish people have the habit of turning up late everywhere. Honestly, considering the awful transport system they have, it does not surprise me. The Dublin Bus schedule is a mistery, the DART Train decides not to show up many times, and the Luas Tram is often cut due to construction work, being difficult to be punctual. Be ready to patiently wait!
  • Extreme cold and weather. Swedish winters are pretty cold and snowy, but the thermal sensation is way worse in Ireland. This is due to the high humidity and wind gusts, the typical features of the Irish winter and spring. I have never felt colder in my life than during my time in Dublin, so do yourself the favour of bringing with you the thickest coat you have. Besides, when it rains, it does so abundantly, but not as frequently as I expected. And you can easily experience four seasons in the same day.
  • Pubs are part of their culture. While Swedish people gather more often indoors, in their homes, Irish people prefer to hang out in pubs. Irish pubs are decorated in detail and create a warm and cosy environment for people to spend their time in. You will also hear live-music everywhere and some bars even have traditional riverdance shows. Of course, beer, particularly Guinness, is the highlight drink in these places!

Dinner at The Celt, always with Guinness. Even if you do not like beer, you will get used to the occasional pint of Guinness.

Leisure time and social activities

Socialising within university

As I mentioned before, TCD organises an Orientation Week at the beginning of each term, which allows students to meet each other, as well as to obtain an idea of how to get by in Dublin. Unfortunately, this past year the orientation was given online due to the pandemics. Nevertheless, Trinity College has a lot of different student SOCIETIES and SPORTS CLUBS that you can join depending on your interests. Just to recommend a few: 

  • Student societies: International Student Society (DUISS), Global Room (New2Dublin). Both of these organisations offer social events and activities such as pub crawls, movie screenings, information initiatives, weekend trips, game and karaoke nights, and MORE PUB CRAWLS. Because no matter the initial plan for the day, almost any activity in Ireland ends up with a pint of Guinness in a cosy pub. 
  • Sports clubs: Harriers&Athletics (DUHAC), Swimming&Waterpolo (DUSC), Gaelic Football. Although I cannot personally recommend any in particular (because I simply did not join any, but paid for the sports facility membership and went to the gym and swimming on my own, instead), these are the suggestions based on what I have heard. I had a friend in the athletics club who was really happy with the environment of the team, so if you like running this might be your choice. When I used to go swimming, I saw the swimming club train in the pool and I would have definitely loved to joined them had I had more time. Finally, if you are up for trying something new, Gaelic football is a traditionally Irish sport that can be fun to play!

TCD also has several Facebook and WhatsApp groups for incoming students to get in touch. I joined some, but to be honest, I received more spam than interesting information from them. An additional student initiative is the Erasmus Student Network (ESN). This is not bound to TCD exclusively, but exchange students in any of the universities in Dublin can be part of it. ESN Ireland did organise many weekend and day trips around the country. My friends and I went to Kerry via ESN, which was convenient because the itinerary was all planned, but the trip guides from ESN showed little engagement in the activities we had during that weekend, which was a bit disappointing. 

Socialising outside university

Because my lab was not located in the main TCD campus, I did not participate that much in the college student life. I met some people via the activities of the DUISS society, but my closest friends did not study at TCD and were, in fact, working or doing internships in companies. For meeting people outside college, I can strongly recommend the Facebook group Make Friends in Dublin. I know the name sounds a bit sketchy, but I promise - I found wonderful people through this mean. True, I met some others that were not that interesting to me, but it is a matter of trying until you find your group. A suggestion is to never meet people alone, but always form groups!

Once I found my gang in Dublin, something we did a lot was hiking. First, because it was cheap, and second, because Ireland offers so many different nature trails and wonders that we so wanted to discover. We obviously gathered in pubs afterwards, for a pint of Guinness and some good live music. In my first weeks I did some sightseeing by myself, and went on a "Free Tour" to learn more about the history of the city. And even though Ireland is not particularly known by its gastronomy, I did enjoy going for brunch from time to time as well!

A very special event you will probably live will be St Patrick's Day, the National Day of Ireland. I will not go into much detail about what to do during this day, but just wanted to highlight that is something you must live once in a lifetime!

  • Must visit in Dublin: The Spire (random huge pole in O'Connell Street), Trinity College Dublin (main campus), The Long Room (in the Old Library), and The Book of Kells, Temple Bar area (with a pit-stop in the authentic Temple Bar, where you will only enter once, because it is too touristy), Christ Church Cathedral and St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin Castle, Guinness Storehouse, and Dublin Docklands (the most modern part of the city). 
  • Hiking trails: Howth Cliff Walk (my absolute favourite, you can have fish and chips in the port of Howth afterwards), Ticknock Forest and Fairy Castle, Bray Head (you can do the typical Bray-Greystones Cliff Walk, from which you can see the DART railway, or go from above, high up the hills and enjoy a better view of Bray and Dublin City), Glendalough (in County Wicklow, another big highlight), Malahide (very flat but nice and long seaside walk from Malahide Castle all the way to Portmarnock). All of these reachable by public transport. 
  • Wonderful parks: Phoenix Park (if you are luckier than me, which is easy, you will see wild deers), St Stephen's Green (in the city centre, my mum told me once it used to be where all lovers went to when she was working as an au-pair in Dublin), The National Botanic Gardens of Ireland (best botanic garden and greenhouse I have ever seen), Malahide Castle and Gardens, St Anne's Park, and Killiney Hill Park (with outstanding views to the bay of Dublin and perfect spot to walk your dog). 
  • Brunch and restaurants: On my top list of brunch places we have Social Fabric Café (they have amazing Turkish Eggs, and the personnel is lovely), Urbanity (a bit overpriced, but the food is delicious), Borther Hubbard (to experience a Middle Eastern-inspired brunch), Lemon Jelly Café (their pancakes are supposed to be the best, but the service can be a bit slow when it is crowded), and Bread 41 (by TCD main campus). When it comes to restaurants, I would totally repeat Cornucopia (vegan restaurant where the menu of two small salads and one main dish is only 15€), SOUP 2 (if you are in the mood for some filling and warm ramen), Wagamama (for more Asian-style food), The Bleeding Horse (for the best fish and chips in town), and Sprezzatura (fresh Italian pasta). 
  • Pubs and clubs: The Old Storehouse (they have live Irish music and riverdance shows every weekend), The Celt (used to be the meeting point for my friends and I), The Bar with No Name, Bonobo (both more chill, hipster and modern pubs), and The Cobblestone (very traditional and old Irish pub).

Irish travel bucket list

Apart from getting to know Dublin and its surroundings very thoroughly, we also managed to find some time to discover other extra stunning locations in Ireland. We only checked the ones underlined so we have an excuse to come back! 
  • Nights out in the lively streets of Galway City
  • Surfing in the coast of Sligo and Donegal. 
  • Roadtrip through The Wild Atlantic Way. 
  • Crossing the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. 
  • Visiting the Giant's Causeway in Antrim. 
  • Hiking in the Wicklow Mountains
  • Seeing the Cliffs of Moher and Burren National Park
  • The lakes of Killarney and The Ring of Kerry
  • Visiting Newgrange in County Meath.
  • Touching Molly Malone's statue and returning to Dublin.
  • Going all over The Murals in Belfast
  • Kissing The Blarney Stone in Cork. 
  • Walking in The National Stud's Japanese Gardens in Kildare. 
  • Mandatory picture in the colourful Cobh. 

Hiking day in Glendalough, Wicklow Mountains.


My first exchange during my bachelor determined my choice of university for my master's programme, and that is how I ended up studying at KI. Academically speaking, I did decide on what pathway to follow, but apart from that, I gained a lot of personal growth. I had never been living on my own before, and having to deal with ordinary daily chores and boring paperwork made me become very independent and mature. My experience in Ireland has been quite different, since I already knew how to survive in the jungle and keep myself afloat. However, it has been an enlightening journey into self-discovery and professional development. Every single time abroad is unique, none of which is better or worse. Yet, at the end of your stay, you will just turn into an improved version of yourself.  
If there is anything in common among all placements, that is the fear of being outside of your comfort zone. Landing in a brand new country and starting all over again requires an effort. The key is to stay open-minded and accommodate to the new environment. For sure, it will not be exactly the same as what you are used to, it cannot be; it is a distinct country, another language, different people. During my initial weeks in Ireland, I tried my best to understand words like "grand", "lads", or "wee", to find out the quickest way to get from "Tallaght" to "James'" or "Abbey Street", to learn how to take care of high demand cute cell babies. But in the blink of an eye, all those concepts that sounded so odd for me in the beginning just became naturally familiar. Part of my new routine. 

In the process of adaptation, meeting people and keeping active were the things that helped me most. I had some contact with Irish people in our lab group, who were incredibly kind to me, but due to age differences, I never got the chance to establish a too close relationship with most of them. Nevertheless, I was very lucky with my supervisor, since I had the the loveliest and most caring mentor possible. I have A LOT to thank her, not only for her exceptional guidance throughout the project and putting up with an extensive paperwork, but also for her unconditional support and constant motivation. Similarly, I could not appreciate more the company of my lab colleague, who I shared my daily research routine with, as well as my flatmate, who despite having tons of workload, never stopped smiling and cooking dinners for me. Outside the lab, I created a quite international inner circle using several Facebook groups. Irregardless of our cultural differences and language barriers, those people became my family abroad and made me feel like at home. Among tears, hugs, and farewells, saying goodbye to them was devastating. 
Overall, I would strongly recommend anyone to take a shot at going on exchange. Throghout this time, I, myself, have evolved in ways I did not imagine I even could. I expanded both my professional technical skills and the way I handle everyday situations. I am now more resilient when facing adversity and solution-oriented in the presence of unforeseen circumstances. Most importantly, I have learnt how to balance my career and my free-time, necessary skill for a healthy lifestyle. I also got a job thanks to the detailed recommendation letter that my supervisor wrote for me! Even if you manage to achieve half of the things I mention, it will already be a big success. Very worst case-scenario, in a matter of five/six months you will be back into your safe space, at least having learnt that international experiences are not your thing. In my case, I can only be grateful with my past self for her wise choice of going abroad. And finally, express my biggest gratitude to KI, for turning the possibility of an exchange into a reality.   
On my last day in Dublin, the rainbow came out to say goodbye.