Thursday 22 August 2019

'You might have 25 people in the class and 25 different nationalities, it was fascinating'

Aisling O'Connell UCD

‘I loved studying history but I was fascinated to study events in real time,’ says Aisling O’Connell
‘I loved studying history but I was fascinated to study events in real time,’ says Aisling O’Connell

Aisling O'Connell was thinking about going on an Erasmus long before she came to UCD. "I loved the idea of moving country, of getting to experience a new culture," she says.

Having studied German while at Notre Dame secondary school, Churchtown, Dublin, an Erasmus stint in France might seem an unusual choice, but in May 2018 Aisling moved to Paris to study at Sciences PO, a university specialising in humanities and social sciences.

"I went to UCD to study Politics, History, and Irish Studies and transferred to a single major in Politics and International Relations in second year," says Aisling. "I loved studying history but I was fascinated to study events in real time."

In Paris she took modules in topics such as guerrilla warfare, violence in Chile, and gender in the Middle East and North Africa. "You might have 25 people in the class and 25 nationalities. It was fascinating."

Sciences PO is bilingual so Aisling was able to take her modules in English, although working part-time as a nanny helped to improve her French.

At first Aisling struggled to find accommodation within budget, but then found a place to live in the Irish Cultural Centre. "They take in Irish students. The centre is a gorgeous old seminary with a pretty chapel used by Irish people living in Paris."

She recommends an Erasmus year. "It sounds a cliché but you gain a more global perspective. You do feel more European."

Aisling (21) came to UCD through DARE (Disability Access Route to Education) and volunteers with the UCD Access and Lifelong Learning office, orientating students entering through Access pathways.

In her upcoming, final year, Aisling will be kept busy as secretary of the UCD Politics and International Relations Society. A cellist, she will also be performing with the UCD Symphony Orchestra - her elective module.

"Studying politics doesn't mean you want to be a politician. You can do anything after. You learn to argue, to make your opinions heard, and to listen to the opinions of others. Employers really value that. You become open-minded," says Aisling.

Irish Independent

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