Settling in at UCD: Part I

UCD Exploration (2/9/13)

The day I moved into my apartment on campus, I woke up at 7:30 in the morning. I ran downstairs to have some Buttermilk and Ricotta Hotcakes at Bell & Pot. My fellow botanist and I had decided to wake up early to hitch a ride with our UCEAP coordinator to the University College Dublin (UCD) campus. We shipped out by 8:45am. We were a little concerned that we might arrive too early. However, it was a good thing we came at the time we did.

The Merville Residence, at least in my fellow botanist’s apartment. Top left: front of the house. Top right: the kitchen area in the living room. Bottom left: the desk area in the bedroom. Bottom right: the living room area in the kitchen.

Upon arrival at check-in at the Merville Residence, we left our luggage in the luggage storage tent. Then, we took our paperwork to the check-in tables. There was no ‘queue’ so we got it done with rather quickly. First, we took her suitcases and moved them into her residence in Merville. The Merville Residence still looks quite new, at least in House 20 where she is. The pictures on the website portrayed the residence quite accurately, minus the bright, happy lighting. The hallway was very spacious, as were the rooms and bathroom. The living area has living room couches and a coffee table, as well as a dining table with four chairs and a nice kitchen. The place looked fairly new, though it was obvious someone had lived in it previously, due to a few damages on the walls and floors. The weird part was learning that we didn’t have one refrigerator unit for the freezer and fridge. Instead, we have a mini-fridge unit and a mini-freezer unit and plenty of cupboard space. Also, the water boilers/kettles here look very different than back home. They look much more modern.

The Belgrove Residence, at least in my apartment. Top left: the front of the house. Top right: my bedroom. Bottom left: my closet space. Bottom right: my kitchen/living room.

After dropping off things at my fellow botanist’s apartment on the top floor, we went back to the luggage storage and picked up my things and moved them to my residence in Belgrove. The Belgrove Residence also looks as it does in the pictures, at least in House 22 where I reside. The place is definitely not as spacious as Merville. The hallway was much smaller, as were the rooms, toilets and living area. It was quite a disappointment. On the plus side, the apartment looked so nice, as if no one had ever moved into it and I was the first one ever. The kitchen and living area were rather cramped together with four giant, neon green lounge chairs and a coffee table, and a breakfast bar on the wall with four high chairs.

Both residences where we resided in the newer residences were fitted with an electronic card key system. We use our student IDs to scan in at the gate of the residences, at night, to scan into our house, and to scan into our rooms. It’s some pretty intense technology. Thus, when we have visitors, we must pick them up at the gate and drop them off at the gate. I think this is quite intense, and interesting.

After settling into our new apartments went on an adventure to open our bank accounts. Upon opening a bank account, we needed to print a proof of residence. We had no idea where to get it, nor gain access to a printer. So, we went to the International Student Centre where the front desk personnel was kind enough to allow us to use the printer. However, after printing, we grabbed a few pamphlets on the racks and it said to print the “Certificate of Attendance”. Thus, we asked where we could go to print and were lead to the Daedalus building where the IT office was. There we were redirected back into the building where we were previously so we could top-up our cards with some cash with which we could use to print on campus. After topping up our ID cards, we use the computers nearby to go online and print our documents. The best part: the document stays in an online queue to be printed for two hours, during which we could go to any printer in any building, scan our cards and print from there. AMAZING!

After our short adventure, we got to open our bank accounts at the Allied Irish Banks (AIB), which is located right at the entrance of campus. To open account was free for all students, one-year or one-semester students alike. We just had to wait a week or so before the account was officially open for money transfers and to get our bank cards in the mail. Thank goodness we got there when we did because we were among the first few people to get there. By the time we had completed the form to open our bank accounts, there was a long line in the lobby and things were getting crazy.

So, onward with our adventure, we walked down the main road of campus, which isn’t very long. First, we walked through the library tunnel. We found the bookstore, but there were only books, no school supplies. It was very confusing, as we have gift, books, and school supplies in one central location on campus. We proceeded to get lost and exit out the ‘wrong’ door in the bookstore and ended up in the Career Centre. At the Career Centre, we met the Deputy Director. She was very nice to us and helped us find our way out. I dared to inquire if and where I could find opportunities to work on campus. She told us to give her our e-mails and she would let us know if she would like us to work for her at the Career Centre. It was awesome. I hope I can work there part-time, but I guess we’ll see.

“A Journey of Discovery” by James Earley, bordering the brand new Science Centre.

Onward we went, down the main road of campus. We passed by this beautiful mural that was painted by James Earley called “A Journey of Discovery”. It is gorgeous and absolutely fantastic to have on the campus. As we progressed forward, we passed some benches that looks like asterisk signs. It was quite amusing. Soon afterwards, we hit the Student Centre. The Student Centre is gorgeous. Upon entry, I felt like I was walking into a fancy hotel. The ceilings at the entrance were shiny and reflective and there’s a large lounging area, as well as reception desks for students who might be lost. There’s a “floating” yellow box for the radio station, a hallway for club offices and rooms, a café, and a pharmacy. The café serves warm sandwiches, soups and ice cream, where we stopped to have a small lunch. The pharmacy was small, but it has all the basic necessities you’d want and/or need. The oddest part was seeing things by Durex under the “men’s health” section, rather than the “feminine needs” section, unlike back home. On another note, the pharmacy was pretty decently priced, not overpriced at all, unlike campus convenience stores at home.

After a short and quick lunch, we met up with my German companion and were reunited with a very upset colleague from California. She didn’t like her room because the Blackrock Residence was too far from campus, a ’30 minute walk’, and things looked old and not so good. Soon enough, after walking around some more, we arrived back at my apartment where we awaited the girl whom I was buying things from.

While we waited for her, I began to unpack my room. After she arrived and I paid her for the things, we began sorting out all the things she had given me. My German companion and fellow botanist were very helpful and offered to help. We also discovered there was an abundance of bed sheets. So, my fellow botanist and I split the bed sheets, as well as various other things, as there were just too many things for one person – especially hangers.

For dinner, I had my first homemade Irish meal with my German companion and the family she is to be staying with for the semester. The dinner party consisted of my German companion, the young man whose room she will be taking over, the hostess, her husband, and myself. She had prepared a delicious and simple salad – without iceberg lettuce, as most lettuces are in Ireland – with tomatoes on the side, as the husband does not like tomatoes, and some delicious avocados. This reminded me of my significant other, who introduced me to the deliciousness of salad and avocados. For the main entrée, the hostess had prepared a seafood rice dish with bits and pieces of fish, prawns and crab claws. It was absolutely scrumptious! For dessert, we had a store bought strawberry cheesecake. Again, the cheesecake here in Ireland is amazing, and so much more delicious than the cheesecake from home. Before departing for the night, we were offered coffee and tea while we sat and chatted. It was a lovely evening and a wonderful first, homemade Irish meal.

Before my departure, the husband walked me and my German companion to the bus stop, with the dog, and bid us farewell. The couple hoped to see me again. On the bus back, I met a student who also lived in Belgrove, but she lived in one of the older apartments. She still had a set of keys – the old fashioned skeleton keys – to get into her apartment and her room. I rested well that night.

The Grocery Expedition (3/9/13)

On the second day of living on campus, I woke up late and met my Scottish flatmate. She seems to be more of a party girl. I’m not sure I like her quite yet, though I do have to share a toilet with her. Anyways, I was on Facebook browsing around when a Malaysian student from our UCD International Students group messaged me. She asked me if I could walk around campus with her, so we did. I showed her the few things I had explored with my fellow botanist, and then some. We also stood in a line outside of the Student Centre and got some free things. Yay for free things! Then, we went to Centra, a little grocery shop attached to the Merville Residence. It was, again, surprisingly cheap for an on-campus store.

After going to Centra for some essentials, like toilet paper, we took a walk to the Tesco nearest to campus. It took us about 10-15 minutes. It was located in a mini-mall. It was a lovely place to go shopping for food. It was like walking into Ralphs or Albertsons all over again. However, the prices at Tesco were pretty interesting. Meat was sold in packages for €3-6, what a good price! Fresh herbs in packages sold for €1.50. Tuna sells for €1.50 per tiny can, instead of $0.75. All the fresh food was rather cheap while the processed things were more expensive!

Our lovely pasta dinner with…wine! ^.~

When we returned to campus, we met a girl who seemed to need help with her luggage. So, we helped her. While my Malaysian companion went to her room to drop off the things she had purchased at Tesco, I sat in the luggage storage tent, waiting for the girl to come back so we can help her move into her room. While I waited, I decided to get some tea. I discovered that the tea here in Ireland brew very strong for one little bag of tea. It was wonderful! Then, I realized that this would be perfect for making homemade milk tea! So I did, and it was delicious! After helping the girl out, we were going to go to tapas night at the International Student Lounge, but there was a line going up the stairs and out the door. For €5 and a small plate of food, we decided to not go. Instead, we headed back to Centra and got some supplies to make pasta for the night. It was a wonderful end to a second night in the apartment.

Things I Learned “today”

  • Some people think a 3.4 km (2 mile) walk is a long time, others don’t.
  • Things by Durex are under the “men’s health” section, rather than the “feminine needs” section.
  • Irish make good fish.
  • Tesco and Centra is where you go for food at UCD.
  • $400 in cash will not last you very long if you come a week before you can open your bank account.

Miscellaneous Pictures/Amusements of UCD

The asterisk-looking benches of the UCD campus.

The UCD Student Centre. Top left: the lounge area near the main entrance. Bottom left: the hallway and balcony with the floating yellow radio station room. Top right: a lounge area near the debate chamber. Middle right: the olympic-sized indoor swimming pool of UCD. Bottom right: the infamous debate chamber.

The giant lake in the middle of campus…and a swan.

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