Why Ireland?

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So in my last blog, The First Month of Studying Abroad, I talked a bit about why I decided to come to Ireland above any other choice. So I decided that this blog would be focused on a more in depth look at the decision and most of the factors that came into play when making it.

International vs Canadian Education

So one of the questions I got asked a lot was why I was looking at the international market for completing my degree vs doing so in Canada. One of the largest factors of this was actually the education system in Ontario itself. During my college career I became heavily involved in the Student Representative Council at St. Clair College. Being a student leader showed me how amazing the education system in Ontario was but also how flawed it was. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Canada but not everything about the country is prefect.

So in my opinion one of greater flaws in the system is transfer agreements. I’m mainly talking about transfers from any of the colleges to the universities. Most the transfer agreements allowed me to enter the third year of a four year degree program. Now there were some better fast-track programs but they weren't cheap. So staying in Canada would have meant two more years in school. When I graduated Business Admin Marketing at St. Clair, I would have been a college student for a total of five years. Three for Marketing and two years before which got me my diploma in Mechanical Engineering Technician - Industrial So I wasn’t looking forward to adding another two more years to the total.

In researching this, I started talking to consulting companies like KOM consulting who specializes in helping students find international schooling opportunities. Though KOM and other groups, I learnt that I could achieve the same level of schooling (Bachelor's of Business) in one year instead of two in Canada. This really changed my options and I started to focus on finding the right country and school to go to.

How did decided on Ireland?

With my newly discovered option of an international education, it was time to hit the books. I started to look at every option and tired to narrow my list of countries down. After week or two, I nailed it down to the top three countries: Britain, Scotland and Ireland. Around this same time, St. Clair College had a fair for international transfers, which had representatives from schools in Britain, Scotland and Ireland down to talk to us. I used this opportunity to ask a million questions and in doing so, I narrowed it down to one country, Ireland. It really can down to one simple thing, you did not need a student Visa to study in Ireland as a Canadian. I knew from talking with international students who came to Canada, that visa applications are extremely complicated and not always easy to obtain. So Ireland become the top contender on that point alone.

Ireland also has a rich culture, beautiful landscapes and is an english speaking country. These also played a huge role in the decision. The beauty of Ireland really preyed on my, at the time, new found passion for photography. I knew that if I came to Ireland that I would have an amazing time experiencing life in Ireland but also running around taking photos of the country.

Why IT Sligo?

The first question I got asked once I told anyone that I applied to IT Sligo was “Where is Sligo?”. Sligo is quite far from Dublin which is why I had a lot of people asking why go to IT Sligo when I could have gone to school in Dublin, Cork or Carlow. This choice came down to three main aspects, cost, connections and the staff. When I was looking into the schools, I started to reach out to some students I knew who came to Ireland the year before to study in the same program.

Sara, a graduate from the same program I took at St. Clair and friend, told me all about IT Sligo, the town and the area. Having Sara to help me better understand what school would be like in Ireland and IT Sligo really put the school at the top of my list. I started reading her blogs and asking a ton of questions about how she selected IT Sligo over the other schools. Sara was one of the big factors for why I selected IT Sligo.

Well tuition was mostly the same in all the Irish schools I was looking into, the cost of living in each area wasn’t. Sligo was far cheaper than Dublin and more remote. This meant I could have more money to travel and experience Ireland and Europe. Sligo is also far closer to Belfast and Northern Ireland which gives me quick access to the UK.

Lastly the staff at IT Sligo are amazing, especially the International Department. Patrick, the International Manager for IT Sligo, was always there to answer any questions and even came to St. Clair College to talk to us about coming to IT Sligo. Having someone who was so helpful and willing to work with us to get us to Ireland, really helped solidify my decision to come to IT Sligo. Patrick made sure we had everything lined up for us before we left Canada and made moving here a lot easier. Even since I’ve got here, Patrick and the staff at IT Sligo have been nothing but supportive for our education.

That’s basically it for why I picked Ireland and IT Sligo. I definitely don’t regret even for a second coming to school at IT Sligo in Sligo, Ireland.

Thanks for reading! I plan on writing more blogs in the future so say tuned for those. If you want to stay up to date on my photography, follow me on instagram @colintopliffe

The First Month of Studying Abroad

Path along the beach at Strand Hill

Path along the beach at Strand Hill

I’ve been wanting to sit down and write about my experience so far studying in Ireland for a while. School has kept me doing research and writing papers and my passion for photography has been keeping me fairly busy running around trying to get the perfect shots.

I decided to write this blog for two main reasons, the first being to write down my thoughts and experiences so I can reflect on them later and second for others who want to study abroad but want to understand more what the experience is like. I’m going to break this up into sections to make it easier for you to read and so to keep my thoughts in order.

Why Ireland??

So the big question I got asked a lot before the move here, why Ireland? Now I won’t go into detail in this post about it but I decided to come to Ireland for my education for a few reasons. The first would be Ireland itself. Ireland has a world class education system and a degree at any institution in Ireland would transfer back to Canada. Ireland is also a beautiful country, with mountains, green rolling fields and stunning cliffs. As a photographer, coming here for 9 months to study and live here meant I could make time to find those amazing hidden gems and capture them in my photography. Ireland is also so rich in culture, when i was doing research into coming to Ireland, it seemed that i could always find something to do on any weekend. It could be going to a food festival, going to Derry for Halloween or even just going to the pub for live music.

The second reason I choose to come to Ireland has to do with Canada. I really do love Canada but in Ontario, the transfer agreements between colleges and universities are terrible. I’m going to give you an example. If I stayed in Windsor, ON to get my Bachelors of Business at the University of Windsor it would have been two years instead of the nine months in Ireland. When i looked at the cost, it was actually going to be cheaper for me to come to Ireland than to go to the University of Windsor. Yes that is including cost of living.

Lastly, I choose to come to Ireland to experience something new. Windsor is a good city but up until I moved, I had live in Windsor for my entire life. I knew that if I was going to grow as a person, i needed to change things up. So i figured, what would be better then to move across the Atlantic Ocean. At the very least, i wanted to learn more about who I was and what I was looking for in life.

The First Week

The first week was very interesting and I ended up spending most of it just trying to figure things out. One of the first things I noticed when I got here was just how friendly and social everyone is. Now I come from Canada, a county literally known for having nice people, but here it was different. When I first got here, we missed the bus going from the airport to Sligo by 5 minutes, which meant we had to wait 2.5 hours for the next one. We ended up finding a place to sit down for a bit and I did what any reasonable beer enthusiast would do, go find a bar. Lucky for me there was one right beside us, so I sat down and ordered a Guinness. I was joined by a fellow named Deacon who began to talk to me and welcome me to the country. We exchanged contact information and he told me about this career in the film industry. Deacon was such as nice guy and really made the fact I missed the bus not as bad. This wasn’t a one off event either, it’s happened several times. In fact we meet a lovely lady named Frankie well we waited for the bus to Sligo from the airport and she actually drove us to our house when we got into Sligo.

It took a bit to get used to how everything works in Ireland. They have different laws, social norms and ways of doing things. The culture shock was there but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Most of the Canadians that came here started talking to each other and sharing tips on what they and learnt about the city and culture. So I really got the grasp of what is normal and what is not rather fast. I tried to spend as much time in the city as I could for the first week to really get a grasp of the area, so if I needed something, I had a good idea where to get it.

The weather…. Back in Canada, we would have all four seasons over a year. In Ireland, they get all four seasons in a day. It’s the hardest thing to get used to. It rains a lot here but not like it does back home in Canada. In Sligo, it’s more like a mist or spitting. Now is does pour somethings but it’s really not that bad. Most people here don’t have or use rain coats, they just wear whatever.. You would think they would wear more water resistant clothes but they don’t seem to care that much. There is however a lack of sun here. Most days it’s very cloudy but when the sun does come out, it’s absolutely gorgeous .

Overall the first week went really well and I met a ton of amazing people which made everything so much easier.

Mental Health

For anyone that knows me, you probably knew this was going to come up at some point. My biggest fear coming to Ireland was my mental health for sure. It worried me that my support system was an ocean away from me. The first few days were really weird. Getting to know my roommates and just wrapping my head around the fact that I could just run over to my friends house, or that I would have to figure out people would be free back home if I wanted to call someone with the time difference. I thought that I would struggle with my mental health for the first few weeks but honestly it wasn’t that bad. I met so many great people and I always was running around or working on something so it never really became an issue.

Even though my friends were so far away, they were still there for me. I had a bunch of people checking up on me and asking how everything was. I felt like I told the same stories a million times but it was nice to have them care and it helped me express my thoughts and feelings. Having a support system is definitely important to studying abroad because they are a lot of new things being thrown at you and it can get emotionally overwhelming.

IT Sligo and Sligo (The Town)

IT Sligo so far has proved to be an amazing school to study at. When Sarah, a Canadian friend who took the same course last year at IT Sligo, told me about how great the school was I only partly believed her. When we got to the school, all the teachers were super supportive and glad to have us in their lectures. They made sure to note who we were and our names. Some of our teachers even pulled all the Canadian’s aside and told us that if we needed any extra help with understand Irish slang and culture they would help us. It was really great to see just how welcoming the staff at IT Sligo are with international students. In fact the whole town has been like this.

Sligo is a really unique town. It’s a good size and has a busy core with lots of places to visit and explore. The one thing that Sligo isn’t lacking in is pubs. I would argue that there just as many pubs in Sligo as there are Tim Horton’s in Windsor. I sure any Canadian reading this would be pretty amazed by that. I know I sure was. There also is a good section of cafes and restaurants. They even have a Little Italy in the town core. Sligo has a lot of little towns around it which are amazing to visit. So far Strand Hill is my favourite mainly because of it’s size and how beautiful the views are from there!

So far I’ve been on some wild adventures around the area. The IT Sligo international office took a 150 of the international students up Knocknarea Mountain. It was an amazing trip and the views were absolutely stunning. I also have been hiking round trying to find great places for photography. Having my Mavic Air (Drone) has been a blast. The first week weeks were very windy so i didn’t get much flight time int but lately I’ve been flying it a lot. You can check out the rest of this website to see the photos I took with it. I also went on a 50km hike around a lake in the area called Lough Gill with another Canadian named Keith. That was a ton of fun and the views were beautiful. Although I don’t think my legs have even been in so much pain.

That’s it though. Thanks for reading! I plan on writing more blogs in the future so say tuned for those. If you want to stay up to date on my photography, follow me on instagram @colintopliffe