Ireland has the second highest percentage of people with a third level degree in Europe. Whether it’s family tradition, student life or affordable fees in comparison to our counterparts, our third level system is highly popular. It’s also enticing a lot of international students to the country.
Ben Campbell-Rosbrook is originally from Syracuse in upstate New York but has come to Ireland to do his master’s in Trinity College. ‘I’m spending like half or a third of the fees to do my masters here, compared to America’, notes Ben. ‘I think a lot of students in America get the sense that the system is stacked against them. Irish students are quite lucky.’
Dublin.ie: How do you find living in Dublin so far?
Ben: I’ve been in Dublin since August. It’s a bigger city than I grew up in, and it’s a really young city. I find Irish people to be friendly, but cynical! It’s really refreshing coming from the states, where people are friendly, in a naive kind of way.
Dublin.ie: Why did you decide to do your master’s in Dublin rather than America?
Ben: All my friends were doing something different when they finished college, they all went somewhere else in life, and in the world. I went to San Diego and worked for the summer. I found myself hanging out with Irish J1 students, who are great craic. I saw an opportunity. I had just made all these new Irish friends, so I decided to move to Dublin, go to college and hang out with them for a bit.
Dublin.ie: Where did you go to college before your masters in Trinity?
Ben: I went to St. Michael’s college in upstate Vermont. It’s has 2,000 students, it’s really small. In the north east of the United States, you’ll find a lot of small liberal arts colleges, and elsewhere too. I did my undergraduate in economics, it was a bachelor of arts. Here, I’m doing a master’s of science in economics, so it’s a little bit more quantitative and really heavy, but it’s interesting.
Dublin.ie: What is the main difference between college here, and college in the US?
Ben: It’s structured very differently. There is a lot of focus on exams here. In a lot of courses, it seems that 60% to 80% of your marks are from exams. In the States it would be broken up a bit more, 30% would be an exam and the rest would be split between continual assessment, papers and attendance. In the states you are working consistently throughout the semester, but here, you seem to put a lot of work in at the end. It’s more about getting to know the material so you can pass the exam.
Dublin.ie: Does this mean Irish students doss all year and worry last minute?
Ben: My friends always joke ‘that’s the Irish way!’. But I think it means Irish students are really good at studying for the last couple of weeks. That’s been an adjustment for me. I’ve had to change my study habits to be more intense. My tendency would be to try and learn everything but you can’t, so you have to be smart and efficient about what you try to study.
Dublin.ie: Is there a difference in the cost of education here?
Ben: That’s the reason I told my parents I was coming here actually. It’s definitely more practical to study in Dublin. I’m spending like half or a third of the fees to do my masters here, compared to America. That includes flights, rent etc. Dublin is an expensive city, so that’s saying something! I know my sister was looking at master’s in America that would be like $60,000 to $80,000. Some cheaper ones might be like $40,000 a year in America, but compared to Ireland, that’s not cheap!
Dublin.ie: Do you find that in the US, a lot of students take out loans compared to Ireland?
Ben: Yes, I know that the average amount of student debt for someone graduating in my class in 2015 was between $29,000 and $31,000 – and that’s just the average. There are people above and below that. Student debt is considered normal, everyone takes it out. I’d say people are motivated by that. I wanted to do well in college because I took out a loan. At the same time, it has an effect where it makes you feel a bit like ‘why even bother?’. Knowing you will have so much debt after college makes some people apathetic and leads them to make alternative life choices. I think a lot of students in America get the sense that the system is stacked against them, so it can be disheartening for some people. Irish students are quite lucky!
Dublin.ie: What was your biggest fear before coming to Dublin?
Ben: I think my biggest fear was deciding to take out another loan. It felt like a big decision to take out another €16,000, and get another year of education under my belt. That was definitely intimidating. College was always expected from my family. Both my siblings are in college and both my parents are college educated. Doing the master’s thing on my own felt like a big step. The way my dad has always thought about graduate school is, you go find a job, and then your employer should pay. That’s how he did it. But it’s different times I suppose, and my life is different from his. So that was definitely the scariest thing.
Dublin.ie: What is your favourite thing to do in Dublin on a day off?
Ben: Maybe get a cup of coffee, wander around, and read somewhere. I just like sitting somewhere and watching passers-by and walking the streets of Dublin. It feels really old, and people have been here for a long time. There is definitely a writer’s vibe around Dublin. Think about all the writers and artists and influential thinkers who have come through here. It’s just nice to, I don’t know, kick around town!
Dublin.ie: Do you have any plans to stay in Dublin in the future?
Ben: I get a graduate visa after I finish the master’s, so I will stay for at least a year and see what comes of it, or if I get a job. I like living in Dublin, so I have no reason to leave. I think it’s one of those things, where the grass is always greener. I really dig it here, but people are always like, “why are you in Dublin if you’re from America? I’d die to go to New York”. For me, I think I’ll stay here while the grass is still greener.