Migration for an education
2014-02-15 19:57:32 -

Overseas studies are booming, but what’s bringing so many foreign students to Ireland? Meredith Hicks meets some to find out

Ireland’s number of international students is on the rise as young people the world over are taking the chance to study abroad.

It’s not a new phenomenon for universities throughout Europe that have long participated in programmes between schools, but now more and more students are using them as a way to visit places they are interested in.
And with several main universities located in and around Dublin, the capital is fast becoming an attractive hub for overseas studies.

In September 2013, statistics released by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) showed that students from abroad in Ireland come mostly from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, China and Malaysia. But taken as a whole, Europe is still one of the most sizeable contributors to Ireland’s foreign student body.

Flo Hossey, from Brussels in Belgium, decided to come to Ireland for three months through the Erasmus Programme. Ireland is just one of a broad range of destinations across 33 different countries participating in the EU-wide programme, which involves over 4,000 higher institutions.

“I have already been in Seattle [in the US] for a year, so I felt that my English was good enough to go to an English-speaking country in Europe,” says the 20-year-old. “I’ve never been to Ireland and I thought [going through] the Erasmus Programme would be a good idea to come here.”

No problems, but adjustments
Like Hossey, many students find that going to Ireland will help them to improve their English. Natascha Mihm, 23, and Johannes Schlag, 26, both from Fulda in Germany, study International Management at the Dublin Business School, and say it was important to them to go to an English-speaking country.

“I didn’t want to go outside of Europe, because I knew I was going to miss my family and boyfriend,” says Mihm. “I thought Ireland would be an interesting choice, and the fact that it was cheaper than studying in England played a big role.”
When asked about the challenges and or differences between studying in Ireland and Germany, Schlag says that there are no real problems, rather adjustments to deal with.

“I noticed a difference in the school system here. I know exactly what my teachers expect from me back home, and they are more straightforward, whereas in Ireland, schoolwork is based much more on independent research.”

International students enjoy the social activities that Ireland offers, but adjusting to life in Ireland is harder for some, especially if they travel and live with people from their home universities.

“We are a group of people who go to the same school, so we do speak more German than we would if we were alone,” says Schlag. For Hossey, however, her biggest reason for coming to Ireland was not to work on improving English but for the programme that was being offered in Dublin.

‘Brain drain’ concerns
Meanwhile, as the Irish Government encourages students from far afield – in countries outside the EU like Brazil and India – to consider Ireland as a study destination, the HEA expects that some 50,000 Irish students will study throughout Europe by 2020 through such programmes as Erasmus. Despite these large figures, which may signify a ‘brain drain’ among Ireland’s younger generation, at least one student seems to be positive about the future for both Ireland and for himself.

A native of Chisinau in Moldova, 25-year-old Victor Belinschi is studying Business Management for his Master’s degree in Dublin. “I enjoy it. Dublin has become very multicultural, but everyone is accepting of each other,” he says. “The Irish are proud of their culture, but are friendly to people that are from different countries.

“Dublin has done a great job in terms of integration, and I don’t see very many problems in the future for students. ”
Forbes Magazine listed Ireland as the “best country for business”, as the economic downturn has made the country more attractive for foreign investment. Perhaps more students are likewise looking towards Ireland for all the social and scholastic opportunities that Irish universities encourage.

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