Learning English at University College Cork, Ireland

Life inside and outside the language classroom

What is life like for a Japanese student learning English at UCC?

Kumiko, from Japan who was here studying English with us in April, May and June

Hi Kumiko, Thanks for taking the time to do this interview with me. I really appreciate it.

Brendan: First of all, can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? What are you studying?

Kumiko: I’m from Nagasaki, japan and study in Tokyo. My major is Hindi and I’m studying especially about India.

Brendan: Why did you choose to come to take an English language course at UCC Language Centre? How did you hear about our Language Centre?

Kumiko: the support centre in my university suggested me UCC, because I prefer nature to city, and I wanted to study in a place where there are less Japanese. And Ireland is located near Spain(I mean, in Europe), where I’d stayed before going to Cork.

Brendan: Before coming to Ireland, what did you know about our country?

Kumiko: I didn’t know anything special, I just searched how the weather in Ireland was.

Brendan: When you arrived what was the biggest surprise for you?

Kumiko: –kindness and cheerfulness of Cork citizens (I had some fear of rational distinction in Europe). And the weather.

Brendan: Did you stay with an Irish family or in student accommodation?

Kumiko: With an Irish family.

Brendan: Is Cork a safe place for Japanese students?

Kumiko: yes!! Safer (and calmer) than Tokyo, can feel relaxed like in Nagasaki.

Brendan: Are Cork people friendly?

Kumiko: definitely yes.

Brendan: What were your classes and teachers like?

Kumiko: the classes were sometimes a bit hard to keep up for me since it was advanced one, but I’m satisfied with them. Teachers gave a lot of opportunities us to speak and ask any questions.

Brendan: What was the daily routine for you?

Kumiko: 6:00 wake up around—have tea—7:00 breakfast –8:30 leave home by car—13:00 class ends—lunch with my friends—library/city centre/or do something—18:00 dinner at home—have a chat with host mother/do homework/take a shower/watch TV –22:30 sleep     **(wed) extra programme, (thu) Zumba class in mardyk

Brendan: Where did your classmates come from?

Kumiko: Saudi arabia, Kazakhstan, korea, china, brasil, Basque, Kuwait, japan


Kumiko and her friends

Brendan: Did you make friends with your classmates?

Kumiko: I feel proud of having such admirable friends.

Brendan: Do you feel more confident in using English now?

Kumiko: I think so.

Brendan: While you were in Ireland, did you get to visit different parts of Ireland?

Kumiko: yes.

Brendan: What was the best place for you?

Kumiko: cliffs of moher and fitzgerald park

Brendan: If one of your Japanese friends was coming to UCC Language Centre, what advice would you give them?

Kumiko: bring an umbrella, visit cliffs of moher, have fun

Brendan: What did you miss about Japan when you were in Cork?

Kumiko: I didn’t miss in fact but if I say something, Japanese rice, grilled fish and natto.

Brendan: What do you miss about Cork, now that you are back in Japan?

Kumiko: my friends.

Brendan: What about the cost of the course? Was it reasonable?

Kumiko: it was affordable as students from Tokyo University of Foreign Studies get 20% discount of prices.

Brendan: I hope you will come back to Cork. Will you?

Kumiko: if I could have a chanceJJ

Brendan: Thank you, Kumiko.


Where can I find information about Cork?

Here are some useful links for students who are coming to our Summer School this year. If you have any other useful links, post them in the comments below.


And the winner is…

Congratulations to Anne-Sophie Sandor who is this year’s winner of our Photography Competition

Anne-Sophie Sandor’s photograph of the beautiful sunset in Connemara, in the west of Ireland, caught the attention of all the judges. It combines the beauty of the Irish landscape and the concept of progression and moving forward in life. Technically, the photograph is very composed and the control of light and subject is well-controlled. Judges agreed that the image symbolised a sense of discovery and travel which are two elements of our Summer School. We like to think that when you come to Cork to improve your English that it is also a time for you to discover new friends, new ideas and new things about yourself.

We congratulate Anne-Sophie on capturing this beautiful scene and being this year’s winner. Well done, Sophie! Later today, we will post a selection of the best of the other images which were entered. Again, we would like to thank everyone who entered this year’s competition. The standard was really high. Unfortunately, there can only be one winner, but congratulations to all for entering. We look forward to you coming to Cork this summer and creating new memories and images of your time here in Ireland with us.

Anne-Sophie S - Connemara 3

And in 2nd Place – Adventure in Ireland

We know that when you choose to come to Cork to improve your English it is not the classes or the homework or English grammar that gets you excited. No, it is the opportunity to discover Cork and Ireland, the opportunity to make new friends and explore the wonderful countryside. Cork is Ireland’s greatest county. It has the best beaches, mountains, lakes, forests and caves all within a short distance of the city. When students come to our University Language Centre for the Summer School they can experience the best that Ireland has to offer when we go on our excursions and day trips.

The photograph we chose in second place captures the spirit of adventure and exploration that you can experience when you come to learn English in Cork. In this photograph, Luca Gentile combines that adventurous feeling with the natural beauty of Ireland. We just hope that the photographer he took the photo of, did not fall into the lake!

Congratulations Luca! You have won second place. 


Photography Competition

In this year’s competition we had entries from all over the world. The standard was really high and it was a difficult time for the judges to arrive at a decision. We would like to thank all those who entered the competition.

Last summer in Ireland was one of the most beautiful we have had for years with glorious sunshine for weeks. Being a small island we are surrounded by water and that means lots of beaches. In Ireland, we have some of the very best beaches in the world. This photograph from Valentina Casadei was taken in Kerry, not too far from Cork. It has beautiful colour and shows the natural beauty of Irish beaches. Congratulations, Valentina, you have won our third prize.

So, when you are coming to Cork, don’t forget to bring your swimming costume!

Valentina Casadei

Valentina Casadei

“I feel I really accomplished something.” Barry Griffin talks about his CELTA experience


Barry Griffin and some of his students in Abu Dhabi Police College

“I feel I really accomplished something. The journey was rough, but the rewards were worth it.

Barry Griffin from Kerry took the four-week intensive CELTA course in July and August in 2013. You can read about Barry’s experience on the course and how it has helped him since in this interview Barry kindly did with me. Thanks for taking the time to do this interview Barry.

First of all, can you give us a little background about yourself and your work as a TEFL teacher?

I moved to Qatar in 2011. There I taught multi-cultural class groups, young learners and young adults EFL and ESP in reading, writing and listening. From there I moved to Abu Dhabi to teach English as a second language and also to teach Business English specializing in E.S.P. in a secondary school. I then got a position with the Higher Colleges of Technology where I’m currently teaching. I have gained experience, teaching beginners to IELTS. I’m also teaching in the Police College where I prepare and deliver EFL classes in reading, writing, listening and speaking.

What led you to take the CELTA course?

I wanted an international qualification in teaching, and having a CELTA provides me with a great employment opportunity. I obtained a position in the Higher Colleges of Technology in Abu Dhabi. I also needed to sharpen my teaching practice and gain extensive knowledge in the range of practical skills needed for teaching English. Another reason for doing the course is that I would eventually like to move back to Ireland and CELTA provides me with that employment opportunity to teach at home. The fact that it is an internationally recognized course will open many doors for me. It will prove beneficial in the future. While employment was the real reason for doing the course, it will also provide me with an opportunity to travel and experience new cultures.

How would you describe the four-week intensive course? Is it as demanding as people say?

Yes, it is demanding but you always have the support of your tutors and fellow trainees to get you through it. It involves a lot of preparation, on course reading and research, assignments, lesson preparation and record keeping. It can be exhausting and challenging, but at the same time interesting and invigorating. It is extremely intense and demands your full concentration. Your teaching is constantly assessed which can be daunting, but it is definitely worthwhile. There are small group feedback sessions after the lesson with written feedback given by your tutor. Your tutor will help you reflect on the positives and negatives of your lesson, so that you are aware of what to focus on in order to improve. I found it to be a very pleasant learning environment. The students I taught were adults and they fully engaged in the lessons. It was very easy to build rapport with them as they were very keen to learn English. Looking back I must admit I’m relieved to have completed the course. I feel I really accomplished something. The journey was rough, but the rewards were worth it.

What advice would you give someone thinking of taking four-week intensive CELTA?

Do your pre-course task. Do not ignore it. To be honest, I only briefly read through it and this put me on the back foot straight away and I was playing catch up from the start. One of my grammar classes suffered as a result of this. Look at the suggested reading material from the tutors, internet sites and the language centre links on the home page. This is very important.

Listen to teacher feedback from your tutor in order to make sure you’re making progression. You will have regular one to one meetings with them, so make sure you ask any questions on areas you are having problems with. In order to get a good grade you will need to implement your new knowledge. This is an important part of the course. Set up a dropbox account with your fellow trainees so that you can upload and share lesson plans and ideas. This will prove to be beneficial and I would strongly recommend it.

In the interview with my tutor, I was told to put my personal life aside for 4 weeks in order to concentrate fully on the course. Believe me, it is true! The course is extremely intense. I would encourage you to stay on top of assignments, use your weekends wisely and try to get as much sleep as possible. Be sure to plan your lessons well and have an idea of what you’re going to do in your lessons before tackling the plan. I would also print off or photocopy any material you need for your lesson the previous day. Use YouTube clips, pictures for vocabulary, magazine articles etc in your lessons. Varying your lessons and adapting to the needs of your students can be beneficial.

I hope I’m not painting a daunting picture of the course. It is definitely worth your time and effort. It will open many doors to you in the future. It did for me so it can for you.

How has the course benefitted you since doing it?

CELTA has benefitted me in many ways. Most importantly, it has boosted my confidence, and has given me a positive attitude towards teaching. It has given me a great hands-on, practical experience that I use in my classes now. The course has helped me in achieving my aims and taught me how to structure my classes in a lively and interesting manner. In particular, it helped me get away from a teacher-centered approach and more towards a student-centered approach. It has taught me different methods of conveying the same message through the use of songs, magazines and physical tactile games as opposed to using IT all the time. The pace of my lessons has improved. It has helped me plan my lessons realistically and given me different strategies to implement them. CELTA has helped me to monitor my students more effectively, helped me in establishing a better rapport, decentralize and to vary my presentation in the classroom. It taught me how to adapt to the needs of students and keep classes simple in order to get my point across. Going into the classroom with little delivery as opposed to a lot thus avoiding work overload.

What are your future plans in EFL? Have you thought about doing the DELTA?

I’m considering doing an MA in linguistics or perhaps a DELTA. The CELTA has opened up many doors for me. I have a taste for the TEFL world now as I believe there are a lot of job opportunities available in this area. I’m very passionate about teaching, seeing my students progress is wonderful, so furthering my studies and gaining a more in depth knowledge of teaching is my goal. I want to stay current now that I am teaching English as a full time job.

Another future plan of mine, is that I would like to specialize in English for Business (ESP) paying particular attention to Marketing or Entrepreneurship. I have a degree and an MA in Business. I believe this is an area that is going to expand in the future.

Barry, thanks again for doing this. I am sure your experience will inspire others to do a CELTA course and with the valuable tips you provided that they will be well-prepared for its demands. Best of luck with everything, Barry. Thanks again.

Our four-week summer intensive CELTA courses run from 16th June (deadline for applications – May 1) – 11th July and 14th July – 8th August (deadline for applications – June 1) All details available here.

The experience in the Language Centre last semester was amazing


This is from Olívia Viana, a Brazilian student I had the pleasure of teaching last term. Thanks for this Olivia!

Originally posted on UCC International Students:


By Olívia Viana

(Olívia is from Brasil and spent four months in the UCC Language Centre before transferring to UCC academic classes in January 2014)

Almost five months have gone by since I arrived in Cork and my classes at the UCC Language Centre started. Although the term “saudade” – a Portuguese word that means something similar to the feeling of “missing somebody or something” or “wistful” comes to mind, the feeling of happiness when I am in this city and discovering different places and people is increasing.

The experience in the Language Centre last semester was amazing. I met special people and really nice and helpful teachers. I think the tips that we were given in class like suggestions about where we could find interesting things in English were really important. We spent some afternoons reading articles, books, and listening to “Ted Talks” for class, these were essential…

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Two giants of online learning discuss the future of education


This poses so many questions.

Originally posted on TED Blog:


Scratch the surface of online education, and you’re destined to run into the names of two men. The first, Salman Khan, never intended to be an education icon. Instead, he simply watched with increased interest as videos he had uploaded to YouTube to help his cousin learn math were seized upon by a world apparently eager to learn via his thoughts on the subject. By making his sideline into the non-profit Khan Academy, which now offers more than 5,000 free online lessons on an array of topics, Khan has since become a central figure in the “what should we do about education?” debate.

He also inspired the second key figure. Sebastian Thrun was a computer scientist who helped build Google’s driverless car before seeing Salman Khan’s TED2011 presentation and deciding, pfft, autonomous driving was no challenge at all. Taking inspiration from Khan’s model, he resolved to do his part…

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Another great TED talk

With MOOCs (what is a Mooc?) becoming more and more prevalent and learning becoming more and more global, will English language become even more important as a language of education? I think so.

Here is a great talk from Anant Agarwal on ‘why massive open online courses (still) matter’.


What’s Stirring? 2014


This makes for interesting reading and certainly ‘sets minds wondering and wandering.’

Originally posted on Stirring Learning:



More connected /more mobile.
Things are changing fast in the UK:

  • 83% of  households now have an internet connection
  • 73% of adults go online at least once a day
  • Over 50% of adults mobiles to go online.

Isn’t it about time our planning for top quality learning opportunities for adults caught up with the real world?

Of course we need to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to benefit from the digital world and the Go On campaign reminds us that  ‘1 in 5 adults in the UK don’t have Basic Online Skills’.  However, our biggest challenge now has to be to offer the skills and knowledge that enable people to take control of their online lives and online learning. Read on to How do we feel about the Internet?  for thoughts on the next real challenge for providers of adult learning.

As 4G mobile connectivity rolls…

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