Learning English at University College Cork, Ireland

Life inside and outside the language classroom

Teachers are enthusiastic to teach their students and enjoy spending their time with them

What is life like for a South Korean in Cork?

Time to meet one of our students from South Korea. Younni!

Younni on the far right with Hamza, Adriana and Vincent

 

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

Sure~ I’m Yoonsik-Kim from South Korea and studying International studies especially in International trade and Chinese studies.

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?

I was supposed to study in Dublin at first because I didn’t know many things of Ireland at that moment. However I changed my mind, as soon as I saw several fabulous pictures of the UCC campus. I Felt like UCC campus would make me keep studying hard even if I didn’t like it.

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

As you know, country of the Guinness, Jameson and St.Patrick’s day! yaaas!

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

Blue sky and tons of stars, the sun sets over 10 in Summer

Also everything closes at 6. 

Brendan: Well, the main stores in the city centre close at 6 most days, but you will find a lot of convenience stores open late.

Brendan: Is Irish weather as bad as people say it is?

Actually, I liked Irish weather ,since it doesn’t have extreme changes. I know You might think I’m a bit crazy while reading this.

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

I got my own single room just beside the Lough. My landlord was an American and he used to teach at UCC. He was such a well educated person. I always admired his deep knowledge. There were 6 more International people  besides two of us in our house. All of them were so kind, easy going and talkative. I never got any troubles with my house mates while I lived there. I miss all of them. They are the best flat-mates ever of my life.

Brendan: Is Cork a safe place for Korean students?

Yes it is.. But one shouldn’t expect it is as safe as Korea. Ireland is a safe country, however if one comes here with having a Korean safety standards, perhaps one may get into trouble. I Wouldn’t suggest going out too late since you are a foreigner in this country.

Brendan: It is not all about study. How did you enjoy the nightlife in Cork?

Haha as I was a diligent student of  the UCC. I rarely know many things about nightlife in Cork. Brendan, I guess you’ve got a wrong person lololol But as long as I know, there are a few great night-clubs and bars in Cork to enjoy night out. I’ve been to Secret garden and Voodooroom a few times. These two are the biggest clubs in Cork. Bar and club are the best place to make Irish friends definitely but Ed Sheeran prefers a bar.

Brendan: Are Cork people friendly?

Of course, they are super friendly particularly when they were drunk.

Brendan: People say Irish people and Koreans are alike; would you agree?

I think they are absolutely different. The only thing we are similar is drinking a lot and having a similar colonial history. However, if you lads think these two things are fair enough to define we are alike, then we are similar. But I don’t really think we are alike haha.

Brendan: What were your classes and teachers like?

I’d studied at ucc for 10 months including 2 months holidays. I was in B2 class at first. After finishing the B2 course, I applied for 2 months holidays to travel around other European countries. When I came back to Cork, I was in IELTS preparation course to know what the IELTS is roughly. Next term, I got lifted to C1 class finally.

All teachers I met at UCC were so lovely!!! They are enthusiastic to teach their students and enjoy spending their time with them. They are always so professional and devoted.

Brendan: Tell us about your daily routine for you?

I can’t remember all of my life in Ireland as I left Ireland more than two months ago, but on Monday to Friday from 9 to 1, I was in class (no dodging), after that I went to the gym as much as I can idealistically more than 4 times a week. I also used to learn Salsa every Thursday. On every Tuesday I was in UCC Korean Society to introduce Korean culture to other students, but to be honest I rather learn my culture such as K-pop, or K-Drama from K-soc students. It was a bit embarrassing. Every Monday I was in UCC trad music Society to play Irish tune with my fiddle. Friday went night out for “studying purpose” Every Saturday I did some volunteering work to make our Cork better than before with Reimagine Cork. by the way They changed their name to “mad about Cork”. 

Brendan: Where did your classmates come from?

From France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, China and Japan. I never expected I could meet such various people having different nationality and cultural background at the same time. I’ve got not only language, but also culture.

Brendan: Did you make friends with your classmates?

Yes I did, I still remember everything clearly that I did with Hams, Vincent, Adriana in Ireland.  And I really appreciate to Hams for introducing Jesse to me. I can’t imagine my life in Ireland without these lads.  

Brendan: Ya, they are great people!

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

Of course, I already have several Foreigner friends in Korea!! Most of them are exchange students or English teachers. I definitely have  much more confidence in speaking English than before. But I’m still bad at grammar or natural expression, hope they not to feel any awkwardness to my language.

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

I’ve been to Dublin, Dingle, Killarney and Kilkenny. I haven’t been to cliffs of moher and Galway yet. I’ll be back to see them and meet a galway girl later.

Brendan: What was the best place for you?

The Alchemy, Lough park, UCC, Mardyke, Internet cafe

Brendan: You also travelled to different parts of Europe; what was the best place for you and why?

Barcelona! The weather was really nice when I was in there. And even if I spent 4 days just only in Barcelona, it wasn’t enough to feel the atmosphere of the city fully. Lovely weather, nice beach, fancy building, cheap drinks, tanned women.

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

Study grammar in use before studying in Ireland. it helps you a lot. And I didn’t watch NAVER, and Kakao haha.

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

Nothing. Haha I’m missing Ireland now.

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

Friends , Easy going life in Ireland.

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

Compared to other language school in Ireland, it’s slightly expensive but I think it deserves to pay more as it has amazing facilities, like the free leisure centre and all the things in the university. 

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

Ohhh I will definitely, it’s become a my second hometown.

Brendan: Finish this sentence: The best thing about UCC Language Centre is…

Atmosphere!!! As you know UCC Language Centre is in the UCC main campus. Concerning facility, socialising and scholar stuffs UCC Language Centre gives you more than just language skill. It’s up to you how you can take an advantages of being a UCC Language Centre student.

Brendan: Thank you, Yuonni. It was great having you in the Language Centre. We hope you come back. 

If you wish to come and study English at our Language Centre, you can find all details here.

And the winners are

Another great competition comes to a close as we announce the winning entries in this year’s Photo and Video Competition.

This year we ran it on Instagram and received hundreds of entries. The judges had a difficult job to narrow down the three winning shots. I do not envy them!

The photograph they chose in third place was from Francesco Borginhz who presented an alternative view of Cork city and the River Lee at night. They liked the good balance and blend between the river as buildings.

Francesco Broginhz

Coming in second place was this beautiful photograph from Valeri Ouberti. He created a very nice picture which captures a sunny day out at the seaside during the summer.

Valeri Ouberti

And on to our winner for this year: Stephane Mendes. The judges felt it best fit the brief of travel and learning. They liked the way she captured the signposts and the scenery, suggesting exploring and discovering. It’s also an alternative to any pics you see of the sea, cliffs, rivers and so on.

Stephane Mendes

A very big congratulations to all our winners, especially Stephane, the overall winner. Big thanks to all who entered our competition, and of course we cannot forget our two judges.

Here’s looking forward to Summer School, 2017 which starts on June 26th. All details are here. Follow us on Instagram.

I enjoyed every moment in class, in UCC, in Cork and in Ireland

Being an English language teacher here at the UCC Language Centre means you get to meet people from all over the world and the learning opportunities for a teacher are so great. A recent student of ours, María Teresa Linares, was a wonderful example of this. Let’s find out more about her here.

María Teresa Linares

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

I am a German translator working on a freelance basis. I am from Argentina and live in a town near Córdoba, a city in the middle of the country.

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?

There were many reasons for having chosen Cork and UCC Language Centre:

First of all, it had to be a university, that was the only condition I set to myself. Bearing this in mind, I began my research on Internet, I read information about different Irish universities on their websites and comments written by former students as well. I compared offers and prices,  talked to Irish friends here in Córdoba and listened to their advice and opinions. Everybody agreed that UCC was the best option.

Furthermore, what was relevant for my decision for Cork and UCC was the fact that I am of Irish descent. My maternal family was originally from Bere Island, Co.  Cork. So when I decided to take a year off and to apply for an English course, I couldn’t imagine another place than Ireland.

On the other hand and after gathering information about educational institutions, I realized that it would be easier to find an accommodation in Cork than in Dublin, for instance. That was a very important plus point.

An additional criteria I considered too was the weather: an Irish friend living in Córdoba recommended Cork because in his opinion the weather is milder in Cork than in the Atlantic coast or in Dublin. And he was right.

Our beautiful campus

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

I had been in Ireland many times in the past, but for short holidays and not longer than 2-3 weeks each time. Regarding to Irish History and Irish topical issues, I could say that I was –to some extent– familiar with because I listened to the radio and read the newspapers when I was on holidays in Ireland. Besides, there is a programme I love and I have been listening perhaps 7 years now, named “The History Show”. It is, as its name suggests, it is a programme about Irish History.  However, I must admit that I learned much more about Ireland and its people during the time I was living in Cork.

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

Actually, there were many pleasant surprises, but the biggest one were the sessions, what was something totally new for me, although I knew the importance Irish people attach to music. I had heard about the sessions from musicians in Córdoba, but I thought they were only for musicians, not for everyone interesting in listening to music.

Other big surprise was the wide range of cultural events. International Film festivals, famous Irish actors performing great plays at the different theatres in Cork, interesting exhibitions at the Crawford Gallery, etc.

Brendan: Is Irish weather as bad as people say it is?

Not at all.  In general, the weather is really mild, it rains but not in a way that stops you from your daily life.

What I found very nice were the long days in summer and the short days in winter.

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

During the Summer School I was living in a student accommodation. However, I had to move because it was only for the summer and I could rent a room in a house where the other tenants were Russians.

Brendan: Is Cork a safe place for students?

Cork is, in my opinion, a very safe city. I lived 35 minutes walk from UCC, I had to cross a park and a bridge to reach to the other side of the river where I was living. I went to the cinema or to the theatre and came back home by bus and it was usually the last bus of the day. I have never ever had any problem or felt in danger.

Brendan: Are Cork people friendly?

Cork people are exceptionally friendly. I have many stories involving people helping me in different situations, but this one is unforgettable: the first time I was in Cork, I got lost on my way to the airport where I wanted to return the car I had rented. I was on a road and stopped a car driven by a lady and asked her for help: she guided me to the airport, which was in the opposite direction she was going, and when we arrived at the airport 20 minutes later, she got off her car and asked me if I needed something else.

Brendan: What were your classes and teachers like?

The classes were very dynamic, covering different skills: discussion on different topics, use of English, reading and listening exercises.  The books used in class were, in my opinion, very topical. During the time I was at UCC we used different books in each term, so that I never had the same book from previous terms.

The teachers I had were competent and each of them emphasized different aspects of the language, depending on their interests. I learned not only the English language, but also about cultural and social aspects.

Brendan: Tell us about your daily routine for you?

From Monday to Friday, classes started at 9.00 am and finished at 1 o’clock. During the summer, there were social programmes tuesdays and thursdays organised by the Language Centre, while in winter there was an extra class on different topics on Wednesday. The last two months in Cork I took Irish classes in the afternoon.

After classes, I went to the library to study and to work on my translations. The library was my favorite place because it is comfortable, roomy, bright and quiet. At 6 or 7 pm, depending on the day, I attended yoga classes in Mardyke Arena.

On the weekends I went to the cinema, to the theatre to watch a play or to a concert, to a session in a pub or to an exhibition.

Brendan: Where did your classmates come from?

My classmates were from all over the world. I met students from Korea, Japan, China, Mauritius, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Kuwait, Marocco, Saudi Arabia, Colombia, Argentina. In my Irish course I met people from United States and from Thailand, among other countries.

María Teresa with her classmates

Brendan: Did you make friends with your classmates?

Yes, I did. I keep in touch with many of them and when I was living in Cork, we organised some activities together.

Brendan: You took an exam while you were here. Tell us about that.

Yes, I took the CAE and although I passed the exam, I regret not having taken a specific preparation course. Now I know that such a course focuses on practicing CAE tests and on its strategy. I would recommend taking this course because it is a complement to the English course.

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

Yes, I do. I am now in Argentina and I attend a conversation course because I don’t want to lose the acquired skills. The language level of the other classmates is very high and I don’t feel in disadvantage compared with them. When reading a book, I don’t need to look up every second word.

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

Yes, in July 2016 I went to Dundalk to walk from there to Faughart on St. Brigid’s Way. I was ill-prepared in terms of clothes. It rained, it was cold, and I wore “summer” clothes! I went to Bere Island, where I took part in a weaving workshop during the Heritage Week in August 2016. In October 2016 I went to Co. Leitrim to visit a friend and together we went to Sligo. It was a wonderful trip, because I wanted to know more about Yeats and she knows a lot about him. In December 2016, I went to Galway and Connemara. In Galway I had the opportunity to go to a session in The Crane. It was at 2 pm on a Sunday. There were 14 people playing different instruments and singing and dancing. It was a great atmosphere. And on my way back to Cork I went to Drombeg, because I wanted to see the winter solstice there. In February 2017 I went to Dingle where I spent a weekend at a friend’s house and in March before leaving Ireland, I went to Foxford, Co. Mayo, because there was a commemoration of the founder of our Navy, Admiral William Brown from Foxford. In Sligo I met my friend who lives in Co. Leitrim and together we went to Westport and travelled around. And on my last weekend before leaving to Argentina, I went to Drombeg again, this time to say goodbye and a big thank you to Ireland for the great time I had. When I arrived in Drombeg, it was sunny, after a while there was a big rainbow over the sea and when I left, it was heavily raining, what I interpreted as Ireland crying for my departure! Next time I want to go to Donegal and to Northern Ireland.

Cliffs of Moher

Brendan: What was the best place for you?

In Cork, Sunday’s Well from where you have the most beautiful view of Cork. In County Cork, Bere Island, where my maternal family came from, and Drombeg with its mystical stone circle.

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

It depends on the age and goals of the people: if they are in their twenties or thirties and they want to learn English on their holidays, I would recommend joining the Summer School. If their goal is to learn English.

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

Nothing. During the nine months I was living in Ireland, I enjoyed eating meals or things I don’t find here in Argentina, for example, parsnip, liquorice, stew, seafood chowder. And I didn’t miss anybody either, because nowadays mobiles keep you connected to your family and friends.

Brendan: Oh, that is cool. I love liquorice too.

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

The first days I couldn’t help comparing everything in Argentina with everything in Ireland: in Ireland you can pay what you buy using your debit card, whereas in Argentina you cannot.  In Ireland you can do this or that, while in Argentina you cannot, and so on and so forth.

At the beginning I missed the peaceful view from Sundays’ Well to the city, the mystical shaky bridge from Shanakiel to UCC and the fog over the river at night or in the early morning. But now I am delighted with the yellowish, warm und sunny autumn in the southern hemisphere.

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

Well, the fees are a little expensive, but they include many benefits:

– the reputation of UCC

– the sport facility Mardyke Arena where you can practice every kind of sport, for instance, fencing, what I don’t practice, but I met a french guy who did.

– The UCC Health centre

– The Boole library

– The social programmes

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

Definetely yes, I will!

Brendan: Finish this sentence: The best thing about UCC Language Centre is…

The people, the atmosphere, the place!

Brendan: Is there anything I have not asked you that you would like to tell us?

I want to add that I enjoyed every moment in class, in UCC, in Cork and in Ireland.

Brendan: Thank you, Tere!!!

María receiving her certificate

If you wish to come and study English at our Language Centre, you can find all details here.

Our Summer School starts of June 26th. Details here. 

 

Our 2017 Photography and Video Competition

We are delighted to announce our 2017 Photography and Video Competition today.

You could be flying to Cork this summer

You could be flying to Cork this summer (photo: Brendan Ó Sé)

The competition runs from today, February 20th, until Friday, April, 14th.

How can you enter? You need to follow us on Instagram, and post your entries on your own Instagram account with this hashtag – #ucclc17. You can enter as often as you want.

What kind of photos and videos are we looking for? The theme is travel and learning – just like our Summer School – an educational holiday.

What are the prizes? The winner will receive two free weeks (20 hours per week), and second place will receive one free week (20 hours per week) on our Summer School in the month of August. We will also have some great prizes for the photos or videos we select in other positions.

So what do you have to do? You need to follow us on Instagram (just click here), and start taking photographs and post your entries on your own Instagram account with this hashtag – #ucclc17.

Remember, you can enter as often as you want.

These were our winners from last year.

 

Bandar al Thobaiti

Bandar al Thobaiti

Garrettstown_Beach_Dmytro_Seleznov

Garrettstown Beach Dmytro Seleznov

A.Oldani_Cobh

A.Oldani Cobh

All information about our Summer School is here.

Summer fun outside the classroom

Sonny Kennedy is the Social Programme Coordinator for our Summer School. I caught up with him to learn about what students can do outside the classroom while here with us in the summer.

Sonny Kennedy our Summer School Social Programme Coordinator

Sonny Kennedy

Hi Sonny,

Thanks for taking the time to do this interview.

Hi Brendan, no problem it’s great to get the chance to talk to you about Summer School!

  • OK, The UCC Summer School, tell us about that.
    • Well the Summer School is the Language Centres annual 10 week EFL programme  for non native speakers looking to improve their English and of course have a great time in Ireland while doing so!
  • Is it only English classes the students take or is there more?
    • No there are lots of options available to take! We have course for Cambridge & IELTS exam preparation, English for Academic Purposes, Business English, Focus on Speaking, and much much more! There really is a course option for everyone no matter what your level or needs.
  • I see, there is also a social programme. What kind of things do you do?
    • For the social programme we do a wide variety of things. On Wednesdays for example we go on excursions to attractions around Cork like Blarney Castle, the Jameson Experience Midleton and the Titanic Experience in Cobh. On Thursday evenings as well we also offered cultural activities/events like traditional Irish music & dance, a photo walk & even a special Ghost Tour of the city!
  • What about the students? Where do they come from? Are they all about the same age?
    • One of the best things about the Summer School is that we have a fantastic mix of nationalities from across the world, from Spain to Saudi Arabia , Japan to Germany, even Kazakhstan to Korea! Ages can vary from 18 to over 60 but of the things I’ve learned in 3 years of working on the Summer School is that age doesn’t matter everyone makes friends and most importantly everyone enjoys themselves!

  • What is your role in all of this?
    • My role is as social programme coordinator is to organise and lead the excursions and activities we have but more importantly to make sure everyone is having a good time, learning about Cork & Ireland and speaking English  during the social programme of course!
  • What if your level of English is low; can you still enjoy the social programme?
    • Definitely! All the tours and activities we take part in are aimed towards students with different levels of English and both myself and the teachers are always available to help or explain something on every social programme event.
  • What is your favourite place to visit?
    • My own favorite place to visit is probably the historic Charles Fort & the nearby town of Kinsale. There are amazing views of the harbour and town at Charles Fort, while Kinsale is a lovely place with great food and people.
  • Have you any funny stories to tell about the people or places you visit?
    • Well the most common funny thing that happens to me at least once or twice a year is that the tour guides might confuse me for someone trying to sneak onto the tour because I’m young and speak English fluently!!

  • In your opinion, why should someone come to UCC Language Centre to improve their English this summer?
    • For me the key reason why someone should come to UCC Language Centre for a summer is because it is an investment for their future and fantastic way to really experience great teaching & learning both inside and outside the classroom.
  • What would you say to someone unsure or nervous about coming to Ireland to study English?
    • Firstly I would say that the Irish are the most friendly and welcoming people in the world! Also here in the Language Centre we have a great team of staff who always do their best to look after and help every student. In over 3 years of working in the Language Centre I have never come across a student or problem we were not able to help. A big thing for us is making sure students whose first language isn’t English feel comfortable and happy.
  • What about Cork? Is it a nice city?
    • Cork is the best place in Ireland, and much better than Dublin! It is a small but very friendly city with great people and characters. During the summer especially there are always lots of things to do like, concerts, festivals, food markets and much much more.
  • Are there new places to visit and things to do planned for Summer School 2017?
    • At the moment nothing has been planned but possibly we could be visiting Spike Island in Cork Harbour and maybe even taking a trip down to West Cork and the Wild Atlantic Way!
Sonny with Ahmed, Limin, Mohammed and Duhayman at Charles Fort in Kinsale.

Sonny with Ahmed, Limin, Mohammed and Duhayman at Charles Fort in Kinsale.

Thanks, Sonny. I am sure the students who have been here with us have loved the social programme. How about you tell us in the comments which place was your favourite to visit. Share your photos if you have some.

And for you guys who are coming to us this summer, tell us where you would like to visit on our excursions, or what activity you would like to do while in Cork.

Summer is getting close. All details about our courses in the Summer School are available here. 

 

“The thing I love about UCC is the old building like a castle in the Harry Potter movie.”

I met up with Peter (Zhibo Cao) who is from Henan Province, China to ask him some questions about his time here in University College Cork. At present, Peter is doing an MA in Teaching Chinese and also taking a course in English for Academic Study.

Peter from China

Peter from China

Hi Peter, thanks for agreeing to do this interview. Tell us about your English language course; what does the course cover? This course covers English writing, reading, grammar, pronunciation, appreciation of English novels, etc.

Do you think it is beneficial for you?  Yes, it benefits me a lot, especially the English writing where I have figured out many problems that I felt puzzled before. Most importantly, my advanced English teacher is very serious and responsible for his teaching content and our study.

That is great to hear. 

What about our university; would you recommend it and in particular the Language Centre?  Yes, it’s my pleasure to recommend UCC and its Language Centre, which are the great place to learn and do research.

Thanks, Peter. We are happy you like it. 

What advice would you give a student from your country coming to live and study in Cork? According to my experience, I would suggest that students who will come here should work hard on English study which is a bridge for life here. Then, you need to read some linguistic books or articles which can help you to get used to the courses here.

That is good advice. Thanks!

What has surprised you most about life in UCC? Well, what surprises me most here are the clubs which often organise some activities in bars or pubs whose atmosphere is deeply rooted in the Irish culture. And, of course, that never occurs in China.

Yes, life in Ireland must be very different to life back home in China.

Talking of China, what do you miss about home? Actually, I miss my mother’s cooking most, such as cooked chicken wings, Kung Pao chicken, etc.

Kung Pao chicken

Kung Pao chicken

That looks delicious! I love Chinese food too.

If you could transfer one thing from your home country (not your family) to your home here in Cork, what would it be? A pair of suspender trousers. Because I like the style of it which makes me more handsome.

You know, Peter, you might be able to get those in the city centre.

What about your free time? Have you experienced Cork night life? Tell us about that. In my free time, I often read some original English novels and have fun with my friends in certain pubs to experience the Cork night life, such as Cork Jazz, dance, and folk music.

Finish this sentence: The thing I love about UCC is… The thing I love about UCC is the old building like a castle in the Harry Potter movie.

UCC

UCC

Thanks, Peter. Great to get to know you! Best of luck in all you do.

Meet Audrey Navarro

Audrey Navarro is a student from Spain, originally from Batangas, Lipa City in the Philippines in Batangas, Lipa City which, she tells us, is about two hours away from the capital city, Manila. Audrey is a World Languages student here at UCC, taking  English for Academic Study and English as a Second Language at the University Language Centre. She kindly agreed to do a little interview with us about her experience here at UCC and in our Language Centre.
Audrey Blanche Navarro

Audrey Navarro

Hi Audrey,
Thanks for agreeing to do this interview. Tell us are you a visiting or ‘resident’ student (doing a full course of study at UCC)?
I am a “resident” student, I live in Cobh,Cork with my mom and my brother. Cobh is a really nice town, people are very nice and welcoming. My family does not own a car, so I have to commute to college everyday. I take the train from Cobh to Kent Station, which is a 24 minute ride. 
What is your main course of study at UCC?
 I am in World Languages studying English, German and Spanish. The language courses are divided into small groups, so it is easy to be in a class where you can get to know everybody. The class contents are really interesting, the lecturers give different kinds of content such as videos and audios aside from texts. The teachers are also very helpful and are available for any queries the students have. Most of the assignments given are readings for future discussions in class. Sometimes there are essays and some presentations to do as well. 
What English language credit module are you taking as part of that course?
 English for academic study and English as a second language. I chose English as one of the course languages because one can never finish learning a language. There are always some room for improvements and things to learn. 
What does the course cover?
 It covers grammar, writing, vocabulary etc. My English class is not that big since there are 14 students in the first semester. The course is really helpful for improving English language. The lecturer gives us books to read as homework but sometimes there are also acivity sheets given to us for reviewing the material learned in class. 
How is it beneficial for you? 
English is my second language, but even though I can fluently speak it there are still areas where I need to improve such as my English writing. I also speak Spanish aside from my native language, which is Tagalog.
Having more than one language can sometimes be difficult to ‘juggle’ because everything I know, I have three versions of ( in Tagalog, English and Spanish). I have noticed some improvements in my English writing but I still tend to struggle with grammar and with linking ideas when composing a text. 
Would you recommend UCC and its Language Centre?
Yes, I do. UCC is not just a place to learn but it is also a place to grow. The Language Centre has many different languages to offer, where the teachers or lecturers are very helpful. 
 
What advice would you give a student from your country coming to live and study in Cork?
It might seem scary at first but after the first few days you get more adapted to the place by meeting new people and getting to know them. Joining societies or clubs is a good idea to meet other students and socialize. Unfotunately, I have not had the time to join one myself due to the fact that I live far away from the city. That is why it is also a good idea to attend interesting events in UCC because can be quite fun and some of them are educational. 
What has surprised you most about life in UCC?
Realizing how overwhelmingly big the University is and the fact that I have to be independent. Us students cannot depend on parents as much as we did in secondary school. In college students have to know how to do everything independently like time planning. It is important to give time for studying but also some time to relax and have fun, it cannot be just one or the other. Be more responsible, as we are young adults learning how to manage things by ourselves.   
What do you miss about home?
Friends and family. Being apart from people that has always been there close to me is quite a change because being in college, where I do not know anyone, can be nerve wrecking. I also miss the weather, because it is so different in Ireland. I used to live in Lanzarote (Spain) where there is constant sunny and warm weather. In Ireland on the other hand, the weather is cold and wet.
If you could transfer one thing from your home country (not your family) to your home here in Cork, what would it be?
The food, as much as I like European gastronomy, I will always love filipino food. Such as halo-halo which is a typical filipino dessert. It is a mixture of different fruits and ice cream (halo in tagalog means to mix) served in a glass.
img_1186 I also miss street food, as the name states, it is food sild in the streets. There are ice-creams, fried foods, grilled or barbequed delicacies and more. 
Some of the wonderful food Audrey misses

Some of the wonderful food Audrey misses

What about your free time? Have you experienced Cork night life? Tell us about that. 
I spend my free time relaxing at home by reading books, watching movies, listening to music and sometimes go around the Cork. Living away from the city makes it difficult experience ‘life in Cork City’, especially night life, since there are no public transports available late at night apart from taxis. 
Finish this sentence: The thing I love about UCC is…
Its atmosphere, UCC makes you feel at home. There are many fun events around campus and many different societies or clubs to join. 
Thanks, Audrey! 

What is life like after a CELTA course?

What is life like after a CELTA course? What can a CELTA graduate do? Where do they go? What opportunities are available to them? What is the next step for a CELTA graduate in terms of career development?

I spoke to Chris Redmond, a CELTA graduate from 2012 to find out.

Chris Redmond - CELTA graduate

Chris Redmond – CELTA graduate

Hi Chris,

Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. First off, tell me when was it you did the CELTA here with us at UCC?

My pleasure! I did the CELTA at UCC from January-March 2012. Can’t believe it was so long ago!

What are your memories of that? Was it really as intensive as they say?

My memories of doing the CELTA are extremely positive. In fact, I would say, without doubt or hesitation, that my decision to do the CELTA was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I made the decision to apply for it back in October 2011 and it was at a point where I was going through a lot of uncertainty in my life. I finished my MA in Film Studies in December 2010, but after graduating, I wasn’t sure what the next step was going to be. I explored the possibility of doing a PhD in Film Studies, but the CELTA option was always there, and I decided one Sunday in October 2011 to just go ahead and apply for it. I remember feeling a renewed sense of purpose and I couldn’t wait to begin.

       Because of my part-time job, I opted for the 10-week course, which is far less intensive than the 4-week option. Nevertheless, it was a demanding and very challenging 10 weeks, during which I learned an enormous amount about methodology, classroom management, lesson planning, materials design, and so on. A lot of material was covered during those 10 weeks but it was always exciting and I finished each day inspired to put our input sessions into practice. I would even go so far as to say that I have never learned so much in 10 weeks. To this day, I use the methodology learned during the course, and it provided me with the perfect foundation on which to launch my teaching career.

So, you got your CELTA back in 2012, what was your first intention?

My first intention was to begin teaching as soon as possible, and, within days of finishing the CELTA, I began working at ACET (Active Centre of English Training) in Cork City. However, I knew it was only going to be a temporary thing, and I actually wanted to work in Spain. In May 2012, I attended a TEFL workshop in Cordoba to see about finding a job there. Unfortunately, that didn’t bear fruit, so it was time to consider Option 2: South Korea.

Tell us about the process of securing a teaching position in South Korea.

Well, I first applied through a recruitment company that didn’t follow through on their initial response, but I then found a more reliable company called Gone2Korea. The application process was stressful at times, to be honest! I was applying to work for EPIK, the public school teaching program, and it took a long time to get all the documents together to post over to them. I think the whole process – from my initial Skype meeting with the recruiter through to being offered a contract – took about 3 months. They needed notarized copies of my degrees, a criminal background check, passport copy, university transcripts and various other things, including my CELTA cert. The final package I sent to them contained about 80 pages, as they wanted double copies of everything. So it was pretty drawn out. However, the elation I felt when I was finally accepted made it all worthwhile. And I haven’t looked back since.

Very often, when we get students coming to us to learn English from overseas, we can see that they struggle at the start with adapting to a new culture. What was it like for you as a teacher in a new country?

Surprisingly enough, I felt I adapted quite quickly. I don’t remember feeling any culture shock, even though I couldn’t speak the language. All EPIK teachers had to attend a 1-week orientation program before we started teaching, which will certainly go down as one of the best weeks of my life. I got off the plane and was suddenly in the middle of a large group of EPIK teachers who had also made this move, so there was definitely that sense of everyone being in it together. We had such a great time during that orientation week and I was one of about 300 teachers (I think) being placed in Daegu. The advantage of that was, by the time I got to Daegu, I already had a large network of people in that community. The staff in my school were very nice too, so no, I didn’t really experience any homesickness or culture shock.

Starting off in your new job, how much did your CELTA training help you?

It helped an awful lot. I remember we had to do a demo lesson during our orientation week and my observer asked me if I had taught EFL before. When I answered in the affirmative, he said, “It shows.” So that was a nice confidence boost at the beginning! In my high school classes, I used staple CELTA techniques, like asking concept-checking questions, reducing TTT (teacher-talking time), using effective body language, speaking slowly, etc. It was noticeable that those who hasn’t received CELTA training talked way too much during their teaching demos. Doing a CELTA equipped me with all kinds of classroom skills that I continue to use to this day.

Chris with his students

Chris with his students

Were there things you think the CELTA course had not prepared you for?

A CELTA can obviously never really prepare you for the cultural differences that await you in the classroom. Sure, you can learn about, for example, how to make classes more student-centered, but in a culture like Korea, where students are much more used to the teacher doing all the talking, communicative approaches to language teaching are often at odds with the way they’ve been educated. In that sense, I feel that CELTA courses are designed with a European classroom in mind, where students tend to be more outgoing and chatty.

       I also feel that one of the biggest problems I’ve encountered is a lack of motivation from many of my students. It’s not hard to see why. Korean students are under relentless pressure to get a high score in their final exam, and a high English score is often the key to acceptance into a good university. There is almost no communication between the students in English class, and the preferred method of instruction remains grammar translation. If you take a look inside a Korean English classroom, you’ll see almost no evidence that it’s a language class. It may as well be a Maths or Science lesson. Students begin to resent English for all the pressure associated with it, and as a result, motivation is often low. I don’t think the CELTA really prepares you for this kind of thing.

      

Chris

Chris

Would you agree with the old adage: there’s no substitute for experience? Is this true about teaching?

Experience is invaluable, as it is in any profession, but you need to be equipped with knowledge of teaching practice. No matter how experienced you are, if you haven’t taken training courses in your profession, I think there will always be some holes in your practice. For example, I have a colleague who just recently took his CELTA, and even after 10 years of teaching he found that the CELTA opened his eyes to how language classes ought to be taught. Despite his experience, then, he still had much to gain from doing a formal training course like the CELTA.

In the years since the CELTA you have continued to study and develop professionally. Can you tell us what motivates you to do this?

Well, the biggest reason, I suppose, is that I really like teaching English and want to keep getting better at it. I decided during the CELTA, actually, that I wanted to make a career of it. I recall one of our tutors reassuring us at different times during the course that we didn’t need to go into any more depth on a particular language point because “this is not an MA in Applied Linguistics”. Well, I remember thinking, “I want to know more about this!”, so I began my MA in Applied Linguistics and TESOL in September 2014 after almost 2 years of trawling through courses to see which one was the most suitable. I went with Leicester in the end because of the flexibility they offered with their online option, as well as the wide range of modules available to students. I’ve also been presenting at national and international conferences inside and outside Korea, in order to continue growing and developing as a teacher.

Tell us about your classes?

I teach university students and elementary school students in the language center of our university. All freshmen must undergo a 3-week Intensive English program in this center. We run these programs throughout the year, and for each session we have 3 groups of students. I teach a presentation skills class, a TOEIC speaking class, and a Digital Storytelling class. Motivation can be a problem for these students because, if nothing else, they have to attend our course after their regular on-campus classes. I sympathize, to a certain extent. We also run a children’s program where we teach elementary students for twice a week for 2 hours. This is not my favourite part of my job, but it’s how the center makes its money, basically! Sometimes, I also teach non-credit classes for college staff who want to improve their speaking skills. Speaking is certainly the biggest weakness for Korean learners, as they almost never get the chance to develop these skills in school.

Chris with his students

Chris with his students

What do you feel your strengths and weaknesses in teaching are?

That’s a good question. In terms of strengths, I think I speak in a clear and comprehensible way. Even with low-level classes, I rarely have any trouble being understood. Adapting your speech according to the level you teach is more difficult than it may seem, but I think I’m quite good at it. I also feel I have become much better at organizing and managing communicative activities, and I always try to provide strong scaffolding for my students before they begin an activity.

       As for my weaknesses, I feel my knowledge of language testing could be improved, as any test I write is normally based on instinct rather than theoretical knowledge. I’m not sure if I test each student according to a class standard or individual standard. When grades are important, this is a potentially serious weakness that I need to rectify. I would also like to be a better motivator of weaker students. Some would argue that this goes beyond the teacher, but I think I could definitely improve in this area.

What are your long-term plans? Coming back to Ireland, maybe?

As much as my family would like that to happen, I don’t think it is on the horizon for me! In fact, this February I will be moving to China to teach English for Academic Purposes at International College Beijing, a college jointly set up by China Agricultural University and the University of Colorado at Denver. In the long-term, I hope to settle in Hong Kong or Singapore, but I am pretty flexible, really. My girlfriend is a college English teacher in China, but like me, she is open to settling somewhere else. So we’ll see what the future brings! I will probably do the PhD at some point if I start doing more research.
We are coming to the end of a CELTA course at the moment. What advice would you give to our trainees as they set out on their TEFL careers?

I would say that if you want to make a career out of this, always be prepared to reflect on your teaching practice. One way of doing this is to make a teaching diary or development folder in Google Docs or somewhere like that. Ask yourself at the end of the lesson what went well and what didn’t, and then try to figure out why. Don’t just pack up and go home. Take a few mins to update your teaching diary before heading to the pub! 😉

       Doing an advanced degree in TESOL would be a huge help, too, and you don’t even have to leave your job for that nowadays, as there are so many online MA TESOL programs you can do with reputable universities, like Leicester, Nottingham or Birmingham. You could also do the Delta as a follow-up to your CELTA.

       I would also encourage you to join a teaching group in your community. In Korea we have a really vibrant association of English teachers called KOTESOL, and they are always having conferences where teachers get together to present the results of their research or conduct workshops. If nothing else, you’ll immediately feel more connected to the English teaching community and your social life will improve dramatically! I think having a network of friends and colleagues is very important when you’re living and teaching in a foreign country, so get involved in any way you can. There are also numerous Facebook groups you could join, the best of which, in my opinion, is Teacher Voices. Put your heart into teaching and it’ll be a very rewarding job.

Thanks so much for taking the time to do this with us, Chris. Would like to wish you all the best as you continue in your teaching career. 

If you would like to know more about our teacher training courses, all information is available here. 

Meet our Summer School directors

I met Nadine (Summer School Director)  and Aoife (Assistant Summer School Director) and asked them some questions about Summer School, 2016.                                                                                  

WP_20160527_08_33_58_Pro

Nadine

Aoife

Aoife

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hi Nadine and Aoife,

Thanks for taking the time to do this interview.

  • So, let’s begin. It is only a few weeks now to Summer School 2016. How is the planning going? What new things can a student expect this year?

Aoife: Me! This is my first year as Assistant Director of Studies of the Summer School, and I’m really looking forward to it. We have some new courses on offer this year too.

Nadine: Things are shaping up nicely. Check out our new academic courses and afternoon options – some with  a special focus on speaking and learning some authentic colloquial expressions to impress your friends and teachers!

  • Last year was the biggest (and best) Summer School yet for UCC. What did you learn from it?

Nadine: I learnt that I had to be very organised and be very specific about what I was trying to communicate to people whether in admin, my colleagues and peers or to students. I also learnt that planning ahead is the key.

  • The students who come from all over the world for Summer School say that they love the social programme. Why do you think that is?

Aoife: Over the last few years, I’ve accompanied the students on various trips and outings and they really are so much fun. On one trip to Cobh last year, one student was looking out over Cork harbour under a blue sky. He breathed in the sea air and sighed. ‘This is where I’m going to retire to’, he said. That’s what it’s all about for me – getting out there and seeing beautiful places that inspire you.

  • What can a student expect from this year’s social programme?

Nadine: Some old favourites like Kissing the Blarney stone and The Whiskey factory (including tastings!) but also some new offerings (watch this space!) – we always listen to feedback and tailor trips accordingly.

  • There are different accommodation options for students to choose from. What do you think is better: staying with an Irish host family or student accommodation?

Aoife: I think this really depends on each person individually. Staying with a host family obviously gives you maximum exposure to English as a language, but for some, the option of student accommodation can provide a lifestyle (and social life!) more similar to what they have at home.

  • What advice would you give students coming to improve their English in Summer School 2016?

Aoife: Over the years, I’ve noticed that successful students do two things that really helps their English to improve: (1) They engage in activities they enjoy while they’re here like watching movies, listening to music, playing badminton or salsa-dancing where they pick up the language naturally in a relaxed environment and (2) they write down new vocabulary they learn in those contexts and check later in a dictionary or ask their teacher about it.

Nadine: Talk to as many people as possible. Talk about the weather to native speakers at bus stops, talk to other students in other levels, talk to social programme leaders, talk to host mother/brother/sister etc “Talk til the cows come home” as they say!

  • How about your own summer; will you get a chance to have a holiday?

Aoife: I’ll be working here at UCC Language Centre for the duration of the Summer School (and beyond!), so I’m planning to make the most of my weekends.

Nadine: I have a week off next week and 2 weeks off after summer school is all over (Phew!) but we will be raring to go and looking forward to welcoming all the students from the end of June til September!   (Thanks for asking!)

If you are interested in coming to improve your English and experience life in Cork, you can find all details here.

Make sure to check out some of the other interviews with students who have come to previous Summer Schools here.

What is life like with an Irish host family. Find out here. 

Results of our Photography Competition 2016

This year Clonakilty Camera Club judged our Photography Competition. Our Summer School Director, Nadine Carroll is a member there and big thanks to her and her friends for judging the competition.

The theme of this year’s competition was Alternative Ireland. We were looking for images that showed Ireland in a new or unusual way, or showed the unseen Ireland. I am sure you will agree the judges did a fine job choosing from the many entries we received from all over the world.

In first place, Bandar:

Bandar althobaiti image2

Here is what the judges said:

“This is a brilliant image which represents Modern Ireland really well. It makes a change from the typical seascapes with sheep in the foreground.It met the theme of the competition well.”

In second place, Dmytro Seleznov:

Garrettstown_Beach_Dmytro_Seleznov

Here is what the judges said:

“This is a really well observed and processed image which depicts the mysteriousness and beauty of Ireland.”

In third place, A Oldani:

A.Oldani_CobhHere is what our judges said:

” This is an unusual image but one which conveys the nitty gritty of life. It is very evocative and conjures up questions in ones mind.”

Thank you to all who entered this year. It was a great entry. Remember, our Summer School starts on June 27th this year. All details here.