Learning English at University College Cork, Ireland

Life inside and outside the language classroom

Category: Summer School

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


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. 


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.                                                                                  














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. 

Photography Competition – shortlist

Good morning! We will be posting the ten images selected in the shortlist for this year’s Photography Competition on our Facebook page.
Here is how it will work. The winning photos will be the photos with the most likes on Friday 27th at 5 p.m Irish time. In the case of a draw, Language Centre staff will choose a winner. For details on the prizes, please visit our Summer School page.

Here are the ten photos we have selected. Please visit our Facebook page and click like for the photos you want to win.



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Photography Competition 2015

We are very pleased to announce that our annual Photo Competition begins today. Last year we had a huge number of entries from all over the world. You can read about the winning photograph from last year’s competition here.

To enter all you have to do is to email in three of the best photographs you have taken in Ireland. You can send your entries to b.ose@ucc.ie. Make sure to write PHOTOGRAPH COMPETITION in the subject line of the email and to include all your contact information in the email. Also, please write some background information about your photographs, such as where you took it, why you like it and so on.

When sending your photographs, make sure to title the photograph file with your own name and location of image. We cannot accept entries that are not properly titled.

The competition will close on March 14 and the winners will be announced on March 21st.

We have some great prizes for the winners. The winning photographer will win a three-week English language course in the month of August in our Summer School 2015. Second place will win a two-week English language course and the third place photographer will get a one-week course for free.
Check our Facebook page each week to see some examples of the photographs people are sending in.

We are really looking forward to seeing your photos!

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.


The class was always fulfilling and enjoyable


Tsuyoshi Saito

Tsuyoshi Saito, a Tokyo University of Foreign Studies student came to Cork to improve his English in our Summer School this year. Here you can read about his experience.

First of all, thanks for taking time to do this little interview Tsuyoshi Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? What are you studying?

I’m from Japan and my major at university is European study.

Why did you choose to come to take an English language course at UCC Language Centre?

I chose UCC because I wanted to study in Ireland, where few Japanese people pay attention to. While many Japanese look at U.S.A or U.K as places to study in, I wanted different experience.

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

I knew a bit about Irish history. I knew that the Potato Famine killed many Irish, that there are many people all over the world who have Irish roots, and the story about IRA.

Except for the history, I knew that potatoes, beer and whisky are famous in Ireland. And that people in Ireland are really nice. 

When you arrived what was the biggest surprise for you?

As soon as I arrived at the airport, I felt really cold. It was around 9 p.m. and the temperature was 9 degrees centigrade. Since in Japan it is around 35 degrees in August, I couldn’t believe it was so cold in Cork.

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

I stayed with an Irish old lady and her dog. There were three of us.

How would you describe it?

The lady in the home was really kind to me. She let me use my own bedroom and bathroom, and she cooked really well. She has many relatives and introduced me to them. She even gave my mother an Irish necklace as a gift.

I can’t write down everything she did for me, but I had no stress about the stay because she was really kind.

 Is Cork a safe place?

I think so. Compared to Tokyo, my hometown, Cork is secure. I once walked around the City Centre about 11 o’clock at night, but I saw few stupid fellows there.

Are Cork people friendly?

Not all of them are nice. I saw some people who were prejudice against Asians. One day I went to a bus office to get my ticket, and one of the clerks spoke viciously to me. He even threw the card to me. I got really frustrated and told my host about it. She was sad about it, too. The next day she called the office and reported it. But only some were mean. Most people in Cork behaved properly to me. When I asked for direction, they answered kindly. When I was choosing presents for my family in a gift shop, the clerk explained to me which gift is popular.

Do you have any nice stories about Cork people?

One day I was walking around the City Centre and saw some students doing campaign. They are in a group named “Sinn Fein Republican Youth” and worried that the unemployment rate in Ireland is getting higher. I spoke to the female leader of that group, and it was a good experience for me to listen to their views. I only spoke to her for only a few minutes, but she kindly said to me “Enjoy your stay in Cork”. I’m impressed with their kindness and passion.

What were your classes and teachers like?

At UCC, I was in Proficiency, which is the highest class in Summer Course. In the class we studied about very difficult topics such as environment and psychology. I sometimes had difficulty in keeping up because the level of the class was really high. But I think it was worth it. Students in the class were all serious about their study and I had a nice interaction with them.

We had two teachers in the two weeks. One was male and the other was female. Olan, the male teacher, listened to each student seriously. He used to work in Japan and cared about me a lot. He seemed to be supported and trusted by all the students.

Jo, the female teacher, was really funny lady. She really laughs a lot. She laughs as if the Earth is exploding. Her explanation was also easy to understand.

What was the daily routine for you?

On a weekday, I would get up around half past seven and had cereal and toast for breakfast. I always took bus that left ten to nine. The bus took me to UCC in about twenty minutes.

At 9.30 our class began. I was in the highest class and the class was always fulfilling and enjoyable. From 11.30 to 12.00 we had breaks. During the break, I spent time in the common room and had chats with students in other classes. The later class ended at 13.30 and after the class I always had lunch at a restaurant in the university.

After lunch, I spent time freely. I really liked to walk around the City Centre watching the views and shops. We had Social Programme that UCC prepared for us twice a week, and I joined that, too. One day we went to Kinsale, and to a theatre to see a musical. Each was quite enjoyable.

Where did your classmates come from?

The class had seven students including me. Three ladies were from Spain, a girl was from France, one boy was from Poland and one guy was from Slovakia.

Did you make friends with your classmates?

Yes. They were so nice to me and I had no difficulty in interacting with them. I presented each of them with Japanese gifts I brought, and they were pleased with them.

I was really impressed because some of them already had works. I guess it is not easy to work in their own country while brushing up English skills. Also, the English level of each of them was obviously beyond me. But I believe that helped me improve my English.

Anyway, my classmates are all nice. I keep in touch with them through Facebook, G-mail, and WhatsApp. And I’m looking forward to meet them again.

 Do you feel more confident in using English now?

Definitely. The stay greatly improved my English and I now find it quite enjoyable to use English.

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

Yes. I went to Kinsale and Blarney Castle for social programme. Both of them were quite nice, but it was a bit disappointing that it was rainy when we visited Kinsale. At Blarney Castle, I kissed the stone and it was scary.

And I also visited Cobh with my host and her two grandchildren. I saw a huge luxury ship which was about to leave for Southampton.

What was the best place for you?

City Centre. The River Lee along the city was really beautiful. City Centre has a lot of things to see but it wasn’t too big. That’s the point I like it.

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

I would tell them to prepare jackets. It is much colder than Japan.

Other than that, I would want them to come to UCC when their English level gets high enough. I was in the highest class and my classmates were all from various countries, while lower classes were full of Japanese students. If they ever use Japanese or rely on their Japanese friends who come with them during their stay, they would learn nothing.

What did you miss about your Japan when you were in Cork?

Except warmth in temperature, I missed nothing else. The food I had was really good and I never missed Japanese rice.

What do you miss about Cork, now that you are back?

Now I miss people who I got friends with in Cork including my host, her family, my classmates and teachers.

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

Yes, hopefully, next March I’ll get another chance to UCC. If I could, I’d like to see my friends and my host.

I look forward to you coming back, Tsuyoshi. Thanks for doing this! 


Kairi Niwa from Tokyo came to UCC to learn English

Kairi Niwa from Tokyo

First of all, thanks for taking time to do this little interview Kairi. CCan you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? What are you studying?

I’m from Japan. I’m a high school student and I study English to enter University.

 Why did you choose to come to take an English language course at UCC Language Centre?

My father was also in Cork and told me about UCC.

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

I didn’t know anything about Ireland but I expected beautiful landscapes.

 When you arrived what was the biggest surprise for you?

I was surprised the weather. It was very cold.

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

I stayed in Student accommodation.

 Is Cork a safe place?

Yes, it is. I think that Cork is safe and comfortable place.

Are Cork people friendly?

Yes, they are. And they are so kind.

 What were your classes and teachers like?

20 hours classes were little easy for me, but to speak with many friends was very fun. And I really liked One to One lessons because I can speak English a lot.

 What was the daily routine for you?

I always study in student accommodation because I have to study to enter the University.

Where did your classmates come from?

Most of students came from Spain and There are some Japanese.

Did you make friends with your classmates?

Yes, I did. I made a lot of friends in 20 hours class.

 Do you feel more confident in using English now?

Yes, I do. I was used to hearing English and I can talk a lot.

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

Yes, I did. I went to many places in excursion and private travel. 

What was the best place for you?

I was very impressed with Cliffs of Moher. The landscape was very beautiful.

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

I would like to say that not to be shy and speak a lot English.

 What did you miss about your home country when you were in Cork?

I missed my friends and Japanese food.

 What do you miss about Cork, now that you are back?

I miss my friends who  I met in UCC.

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

Yes, I will. When I enter the University, I’d like to come back to UCC.

Thanks Kairi. We are very happy you had a good time and hope to see you here again. Best of luck from us all.

Where do we go on our Summer School trips and nights out?

Great memories are made on our Social Programme. For more information on our Summer School, click here.

photo (7)


Afternoon Trip

Guest Lecture

Evening Outing

Movie Afternoon

(Tue, G 38)

Week 1

June 26/27

Bus Tour + City Gaol  



Movie night

Man of Steel

The Van

Week 2

July 3/4

Cobh Titanic Irish History

By Gabriel Doherty

Tour of Cork city + pub  

Week 3

July 10/11

Fota house + Garden Opera House




Week 4

July 17/18

Camden fort + coffee Irish food

By Cyril Desmond

Mardyke Bowling + pizza  

Week 5

July 24/25

Gougane Barra Dog racing  

Week 6

July 31/Aug 1

Jameson’s Distillery Irish Sport

By Mardyke

Bingo Night + finger food  

Week 7

Aug 7/8

Bantry House Irish Dancing  

Week 8

Aug 14/15


Kinsale Irish language

By Ciaran Dawson


Pulses of Tradition


Week 9

Aug 21/22

Blarney Castle Everyman’s palace

Pride & Prejudice (Musical)


Week 10

Aug 28/29

Mitchelstown Caves First Language Acquisition by Elisabeth Okasha Pizza night