Learning English at University College Cork, Ireland

Life inside and outside the language classroom

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New friends, new experiences…

So here we are, already in week 8! At the moment, we are busy making preparations for the final week in UCC Language Centre Summer School and hope to make it the best one yet, with lots of fun, activities and one huge party planned!

For those students who have just arrived, we welcome you to our beautiful city of Cork, but apologise for the rain. Perhaps, it may be sunny again tomorrow…

Ireland: The only country with four seasons in one day and rain featuring in all seasons!
Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 11.15.14

Today, we are setting off on our second day trip of the summer, visiting beautiful Spike Island. This year, it was nominated for Europe’s Leading Tourist Attractions  2017, which is a massive achievement for the fort. We hope you all enjoy it as much as our past students and please don’t forget to vote for it after you visit and tune in to the World Travel Awards taking place in St. Petersburg, Russia this September. We would love this stunning tourist attraction to get the global recognition it deserves and to put it on the list of places to visit when you come to Cork.

Last Wednesday, we visited the scenic, coastal town of Cobh. Amy and all the staff at the Titanic experience looked after us very well and ensured that everyone had a great time. Students enjoyed learning about the history, while also enjoying the beautiful surroundings that it offers.

Students have enjoyed the Thursday night activities over the past couple of weeks. We all had such fun learning how to do traditional Irish dancing. It was amazing to see how fast  many students picked it up- many of you have such great rhythm. I, on the other hand have two left feet! It was such an enjoyable night and I think everyone agreed that it really is the best music to tap your feet to and really get in the mood for a great time! Check out our Facebook page for the videos, they are fantastic!

We went along to Curraheen Greyhound Track last Thursday and had a great night of betting and fun. Many of our students had never experienced anything like it before, but were delighted to try something new. It is fantastic to see so many students on these social activities, making new friends and having a good time out of the classroom! We have some amazing photos up on our Facebook page, so be sure to take a look!

Have a great week and enjoy the rest of Summer school 2017!!


New faces, new places…

We have been really busy over the last few weeks. Welcoming new students, bidding farewell to others and trying to make everyone’s time at the Language Centre as memorable and fun as possible.

We are delighted to be working with a large group of Chinese scholars and PhD students, who are studying EAP, while undertaking modules in Teaching and Learning at UCC. We hope they enjoy their four weeks with us.

We were lucky enough to launch podcasting in the classroom for some of our morning classes over the past few weeks. We have been busy introducing new strands to the syllabus and making presentations as relevant as possible to third level education and the workplace. It has been a really interesting project to work on and a great opportunity for the students.

The social activities have been hugely successful, with Fota being a real treat last week. The students had great fun visiting the famous wildlife park, taking lots of photos and walking around the beautiful grounds. It is always such a pleasure to take students here because everyone seems to love the laid back, friendly atmosphere.

Cork is buzzing at the moment and there is so much going on. The students have been enjoying wandering around the streets in their free time and enjoying all that our little city has to offer!

Students went to Breandán de Gallaí’s production Aon at the Firkin Crane theatre, which was a first for the Language Centre. It was a very interesting production, which fused traditional Irish music with contemporary elements. It was a little wacky, telling the deeply personal story of individuals being who they want to be instead of what society wants to mould them in to. Sitting very near the front, it was easy to see the hard work and endurance needed for such a performance, with buckets of sweat pouring off each of the talented individuals. They all earned their place on that stage. It was an intensely deep performance. Overall, it was an enjoyable evening and the students were happy to be out and about mingling with each other.

The students went on a tour of Kinsale yesterday. This pretty little fishing town is always a big hit with students, with its quaint shops and various little cafe’s and eateries. It was a big success and the students really enjoyed their time, walking around the cobbled streets and taking in the blissful atmosphere that is so apparent down there. Many of them tucked in to the Fish and Chips in Dino’s and were very impressed!

Everyone is looking forward to the long weekend and taking a well deserved break on Monday. Everyone has been working so hard over the past few weeks, so enjoy the lie-in and see you all on Tuesday!

Summer School Welcome!

We are now well and truly into the swing of things and it’s hard to believe we are approaching week 4 in the summer school. So many students from all over the world have come to join our English language family here at UCC and with every week that passes, the numbers are increasing!

This year, we launched our “word of the day” campaign on Facebook. Every day a new word is posted up, with the aim of teaching students new vocabulary to use in class and as a talking point in lessons.  There is a word for lower levels and higher levels, so choose your level and try and see how much extra vocabulary you can learn through this campaign. We want students to post sentences using the word in a way that gives meaning without defining the actual word. This is a great way of checking that you understand meaning and is also an opportunity for you to share your knowledge with other students!

The social activities have so far proved to be a huge hit! Doneraile, Cork City Gaol, the photographic walking tour of Cork and bowling were great fun. They are a great opportunity for students to meet up and get to know others studying in the summer school. We have got some really exciting tours coming up over the next few weeks, so sty tuned!!

We launched our very first day trip last week. Students crossed the border to Cork’s neighbours, Kerry and enjoyed a wonderful time at Mucross House and Gardens. A photo tells a thousand words and they really showed that you all had a lot of fun. It was great that the sun was shining and you got to see such a picturesque part of the country.

Well now that Wimbledon is finally over, we no longer have any excuse to be sitting outside drinking strawberry frappucinos but I won’t tell if you don’t! Have a great week and enjoy the trip to Youghal on Wednesday!




University Language Centre Photography Competition 2016

Great news!
We are extending out Photography Competition until Friday, April 1st, as many people were asking for time to get photographs over the Easter break.
So you now have until Friday, April 1st to get your entries in!
Best of luck!

It is that time of year again. We are delighted to announce that our annual Photography Competition starts today and we will accept entries from today up to March 24th.

This year we are looking for something a little different. We all are familiar with the classic images of Ireland, like this beautiful photograph from Katrin Brandmair:


Katrin Brandmair

Or this beautiful photograph from last year’s winner Priscilla:


Priscilla Oliveira

But this year, we are looking for something different: Alternative Ireland. Send us your photographs that present an original perspective of Ireland.

Sure you can send us beautiful landscapes, but maybe there is something unusual or original about how you create your photograph.

To enter all you have to do is to email in three of the best photographs of an alternative view on Ireland 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 24 and the winners will be announced in the third week of April.

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 2016. 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!

You can read about the winning photograph from last year’s competition here.

Let’s meet one of our Host Families!

Thank you for taking the time to do this little interview with us. We really appreciate it.

The reason we are doing it is because one of the main attractions for students to come and learn English in Ireland is the opportunity to experience the Irish welcome. Our students report how happy they are to come and stay with Irish families and that they feel such a part of the family when they come. For those who have also been to other countries to learn English, they say there is nothing to compare to an Irish family.

Matthew and Pat

Matthew and Pat

Tell us a little about yourselves?

Hi, my name is Patricia and I am Matthew. We like cooking, entertaining and travelling. We love interacting with students. We talk about travelling, cooking, gardening with the students, depending on the students’ interest.

How long have you been hosting international students?

Over 15 years.

What made you start taking international students?

From the experience of travelling abroad, we found that we love meeting foreign people and speaking foreign languages. As I was near retirement, we thought why not host foreign students and interact with them. We enjoy having them here.

What are some of the challenges students encounter when they first come to Ireland?

I would say the language barrier and the different culture, different meal times and trying to get used to the Irish way of life. I feel that it’s our duty and our job to make them feel welcome and their stay with us enjoyable.

What do you usually do with students to help them to adjust to Irish life?

We like to speak with them and encourage them to speak with us in English. You know, it’s just to make them happy and to have a bit of fun as well as the learning.

Do you make contact with the student assigned to you before their arrival e.g. by phone, email or Skype?

Not all of them but most of them do actually send an email with their photographs and I email them back and have a conversation via email before their arrival. We try to assure them that they are very welcome as they may feel a bit uncertain.

What advice would you give our students before arriving in Cork?

Ah ha, please bring plenty warm clothes and clothes for rain.

What advice would you give them about staying in Cork?

Be careful. Don’t take any risks and stay together if they are going out as a group at night.

Usually they don’t go into the city at night. If they do they stay together and watch out for each other.

Tell me about a typical day with our students.

Breakfast. When they come back from the school they do their homework. Actually I found that they often go to bed for an hour and take a nap before dinner time. Then we call them for dinner. Dinner can last 2 and half to 3 hours with conversation. After long conversations they are tired and they watch TV or use Skype to talk to their family. They go to bed early enough as they have school the following day.

Do you have any funny story or experience with our students?

Xanty from Spain used to look at the kitchen to find out what the dinner was every night. As you know, in Ireland potatoes are our staple diet so most dinners would involve some type of potatoes, one form or another. One night, he called me and said “Again tonight potatoes?”

So I said “yes”. Xanty said “I am going to a restaurant tonight with my friend”. So I said “no problem. But can you tell me the name of the restaurant? I need to talk to the head chef to make sure that he will serve plenty potatoes for you tonight”. He was down on the ground laughing.

Matthew and hos pet dog

Matthew and his pet dog

We had another student called Hitomi. She was a lovely Japanese lady. We brought her to an Irish evening night in my brother in-law’s house. Hitomi was very musical and she was good at piano and my brother-in-law was in his element too. Hitomi asked me to sing Danny Boy and she recorded me singing. She got very emotional. Now I might be a very famous singer in Japan, I presume.

Why do you think students love staying with Irish families?

They just love it. Well, we are from Cork and the conversation and the craic is mighty.

What is it about the Irish welcome in comparison to other countries?

There is no comparison. There was one boy and we were collecting him from the airport. We gave him a big hug when we met him in the airport. He was surprised and said, “You even didn’t know me but gave me a hug.”

Are the students who come to stay with you culturally different?

A little bit different but not much. They are not very different.

What do you usually cook for your students?

The best of Cork home cooked meals. If they come here thin, we will make sure that they put on plenty weight. J

Can you give examples of weekday meals and weekend meals? Irish Stew, Bacon and cabbage, Chicken and Fish. Matthew loves going fishing. So we have fresh fish very often. Depending on the students, if they wish to go fishing, they go with Matthew. I did a course on international cooking a few years ago and I got a certificate and everything.

Do you cater for students will allergies or food intolerances or special dietary requirements? Yes we do.

Does the student have study facilities available to them and do you help them with their homework?

Yes, they have them, and we do help them with homework all the time.

Would you tell me what the student should expect while living with a host family and should not expect from the host family?

We change the bed linen every week. We do their washing every week but only light washing.

Are there some students that come back to visit you again?

Yes. Some Spanish and some French came back to us and stayed with us. A Japanese student recommended us to his friend who was coming to Ireland.

Are you still in contact with those that stayed with you previously?

Quite a few of them. Some people always send us Christmas greetings. One of the Korean students still sends us emails with her family pictures as well.

Thank Matthew and Pat for taking the time to do this interview with us.

Matthew and Pat

Matthew and Pat





dining roon.jpg

dining roon




Beautiful garden

02 – Gestures and Embodied Cognition – Scott Thornbury

Very interesting podcast.

Masters of TESOL

MOT 2 1400

In class, we point behind us to represent the past. Forward for the future. But, other than Total Physical Response, how else can we use gestures?

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UCC Language Centre comes to the rescue

UCC International Students


The UCC Language Centre had a good news story this month as they welcomed twin sisters, Marina and Natália, from Brasil to study English in UCC after their English institute closed down. Marina and Natália are from a small town called Rio Claro about two hours north west of Sao Paulo. Marina has an undergraduate and postgraduate qualification in Business Administration and has worked in Human Resources in Brasil. Natália has a degree in Biology from UNESP and hopes to go on to postgraduate education, perhaps even start a PhD under the Science without Borders programme in UCC.

The twins came to study English in Dublin earlier this year and were in the unfortunate position of seeing their English institute close down. Marina and Natália were upset and worried about what would happen next.  The Language Centre in UCC reacted quickly to the news that many English schools throughout Ireland…

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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!

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.

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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What’s Stirring? 2014

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

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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