Learning English at University College Cork, Ireland

Life inside and outside the language classroom

Category: What our students say

I am way more confident in English now

Hamza Benhamed was a very popular French student who spent a year with us here in the University Language Centre. We recently caught up with him and learned about what life was like for him in UCC and what life is like for him now in his new job working for Facebook in Dublin.

Hamza Benhamed

Hamza, how are you? It’s great to speak with you again today!

Hi there! I am doing well, thank you. No worries, the pleasure is all mine.

So to start, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I was a French student looking for a good university that will help me to improve my level in English and communication, but also have new adventures in a foreign country. I strongly like learning from my interaction with new people and different cultures.

You come from Mulhouse in the East of France, what made you decide to come to Ireland and in particular UCC to learn English?

I absolutely love the Celtic atmosphere, folklores, Irish music and Irish culture that you can feel and find in Ireland, and particularly in Cork. I was looking at different places around Ireland, and with some photos and comments on internet, Cork was the best option. When I saw the picture of UCC and references about it, I knew that UCC was the best option.

It’s been a while since you studied with us what have you been doing with yourself?

Well, after my adventure in Cork, I came back in my hometown for professional opportunities. For a year, I did work for a company that I used to work with, and I helped my parents to buy a house in that city near to the border of Germany and Switzerland. A year after, I felt that my English skills, was not used the way that I wanted. So, I tried to look at some opportunities in Ireland and within few days, the big agency CPL asked me to work in Dublin on Facebook website. Now I do work as a contingent worker for Facebook via CPL, and really proud to be part of CPL workers and Facebook workers.

Language Centre

What were your first impressions UCC & the Language Centre?

My first impression? Do not laugh though… I literally said that: ”Is this Hogwarts?” and the funniest part is that UCC also have a club that realize the famous ceremony of houses in Hogwarts. How cool is that.

What did you think of studying in the Language Centre, were you happy with the teachers, classrooms, facilities etc.?

UCC have plenty of rooms, really good facilities and it is a comfortable environment to study. UCC have resourceful teachers that will help you to learn English even if you have different cultures or coming from another country. I am lucky enough to keep in touch with some of them like Brendan, Séamas, Nadine..

In class with classmates Vicent, Adriana, Ilona, Christian and teacher Brendan

Did you find your level improved while you studied here?

Absolutely, I am way more confident in English now than the knowledge I had before coming in UCC. It is way better to learn English when the entire environment around you is all in English, right?

Did you find it easy to settle in and make friends here?

When you are a UCC student, making friends in Cork is so easy because you have a lot of different kind of activities in Cork or around Ireland that UCC plans for students. Also, you have different kind of clubs and most of the time you have student parties everywhere in Cork city centre. You do not have time to get bored.

Do you feel more confident in your English level now?

I am more confident but as every human being, I am still doing some mistakes but I learn from them. I am not afraid to do mistakes because this is how we learn, right? UCC gave me the courage that I need to talk when I have meetings at work or talking with native speakers, friends and even with American Facebook workers.

You studied with us for over 8 months, what advice would you give to students who are thinking of coming to Cork to study English in UCC?

Do you like adventures? Having fun in a really good environment that gives you great opportunities? Share beautiful moments with different kind of people? Not being afraid to enjoy life with friends or making new friends? UCC is your place. But make sure to program your trip to Cork in advance because it might be difficult to find an accommodation near to UCC.

Do you think the time you spent studying with us helped you in your career?

UCC surely helped me to be a Community Operation Analyst for Facebook as a contingent worker. I am able to work in high responsibility environment using English everyday because I got good lectures in UCC, and for fact you need a good level in English to understand, learn, and exchange in a big company in Ireland.


What’s Cork like as a city to live in?

I do not know where to start to be honest with you.. Cork is a wonderful place, really colourful, with sociable people and lot of activities and places to visit.

What did you do in your spare time, do you think there is a lot to do in Cork for students?

Most of the time, I was going out with my classmates and other friends I meet in Cork city centre. We did organize some traditional dinners from different countries like Spain, Korea, Japan, China, Irish, French.. I cannot remember all parties we had in Cork city centre but by Jesus.. it was a good time.

Party time

Having the craic with this friends in Cork

I did visit a lot of places around Ireland with UCC clubs and had the most beautiful moment I never had in my life with some people I meet during those days. I also visited some places with the bus “Paddywagon tours” with some friends, and it was really good as well.

Enjoy the PaddyWagon tour of Ireland.

Enjoying some of the beautiful Irish scenery

Don’t wake the giant

As a student I will say Cork city centre, but as a French tourist I will say every beautiful landscapes you could have around Cork city centre.

Did you learn any Cork slang while you lived here?

Jeez… a lot: “What’s the Craic? That is savage brah! Come back here will ya! No worries, You grand!” and saying the word “like” every sentences you could say to someone else (Cork citizens only).

Is there anything that you miss about Cork?

Oh god… I definitely miss my student life with my friends, my teachers, and all that beautiful moments I had out there.

You’re living in Dublin now, what are the main differences between Cork & Dublin?

On one hand, I will say that Dublin is bigger, darker and a stressful city. On the other hand, it is a good place for professional opportunities and I am living in a beautiful place front of the sea. When I went back to Cork (just one day though), I had that beautiful feeling of a cosy place and really colourful with good people around you.

Which do you prefer?!

… Cork! “And yes.. I agree with you on that one Brendan”. But let’s keep it secret will ya?

Have you any plans to come back in the future?

Of course, I already took my week off this year on March 12th until 18th, so be prepared, I am coming back!

Finish this sentence; “The best thing about UCC Language Centre is….

the student life that you need to experience at least once.

Thanks a million Hamza for taking the time to do this interview. It was great to speak with you again. Continued success for the future and please make sure to call in to day hello!

Hamza relaxing looking out on the skyline of Cork city

If you want to find our information about our courses, please click here. 


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.

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. 


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.



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! 

Keisuke Koyama tells us he misses the brilliant food in Ireland

Keisuke Koyama, a Tokyo University of Foreign Studies student, recently spent some time studying English at our Language Centre. You can read about his experience here.


Keisuke Koyama

Keisuke Koyama

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

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

Keisuke:I am from Japan. I major in Japanese in my university. Specifically, I am studying Japanese literature, Japanese grammar, and so forth.

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?

Keisuke: I came to know this course at UCC Language Centre since my university had a partner relationship with UCC and introduced this English course for the students.

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

Keisuke: I knew that Ireland is located by the UK, and belongs to EU, prior to coming there.

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

Keisuke: It was more difficult than I had expected to find a bank I could exchange Japanese yen into Euro. Finally I noticed I could at the bank in UCC.

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

Keisuke: I stayed with a host family.

Brendan: Is Cork a safe place for Japanese students?

Keisuke: I think it is safe. However some friends advised me not to go out after midnight.

Brendan: Are Cork people friendly?

Keisuke: They are very friendly. When I asked something to them, they answered it kindly.

Brendan: What were your classes and teachers like?

Keisuke: They were really friendly. My classmates’ English was better than mine, which inspired me to study harder.

Brendan: What was the daily routine for you?

Keisuke: After class, I often went to the library to study or to the city centre for our pastimes with my friends.

Brendan: Where did your classmates come from?

Keisuke: Almost half of them were from Japan, I think. Other classmates came from France, Italy, Poland and etc.

Brendan: Did you make friends with your classmates?

Keisuke: Yes. Thanks to getting along with them, I enjoyed myself more.

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

Keisuke: A little bit. At least, I felt I had to use English positively.

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

Keisuke: I visited Blarney, where is near to Cork, and the capital, Dublin on weekends. Those trips were also effective to make a chance to keep speaking English. (One of them somehow knew Japanese and spoke Japanese to me several times actually, but totally they all spoke English.)

Keisuke's Photo of Cork

Keisuke’s Photo of Cork

Brendan: What was the best place for you?

Keisuke: Everywhere I visited. Without guidebook, you can spontaneously find something.

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

Keisuke: I would say you should not make light of the weather. You could see it the moment you arrived

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

Keisuke: Nothing especially. It was exciting enough not to miss Japan.

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

Keisuke: The big thing is I can’t see my friends in Cork now. And what is more I miss brilliant food in Ireland.

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

Keisuke: It is reasonable compared to those of other courses..

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

Keisuke: I will come to Cork again when I have a chance to come there.

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

Keisuke: No, thank you for the days in Cork.

Brendan: Thank you, Keisuke

Keisuke's photo of Cork

Keisuke’s photo of Cork

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

One of the most rewarding months of my life

Emilio Bonome Ares has just completed the four-week CELTA intensive course at UCC. I caught up with him to find out his experience.

Emilio Bonome Ares

Emilio Bonome Ares

You’ve just completed the four-week intensive CELTA course. How do you feel?

As everything in life, it’s not black or white; I feel relieved but I miss it at the same time. It’s been one of the most rewarding months of my life. The CELTA course really is an immersion, you even dream about lesson plans and teaching practices during your sleep. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not a suffocating, stressful thing, at least for me it was quite enjoyable. The atmosphere and the support among the CELTA trainees couldn’t be better, we had a good time together.

Why did you decide to do the course?

I have studied English grammar for years so I wanted to move from theory to practice. I enjoy teaching and it’s always good to have a practical training with tutors’ feedback so you can explore different approaches to teaching and have someone with experience telling you what you are doing well and what you need to work on. Knowing a language doesn’t mean knowing how to teach it, so I thought that this course was the right way to test myself as a teacher and my English skills. I feel reassured now and I can say that I am ready to teach English!

What was the hardest part?

The course lives up to its name; it really is intensive. Everything is reasonable and manageable, but you really need to commit and to manage your time effectively. The stress can get to you when you have to submit a lesson plan or an assignment. The beginning is the hardest part because you get too much information all of a sudden and all the terminology used is new to you. However, everything comes with practice and there’s no pressure for perfection. After a few lessons, you’ll start using all the terms adequately, it’s impossible not to get used to them when they are everywhere! Your tutors and peers are the best source.

What part did you enjoy most?

The atmosphere with my fellow trainees was excellent! The afternoon sessions are not only very helpful but also enjoyable. As I said before, CELTA is very rewarding, so I have enjoyed it as a whole, I feel much more confident now about my teaching; I have learnt a lot and I feel really happy for having done it. As for the breaks, the benches outside the ORB will become your new best friends (if the weather allows it). Make the most of the break with your peers; to work at its best, give your brain a rest!

What were the tutors like?

During the teaching practices, the tutor’s presence can feel a bit intimidating at the beginning because they are assessing everything you do, but you soon realise that they are actually very friendly and approachable. They are there to guide and support. The feedback that the tutors provided was really constructive, they highlighted both the positives and the negatives and were very sensitive in doing so. Their attitude was very positive and supportive. They were understanding about the pressure we were going through and highly encouraging.

What was the teaching practice like?

Teaching in front of a class of 12 people can sound quite challenging for those who have no previous experience but CELTA provides you guidance and the perfect atmosphere to start your teaching career. The learners know that you are being trained and they understand your situation; they don’t expect you to have all the answers. In our case, most of the students were very friendly and participative, they really enjoy the classes and they will make you enjoy them too.

What about assignments?

The assignments aren’t very demanding as long as you make your background reading on time. We were given all the deadlines and instructions from day 1. Read through them and make sure you ask any questions you have to your tutor, then you’ll be ready. There’s not much secondary reading involved. The background reading necessary for the assignments focuses on the basics of English language Teaching and will be helpful for every aspect of the course. The books are written in a very approachable prose; they are easy to understand even if you are not used to all the teaching terminology.

What advice would you give to someone starting the CELTA?

Be organised and self-confident. You need to prioritise CELTA; after all, it’s only a month and it’ll be definitely worth it.

What’s next?

Currently, I am a teacher of Spanish as a Foreign Language at UCC, so in September I’ll be back to teaching. I can’t wait to try out everything I learnt during this month. CELTA is not just about English Language Teaching, but also about teaching in general. The course has helped me improve my classroom management skills and to plan my lessons better, so I will be applying that to Spanish soon enough.

I plan to go back to Spain in the future, so I am sure that CELTA will be passport to finding a job back home as an English teacher.

Is there any question I have not asked, but you would like to comment on?

Non-natives, don’t be afraid. As a Spaniard, I didn’t feel fully confident at the beginning. You will think “who am I to teach a language that it’s not mine?” Honestly, if you have enough level of English to be accepted in the course, half the work is done! Seriously, we have been in English classes for years so, in a way, we know what an English teacher should do. We have already studied uncountable rules and tenses, nothing will be completely new. Believe me, non-native speakers are at an advantage.

Thanks Emilio. It was a pleasure to have you on the course and we are so happy you did so well. You give some great advice to people thinking of doing a CELTA course with us. Enjoy your summer.


For all information on our upcoming CELTA courses, visit our website. Our next course begins in September 2015. Applications are now being taken.

The CELTA really is your passport to the world

Claire O’ Dwyer, from Tipperary completed the ten-week extensive CELTA course from January to March 2015. She was an absolute pleasure to have on the course and we wish her all the best in her TEFL career.

Claire O' Dwyer

Claire O’ Dwyer

You’ve just completed the ten-week CELTA course. How do you feel?

It’s such a great feeling – a huge achievement! It’s been one of the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve ever done. It’s weird getting to bed at a reasonable hour and actually having time to myself!

Why did you decide to do the course?

I wanted to try something new. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher and I’ve always wanted to travel… this is a win-win. After some research, the CELTA was an obvious choice when it comes to EFL courses – it’s what all the employers are looking for.

What was the hardest part?

Late (or sleepless) nights and early mornings; trying to balance work and college was close to impossible. I’m still not quite sure how I managed!

On weeks four and eight we had our usual teaching practice to prepare for, along with two assignment deadlines… stressful to say the least. My advice – don’t leave the assignments until the week they are due, start them as soon as you can – seriously!

What were the tutors like?

We couldn’t have done it without them – they were fantastic! Brendan and Cathy are two of the most helpful and supportive people you will ever meet. Listen to them, ask them anything – you’ll learn so much!

What was the teaching practice like?

Each teaching practice takes a LOT of planning and preparation! We were all nervous at the beginning, and being observed and assessed is a little intimidating at first but, once you’re organised, you’ll really love it! The students are fantastic!


What advice would you give to someone starting the ten-week course?

Make sure you haven’t got too many other commitments; it’s not really a two day-a-week course – you’ll spend the rest of your week buried under lesson plans and assignments! If you need to work, work part-time. Set up email, Facebook and Dropbox groups and SHARE EVERYTHING. We couldn’t have done it without one another. Our FB group is now called ‘CELTA Survivors’ and we talk all the time – we’ve made friends for life.

What’s next?

A new adventure! I’ve Skype interviews next week for summer teaching jobs in both Spain and the UK (fingers crossed!) After that… who knows? The CELTA really is your passport to the world…

That’s great, Claire. We are sure you will do very well. Keep in touch.

If you are interested in getting a qualification which will allow you to work anywhere in the world, a CELTA course might be for you. All details here.


There is a wonderful sense of achievement by the end of the course


Becky Coleman

Becky Coleman recently completed a four-week intensive CELTA teacher training course.  She kindly agreed to do a little interview with me about her experience.

Hey Becky thanks for taking the time to do this. Now that the four-week intensive CELTA course is over how do you feel?

I feel wonderful! It’s great getting to sleep at a normal hour!

Can you tell me what were your reasons for doing the course?

I had spent the last year as a substitute teacher in Ireland. I wanted to work full time and I felt the CELTA course would increase my chances of getting full time work as a teacher. I also wanted to travel and I knew that doing the CELTA course would give me the freedom to travel.

Can you tell us a little about the application process? What did you have to do?

There was a face-to-face interview and an hour-long exam to test your basic understanding of English, grammar, vocabulary etc. You will be asked in the interview how much pressure and criticism can you handle and do you think you will be able for the intense nature of the course.

What about before the course – were there things you had to do in preparation?

You will have to do a pre-course task that helps you prepare for the theory the course will cover. The pre-course task is important and it will give you a good idea of how challenging this course will be.

Tell us about the first day? What was that like?

I was very overwhelmed on the first day. The tutors did some lovely ice- breaker games with us in the morning, which helped us to get to know each other. All of the other trainees were lovely which really helped! In the afternoon we went straight into lesson planning as we were teaching the very next day. This was VERY overwhelming!

They say the course is really intensive. It is as relentless as they say or is it exaggerated?

Intensive is putting it mildly. It’s beyond intense! I don’t think anyone will really understand how demanding and intense this course is until they do it themselves. You have to be 100% committed to this course. Your entire social life will have to be put aside for the month if you want to get through it. However people do get through it! There is fantastic support from the tutors and especially the fellow trainees, which really helps.

On the course you have to teach for a total of six hours? How does that work out?

You are divided into two groups of 6. You basically teach a 40 minute lesson every second day. You will also teach a 1 hour lesson in the first two weeks and another hour lesson in the last two weeks. Trainees will have the opportunity to teach both upper intermediate and lower intermediate lessons.

Are the students ‘real’ students?

Yes they are! They are from all over the world. There is a very supportive atmosphere within the lessons and the students are lovely. They are enthusiastic and they want to learn. It is very enjoyable teaching them.

On average how long did it take you to prepare for a lesson?

The dreaded lesson plans! It took me about 5 hours to do a lesson plan in the evenings. They have to be detailed if you are to be confident in your teaching. It’s important to know the subject before you step into a lesson to teach and that is why the lessons have to be so detailed. It was very intense and stressful.

Did the tutors give you a lot of help in the planning stage of your lessons?

The tutors are extremely helpful with the lesson plans. We were very much spoon fed during the first week, however as the weeks go on the tutors will expect the trainees to put their own thoughts and ideas into the lessons. By the last week you will be expected to plan and complete the lesson yourselves.

So, in the morning you have teaching practice and then in the afternoon you have input sessions? Tell us a little about those.

This is the part of the course where you really need to have thick skin! You will be given constructive feedback on how your lesson went. Both the tutor and your fellow trainees will discuss things you did well in the lesson and aspects of the lesson you need to improve for the next time you teach. Take these things on board. The important thing is that you demonstrate improvement throughout the course.

What is the hardest part of the course?

I found the lack of sleep and the input sessions very hard. I was very nervous and anxious listening to the feedback my tutor and peers gave, but overall they are all very supportive and everyone is there to help one another. The feedback is to help you improve. For the entire 4 weeks I was only getting about 3-4 hours sleep a night, I had never experienced such sleep deprivation in my life!

Was there anything you found easy?

To be honest, I found every aspect of this course demanding. But it really is worth it in the end and I felt very proud of myself for getting through it. There is a wonderful sense of achievement by the end of the course.

Was there anything you had not expected at all; something that surprised you?

I did not expect to have such wonderful support from the other trainees. Everyone really unites together and helps each other get through the course. I could not have done the CELTA without the support and encouragement from my fellow trainees. I have definitely made life long friends from doing this course.

What advice would you give someone preparing for the intensive 4-week CELTA course? Are there any books or websites you would suggest?

It is definitely worth doing. However, you will need to be able to commit all of your time to this course. You will get very little sleep, you will be stressed, you will cry, you will have great days and bad days, but if this is something you really want, you will get through it! This course will definitely open many doors full of opportunities but you have to be prepared to work very hard.

I ordered some of the books that are suggested in the recommended reading list.

And finally, now that the course is over what are your plans? How do you intend to use your CELTA qualification?

I have accepted a job in Spain! I’m moving there in a few weeks and I am very excited about this opportunity!

Good for you, Becky! I am sure you will have a great experience and your students will enjoy your classes a lot. Suerte!

Click here if you would like to learn more about  the CELTA teacher training course.