Learning English at University College Cork, Ireland

Life inside and outside the language classroom

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. 

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.

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.


Meet Priscilla – our Photography Competition winner!

Meet Priscilla – our Photography Competition winner!

Hello my name is Priscilla.
I’m 27 years old and I live in Brazil, my passion for Ireland began to see movies showing beautiful landscapes like the cliffs of Moher and very exciting music, ever since I started researching more about the country and my passion for this country only increased.

I always had a great desire to study in English in some Irish university, but the opportunity never arose mainly because it’s too expensive for us Brazilians due to exchange rate differences between our countries, because of this always attended deals in an attempt to get a scholarship I tried several sweepstakes and contests hahaha :).
A day looking at the page on facebook UCC seen on the photo contest and decided to participate and to my surprise my photo was among the 10.
I was super happyyyy, with the help of my friends was that my photo was the most voted and consequently the winner, now I’m getting ready to go to study three weeks in UCC am very anxious to know the city, the university and live this cultural experience that is part of my dreams for a long time, thank you for UCC participate in this achievement.
Thank You God!

If you want to join Priscilla, come to our Summer School. All details 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

Congratulations to our winners

We are delighted to announce the winners of our third annual Photography Competition!

In third place, is Luis Gago with this photograph.

Luis Gago

Luis Gago

Here is what he said about his photograph:

I took this photo in County Galway, that is where I live since I moved to Ireland last february. What I like about taking photographs in Ireland is to have the chance to capture the wilderness and the history that makes this country unique. Untamed but full of beauty, young but with countless layers of history.

In second place is Katrin Brandmair:

Katrin Brandmair

Katrin Brandmair

Here is what Katrin said about her photo:

“It was taken in Killarney National Park, close to the Ross Castle. It was the first daytrip with my new roommate and the start of a really good friendship.”

And our winner is Priscilla

Priscilla Oliveira

Priscilla Oliveira

Here is what Priscilla said about her photo:

“I love Ireland and its beautiful scenery. This photo was taken the Connemara path these are some of my favorite photos behind me a sense of peace.”

Congratulations to all our winners and a big thanks to those who entered the competition. Come to our Summer School this year and you could get a beautiful photograph that just might be the winner next year.

The winners need to contact our office to reclaim your prizes. Email 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.



Denise LuziiGiant%27s%20Causeway








Photography Competition 2015

Hey guys, just a quick update regarding the competition. Tomorrow is the last day to get your entries in. We will be posting the shortlist of selected images on our Facebook page from next week and we will allow public voting. The photos with the most likes will win the prizes. Still plenty of time to get your entries in. All details 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 decided by a public vote.

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!

Saint Patrick’s Day Video Competition

We are very pleased to announce a Video Competition to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. To enter the competition, you need to make a video of a maximum of 60 seconds about your idea of Ireland or Irishness. The video should start in this way, ‘Hi, my name is …, I’m from …. and this is my message about Ireland’. To enter the competition, you will need to upload the video on your Facebook page with the hashtag #Patrick2015UCCLanguageCentre. Videos can be uploaded from the 19th to 30th March 2015. Please make sure if you are using music that you do not use  copyright protected music as we cannot share this on our pages if your do. You can find a lot of music you can use on YouTube’s copyright free library. Click here for that.

We have some great prizes for the winners. The winning video will win A TWO-WEEK FREE ENGLISH COURSE in our Summer School in the month of August. Second place will win FREE REGISTRATION FOR A CAMBRIDGE ENGLISH EXAMINATION and the third place will get FOUR WEEKS FOR THE PRICE OF THREE on our Summer School in August.

The winning video will depend on the amount of ‘likes’ the video will get on our Facebook Page (UCC Language Centre). All videos will be vetted before the publication on the Language Centre Facebook Page.

Winners will be announced before Easter!!

We are really looking forward to seeing your video!