News & Events

Introduction to Student Life

31 May 2022
President John O'Halloran greeting Ukrainian student in the Quad

In response to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ukraine, ACE rallied students and colleagues across the campus to create a six-week course, 'Introduction to Student Life in Ireland'.

This course, which was open to any and all students who are from refugee or asylum-seeking backgrounds.  Covering topics such as Irish politics and society, shopping, life in Ireland for a young adult and jobs, study and money, it also included daily conversational English classes and a walking tour of campus and beyond.  The course is being facilitated by ACE @UCC. The course entitled "An Introduction to Student Life in Ireland" runs from April 19th to 2nd June 2022.

According to ACE, "this course, we believe, was the first of its kind worldwide and was only possible due to the swift response and close collaboration by multiple staff and offices within the University. The motivation when planning the course was to consider what practical assistance the University community could provide for Displaced Ukrainian Students (DUS). The focus of the course is on; Life in Ireland for a young adult; Ireland, politics, and society; Getting sorted: communications and service.

One challenging aspect at the planning stage was that it was difficult to gauge how many participants we would have. The team also had the language barrier to contend with, but this did not impact our motivation. The initiative brought out a wonderful sense of collective institutional solidarity. It goes beyond current practice due to the ability to create, organise, promote, and deliver a quality course of this nature in such a short time frame. In addition, many of the contributors volunteered their time and offered services which were not part of the standard operating practice. Having advertised the course using social media and through many different external stakeholders, the ACE team received more than 200 applications within the first two weeks of opening registration, which resulted in approximately 70 students attending the course on a daily basis. Some of those who applied but were not able to attend due to transport, accommodation or childcare needs. However, they have been offered copies of the course materials, such as lecture notes, helpful website links etc. We have created a database to store and share the content which we hope will be of some benefit to them.

One of the desired (and already obtained outcomes) of this work is establishing a connection with the students and a calm and peaceful atmosphere. Furthermore, we wanted to allow an opportunity or the students to engage with and communicate with peers, as well as receive answers to their most pressing questions. This was achieved when the Ukrainian students spent an orientation week with Pat Leahy, School of Applied Social Studies and his team of 8 students from the Postgraduate Diploma in Youth Work. These sessions helped to form an atmosphere of trust and relieve tension and traumatic memories at the very beginning. The course also contains practical information, and the students, being in a foreign country, have already felt the support and empathy of their new Irish friends at UCC. We believe they have become more self-confident and better oriented in a new environment.

The feedback from the students has been very positive and lecturers have commented that the students are very engaged in each session. We also received feedback from host families that the course is having a very positive impact on their guests. The course is having a significant ripple effect of positivity, togetherness, and collaboration. There is a saying in the Irish language ‘Cead Mile Failte’, and it translates as a one hundred thousand welcomes. This is what we wanted to show our Ukrainian students and we hope they have benefited from the course as much as we have benefitted and learned from them.

UCC provided teaching spaces for the course delivery. Digital support for students was supported with electronic simultaneous translation of lectures into Ukrainian. Deirdre Madden in our Disability Support Services ensured that lecturers received training on how to make Ukrainian subtitles visible for all lecture sessions. In addition, they provided a helpful session with students at the start of the lecture series to brief them on the using technology to enhance communication. IT Services @UCC kindly organised guest WiFi for the students for the duration of the course. Maria Lotty, Programme Coordinator, CPD Certificate in Trauma-informed Care, facilitated a session for UCC staff on ‘Understanding Trauma and the needs of Students fleeing War’. ACE’s Business Ambassador received donations from many organisations in Cork, which included lunches for students, transport, excursions and souvenirs for the student group.

The biggest contributor to this course is the volunteer work of the UCC support services, University academics, UCC Students Union, and external stakeholders who contributes to this course for Ukrainian refugees to learn more about Ireland and student life here."

“So, three simple aims (it always works better if you can keep it simple). Make friends with each other, feel welcome and feel safe. You can add in give them a solid start to studying in UCC and living in Cork. The magic will happen when these aims are met. And it is magic”, Pat Leahy, UCC, April 2022.

For more on this story contact:

Órna Hayes, Programme Co-ordinator, Adult Continuing Education UCC

Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Unit

Comhionannas, Éagsúlacht agus Ionchuimsitheacht

South Lodge, College Road, University College, Cork, T12 RXA9