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Study Abroad Testimonials

Niamh Leonard - BA Spanish and Chinese (Portugal) - 2009/10

A Minha Experiência Portuguesa

I began my Portuguese language studies in September 2008 as I entered my 2nd year of my undergraduate BA programme. As I study Spanish and Chinese to the value of 30 credits, it was within my Spanish elective modules that I was able to study Portuguese. I knew that within my 4 year BA degree I would only ever be eligible to take 2 languages to degree level so when I saw that Portuguese language was an elective module, I immediately jumped at the chance to study it. Many of my fellow students asked me why I chose to study a third language when I was already taking two to degree level. I told them that I was eager to broaden my academic horizons as much as possible and look beyond the bare degree which faced me: Spanish and Chinese. Furthermore, I had previously never undertaken any Portuguese language course or class and I thought that it would be a great opportunity for me to take while I was in a position to do so…that, and of course, to add yet another language to my list!

           My knowledge of Portuguese or even that of Portuguese culture was extremely limited before I entered 2nd year. I think the extent of my knowledge began with “olá” {hello} and ended abruptly with “obrigada” {thank you}; I guess you could call it ‘tourist Portuguese’, if you could even call it that! However, after the first few months this began to change. Our classes were interactive, fun, and Sofia, our lecturer, made grammar learning extremely interesting! Amid the backdrop of a typical UCC lecture room, Sofia shared with us her Portuguese heritage and culture. Despite the brief two hour classes a week, my level of Portuguese dramatically improved, especially in term two.

     For both my 2nd year and my final year I was unable to attend an hour of Portuguese class each week. The second hour of Portuguese clashed with another module I was studying within the Chinese Department. As I was unable to move the times of this Chinese module, I then decided to see if I could possibly change the hour of my Portuguese class. I approached Sofia to see if she might be able to offer me some sort of a solution. When I informed her of my mini dilemma, she was more than willing to help. She suggested I call to her for that missing hour within her office hour times. I was very grateful to her for this as I was eager (and possibly a little bit stubborn to switch modules!) to study Portuguese.

Why study Portuguese as a minor module?

I am currently in my final year of Portuguese and as I was away on my international year of study last year in Shanghai I was unable to continue with my studies of Portuguese. I know many of you reading this may ask yourselves the question why did I even bother selecting the module in the first place when I was only ever able to study it for two years within a four year degree programme. Well, what I say in response to that is, if you are interested in learning languages and you want a break from all those essay based type modules, then Portuguese is right up your alley! Of course, that doesn’t go without saying that the module requires no work, don’t be easily mislead! You have to work at it of course, as you do with any other foreign language. Nonetheless, the majority of students who take Portuguese in UCC, also have a background in Spanish and this will only be of benefit to you (and yes, from time to time, an annoying interference as well!) when learning the basics of Portuguese.

                       I have fallen in love with the language, so much so that I now plan to pursue further studies in it, be it in Europe or in South America. My Portuguese experience in UCC was short lived, undeniably, but overall, extremely worthwhile. My classmates and I have all agreed that if we could have studied Portuguese to degree level, we wouldn’t have hesitated. Despite Portuguese being a relatively popular modern language, the level of non native Portuguese speakers in Ireland is still moderately low. Even the fact that UCC offers it as minor module is superb, however, it could still go one step further, and perhaps in the near future, create a separate UCC Portuguese Department, which I’m sure would only be a great success.

Portuguese is among one of the top ten languages in the world, currently ranked at number 6. Portuguese is not just spoken within Portugal, it is in fact the official language of Brazil in South America and also the official language of Angola, Cape Verde, Mozambique, and São Tomé in Africa, to name but a few. So, even if you just want to travel in the future and you find yourself in one of these countries, you will be able to use your Portuguese!

I am only too proud to say that I can now ‘falar um pouco de português’ {speak a little bit of Portuguese}.

Quero terminar por dizer agradeço muito sinceramente à Universidade de Cork por me dar a oportunidade de estudar português e claro, em particular à minha professora portuguesa, a Sofia da Silva Mendes! JFoi uma experiência optima! {I want to finish by sincerely thanking University College Cork for providing me with the opportunity of being able to study Portuguese and of course, in particular, sincerely thank my Portuguese lecturer Sofia Da Silva Mendes It was a wonderful experience!}

Niamh Mc Namara - PhD Hispanic Studies (California) - 2011

In 2011 I spent three months researching in the University of California, Santa Barbara as part of the UC Exchange program. My PhD thesis deals with Chicana literature, and UCSB houses the only collection of drafts, research materials and unpublished works by the writer I focus on; Helena María Viramontes.

As part of the exchange program, I was given full access to the library and campus internet, which was invaluable. I was also offered office space in the library for the duration of my stay by my sponsor, Dr. Mario T García, and gained some invaluable teaching experience while there as well. During term time, there were also symposia and exhibits that enriched my stay. As Chicano studies is a relatively new phenomenon in Irish academia, the opportunities I was exposed to academically, socially and culturally in California were indispensable and unforgettable. The help and support I received by staff and students in UCSB was amazing and actually being in the places I had read about so often in my research is indescribable. 

The growth of Latino and Mexican archival material housed in the US makes the UC exchange program even more important to researchers in the Department of Hispanic Studies. I would encourage any student to participate. The International Education Office are extremely helpful and provide all the information you will need for your visa application. Once you follow their guidelines the final appointment with the U.S. Embassy is simple and straightforward - and the trip itself will definitely make up for all the paperwork!

Emer Clifford - PhD Hispanic Studies (Mexico) - 2011

In 2011, I was extremely fortunate to be awarded a postgraduate research scholarship from the Mexican Government; this enabled me to spend a period of three months in the cultural splendour of Mexico City. Affiliated with El Colegio de México (COLMEX) [Mexico’s College], I was mentored by Dr. Soledad Gonzalez Montes, a specialist in Mexican gender relations and violence in the PIEM (Programa interdisciplinario de estudios de la mujer [interdisciplinary programme of women’s studies]).

As my research centres on gender violence and representations thereof in Mexico’s visual arts –in cinema, photography and photo-documentary multimedia specifically - a period of research in Mexico was crucial for collating information that is otherwise inaccessible due to geographical constraints. The benefit that such an opportunity bestowed is immeasurable; not only could I research Mexican cultural representations of gender violence first hand but I also had access to an abundance of knowledge sources, including libraries at COLMEX, PUEG, UNAM (Universidad nacional autónoma de México [National Autonomous University of Mexico]), Museo Memoria Tolerancia, Inmujeres, Museo de Antropología and Centro de la Imagen.

However, while my research does focus on very negative socio-cultural issues in Mexico, my personal experience of living in one of the world’s most populated cities was entirely positive. It is vital that people realise that while Mexico gets a great deal of negative press, it is also one of the most beautiful countries that I have ever visited and the people are the most genuine, caring and friendly that I have ever met. I urge everyone, please do not let the negative press up you off visiting; whether it is to study, work or travel – you won’t regret it! Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to the Mexican Government, the Mexican Embassy in Dublin for awarding me the postgraduate scholarship, and to the Department of Hispanic Studies and the Centre for Mexican Studies in UCC for their continued support and encouragement. 

Emer Clifford - PhD Hispanic Studies (Valencia, Spain) - 2011

Last year I was awarded an Erasmus Mobility Scholarship, which enabled me to carry out research for my PhD over a three month period in Valencia, Spain. Having previously lived in Spain a number of years ago, this Mediterranean culture was not new to me but the city of Valencia was. In actual fact, I had previously lived in the neighbouring city of Denia and luckily, many of my Spanish friends had since relocated to Valencia -which came as a huge advantage when looking for accommodation!

Upon arriving at Universitat de Valencia (University of Valencia), I met with my mentor Dr. Amparo Bonilla, who was a great source of knowledge and truly went above and beyond her advisory role during my stay. I was permitted to audit “Violence Against Women”, a module which Dr. Bonilla co-ordinates for the Institut Universitari d'Estudis de la Dona (University Institute of Women’s Studies). As my research centres on gender and representation in Mexican culture, this course was extremely beneficial, particularly as there was quite a lot of reference to gender violence in Latin America.

Aside from auditing this Master’s module, I also took full advantage of the numerous library resources available in both Universitat de Valencia, as well as Institut Valencia de la Dona (The Women’s Institute, Valencia). As most of the secondary material necessary to complete my research is in Spanish and is exceptionally difficult to source in Ireland, it was of enormous benefit to have access to information in Spanish in the fields of Latin American Studies and Women’s Studies. In addition, I attended a series of workshops outside the university which were central to my research area; art as activism. Not only did these workshops focus on the core area of my thesis but they also provided an opportunity to network with academics, artists and activists from all over the Hispanic world.

The three month period in Valencia not only facilitated my research, but was also fundamental for my acquisition of the Spanish language. I simultaneously enrolled in two language schools, each with continuous courses which I took for the duration of my stay.  Upon leaving Spain I would spend another three months in Mexico conducting core research; thus it was essential that my Spanish significantly improved. By enrolling in two language courses I gained invaluable confidence in my language capabilities and was comfortably able to conduct key interviews with prominent Mexican dignitaries.

Valencia is a magical city, steeped in history and culture; it was certainly an unforgettable Erasmus destination: to coin a phrase, “I’ll be back”! I would like to thank all those who made my Erasmus possible; University College Cork; the Department of Hispanic Studies, the International Office, the College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences, and Universitat de Valencia; Institut Universitari d'Estudis de la Dona.

Sean Brennan - Bcomm with Spanish (Mexico)


Guadalajara Mexico 2010/11

My name is Sean Brennan. I am Bcomm with Spanish student in UCC and for my year abroad I had the opportunity to live and study in Guadalajara Mexico. I was delighted with my choice and found it to be a fulfilling and worthwhile experience. What’s great about the Mexico option is that it gives you the opportunity to participate in a work placement which as far as I know is unique to the Mexico option. I chose to partake in the work placement for 6 months and also studied for a semester in the University of Guadalajara. College life was great. Studying through Spanish and attending classes with only Mexican students helped my Spanish improve rapidly. I also felt really welcome by both the students and the teachers of Universidad de Guadalajara.

After Christmas I spent six months with Flextronics on work placement. I worked in the finance department of the company. This was a great for me as I gained some vital experience in the workplace and was also required to work through Spanish. The people I worked with were very welcoming and were constantly helping me with my Spanish and work.

In my opinion Guadalajara is the ideal city for an Erasmus student. The city has a number of different universities and every semester plays host to quite a few students. There are also many things to do and see around Guadalajara including the towns of Tequila and Puerto Vallarta. The city is quite modern and is regarded as one of the nicest cities in Mexico. All in all my year abroad was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life and I would advise any student interested in Spanish to consider Mexico as an option.

Olivia Flynn’s ‘Takes from Erasmus’ – BA Language & Cultural Studies


 Spain - 2011


Olivia Flynn's blog "Takes from Erasmus" chronicles her year abroad in Barcelona 2010 - 2011

Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies

First Floor - Block B East O'Rahilly Building University College Cork Ireland