Overseas university spotlight: Mary Immaculate College (Ireland)
Updated: May 27
For international students looking to study humanities within a close-knit community that offers lots of support, Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, Ireland, is worth a look.
Here are some of the highlights from my visit to campus in June 2022!
This city was one of the few places I didn't get a chance to visit when I lived in Ireland back in the day, and I'd always heard it was an industrial city.
While Limerick does have a more blue collar feel to it, this actually works in its favor, as it feels really authentic.
There are fewer tourists, which in my opinion, makes a place great; international students will get to see the real Ireland.
With a population just over 100,000, Limerick absolutely has its own charm though.
Located in the southwest of Ireland just 30 minutes from the Shannon International Airport (which has direct flights from the U.S.), it's an incredibly easy place to access and lets visitors bypass the sometimes hectic Dublin airport.
Those coming from or wanting to visit Dublin can catch a direct train of just 2.5 hours as well.
As one of Ireland's oldest cities, Limerick is a place rooted in history, founded by the Vikings in 922 AD.
Known as the Treaty City, it's also where the Treaty of Limerick was signed in 1691 after the war between William III of England (William of Orange) and his Father in Law, King James II.
One really cool place to check out here is the Treaty City Brewery, based in a centuries-old house that's had the upstairs floor removed.
There's also the stunning King John's Castle that overlooks the River Shannon (the same river that flows through the university's campus).
But the oldest building in the city is St. Mary's Cathedral, dating back to the 12th century.
That's more than 850 years old!
It has taking a beating over the years though; for example, during the siege of Limerick, the local defense sharpened its swords against the cathedral wall, marks that can still be seen.
In more recent history, Limerick also happens to be the birthplace of The Cranberries (a band) and Irish Coffee (a brew infused with Irish whiskey).
It's internationally known as the sporting capital of Ireland and is famous for its rugby team, Munster.
And just slightly further afield is the Bunratty Castle, which puts on a dinner and show inside its castle walls.
MIC (or Mary I as the locals say) is about a 15-minute walk from Limerick city centre, and with around 5,000 students currently, it was initially founded in 1898 as a teacher-training college.
Nowadays, students choose MIC to study education, liberal arts, theatre or psychology.
Theatre students in particular benefit from having the Lime Tree Theatre on campus, a 510-seat venue that hosts national and international music, dance, comedy and theatre acts, as well as the annual College musical, which is always a sell-out show.
We got to see a powerful student performance during our visit and also learned that MIC does not hold auditions for its theatre program because of its philosophy that everyone should have the right to study drama.
In the Bachelor of Arts, students get to study four different majors in their first year, choosing from programs like drama, English language and literature, French, Irish and cultural studies, geography, German, history, math and computer studies, media and communications, music, philosophy, psychology or theology.
Towards the end of year one, students receive advice and guidance before selecting the two
subjects to carry on with for the rest of the degree, ultimately graduating with a double major.
Though programs are typically four years and include a study abroad/work placement year, MIC does allow international students the option to skip this study abroad/placement year and head straight into Year 4.
This way, students can save on tuition and head into a one-year master's program in their fourth year if they like.
Tuition & fees
MIC tuition, however, is very affordable compared to the rest of Ireland and especially compared to U.S. institutions.
Currently, tuition is just €11,128 per year for international students (about the same figure when converted into U.S. dollars).
MIC is also FAFSA-approved, meaning U.S. students can opt to use the Direct Loan program to help cover tuition and living expenses.
And when it comes to housing, there are low-cost options within very close proximity both on- and off-campus.
Whilst there are no meal plans (get out the pots and pans!), students will have their own rooms and can expect to pay around €2,300 - €2,500 per semester for housing.
That means in general, the annual cost of attendance at MIC is somewhere around $20,000.
And if students opt for the 3-year degree, it's around $60,000 in total (what you can expect to pay at a U.S. institution for one year!).
Elsewhere on campus
Another really cool spot on campus is The Forum, which has amphitheater-style seating in vibrant colours.
It's a common area for both staff and students alike to hang out and has a mini Farmer's Market on Thursdays during term.
MIC is also home to Ireland’s only student radio station, Wired FM.
The station broadcasts all over Ireland, students have the opportunity to present and produce their own shows--great for those studying media and communications.
Mary Immaculate College: Summary
Most universities abroad and in Ireland are considered large, with more than 15,000 students.
MIC, however, is one of the only small, close-knit tertiary institutions, and its students benefit from the extra support.
It's a staple in the community, especially when it comes to the performing arts.
In fact, MIC is so important to the city of Limerick that the mayor himself joined us for lunch during our visit, along with the College President.
But perhaps one of the best benefits about MIC is its flexibility and affordability.
Not only can students tailor their degree in terms of subjects and duration, but they can also have an outstanding international study experience without breaking the bank.