Overseas university spotlight: University of Limerick (Ireland)
Updated: May 23
I was so looking forward to visiting the University of Limerick in Ireland, and it did not disappoint (in fact, it shined!).
According to the International Student Barometer (ISB), UL has the happiest students in the world, and this has a lot to do with how the university supports and engages students.
Considering the university is only 50 years old, this is a huge accomplishment.
Here are more of the highlights from my trip 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.
From its lush parkland campus to its outstanding sporting facilities, UL offers something for every one of its 17,000 students that come from more than a hundred countries.
It has a distinct campus feel like an American university, and the campus is open to the public, so within minutes one can easily spot locals taking their dogs for walks throughout.
One of the main features of campus is the Living Bridge, the longest footbridge in Ireland and one of the longest in Europe.
It's 'living' in the sense that it's suspended across the River Shannon so that it moves naturally with the environment--and what a lovely environment that is (a campus environment ranked #4 in the world, ISB 2021).
The river is an important one; it's the longest in the UK or Ireland and flows from Northern Ireland through to the Atlantic Ocean.
Waterways are used quite well by the university; in fact the first project for civil engineering students is to build a bridge over one of the lakes on campus, and to pass the lecture they must walk over the bridge!
Also on campus, which can be reached via a lovely 3-mile river walk to the city centre, there are 16 restaurants and eight student villages.
In 2019, UL was the first university in Ireland to implement a rainbow housing initiative to support a safe and inclusive environment for its LGBTQ+ community.
Dr. Amanda Haynes, Co-director of UL’s Hate and Hostility Research Group, said, “Rainbow housing is not about self-segregation. It's about giving LGBT students access to a supportive base in which to launch themselves confidently, proudly and assertively into campus life."
And when it comes to sport, UL has all the sporting facilities one could want.
It's no surprise that UL was ranked #2 in the world for its sporting facilities (ISB, 2021); it's home to Ireland's first altitude training centre, an Olympic-sized swimming pool and the National Strength and Conditioning Centre.
Student life on campus is vibrant; there is even a very cool student hangout known as the Stables and loads of clubs, societies and volunteering opportunities.
And just when you think you've seen it all, there's still more to see!
UL also has a gorgeous library that reopened in 2018 and doubled in size.
The Glucksman Library now includes a range of world class innovations in book storage and retrieval, digital research, accessibility and ‘inspirational learning spaces’.
One very cool feature is the Automated Reserve Collection, a 10-meter high book vault and robotic crane that has the capacity to store 500,000 volumes in a space that's 1/9th the space of conventional shelving.
One of the most unique features of a degree from Limerick is the fact that every student in every program does a co-op, or work placement, of about eight months--most of which are paid!
UL pioneered this concept in Ireland, an amazing way for students to 'level up' given the fact that 65 percent of its students end up getting hired by their co-op company after graduating!
This is why UL's graduate employment rate is 15 percent higher than the national average.
Students can even opt to go elsewhere abroad for their co-op, and about a third of students do take advantage of this opportunity.
Going overseas for a degree can be a daunting experience for most, but UL has some of the best, most personalized international student support out there, and it starts before students even arrive.
When I spoke to students from the U.S. on campus, this is what they reiterated over and over--that sense of belonging, feeling valued and supported in their home away from home.
They're not just a number.
And this was actually proven again in the ISB survey in 2021; UL was ranked #1 in the world for international student support.
Let me say that again: number one in the world!
It's no lie!
UL is a comprehensive university offering 4-year degrees for the most part.
It's a great place to study both the arts or STEM subjects like medicine, engineering and health sciences.
For example, within the aeronautical engineering degree, there is a module on Flight Mechanics in the third year, which gives students exposure to a flight simulator.
This is important because it helps them have a big picture on what it feels like to be a pilot and what can happen in flight if a wing is tweaked a certain way by an engineer.
Another highlight is UL's Irish World Academy, a centre of excellence in music, dance and voice.
We got to experience a brief masterclass ourselves, but we weren't exactly what you'd call 'harmonious'.
Below are photos from elsewhere around campus.
University of Limerick: Summary
As you can see, both the city of Limerick and UL have amazing experiences to offer international students.
There is loads to do in Limerick and its beautiful surrounding coast and hillsides, and UL has one of the most beautiful, green campuses in the country right along the River Shannon.
It's also a friendly, diverse, inclusive and sporty community.
I know I've mentioned a lot in terms of rankings, but for me, the two things that really stood out the most are 1) just how well the uni looks after its international students and 2) how happy the students are here.
And in today's day and age, that's not an easy feat!