Frequently Asked Questions
Will we be required to do our reading prior to arriving in Ireland?
There is no prior reading requirement. If you are interested, we recommend that you read a capsule version of the history of the Republic of Ireland, which most of the popular guide books include. Understanding Irish history is key to understanding its people and culture, so, eventually, you will need to know the difference between the legal status of the province of Northern Ireland and that of the Republic of Ireland.
Will we purchase our books in Ireland, or the United States?
Your class materials will be posted on Blackboard, meaning that if you have a laptop, I suggest that you bring it. But if you don't have one available, that's okay too. In both Belfast and Dublin there are computers for your use. The buildings we use will be wireless generally. Most laptops work on the electrical system in Ireland. Check your power cord box or the computer itself for INPUT. So long as it reads 100-240 Volts, it will work. The only thing you will need is an adaptor so that your plug will fit into the Irish wall outlets, which take three thick, flat prongs. You do not need a transformer.
What is considered appropriate attire?
This is a good question. In both Belfast and Dublin we will be in the audience of judges and/or legislators. On those days, we dress for court, so wear a suit. Because, however, we are never in the presence of any of these people more than once, one set of court-appropriate clothing is enough--"travel light, travel right!" On classroom days, dress casually. When we go out for our planned dinners, the dress is business casual - no jeans, t-shirts, or flip flops! Always, always wear the most comfortable shoes you have. If you do not have a pair, go and buy one!
Ireland is not as warm as the western Pennsylvania weather that Duquesne students know in June. Daytime temperatures will be in the 70s. There might be rain. (We have had years with no rain at all in three weeks-forget the Hollywood stereotypes.) Thus, bring a light rain coat (because the rain is usually light, not thunderstorms) and a small umbrella (not a golfer's tent, because the sidewalks of Dublin are crowded.)
When may we arrive?
Your private rooms will be available in Belfast on the morning of Saturday, June 1, 2013. Most flights will fly you overnight to Dublin or Belfast from North America. Classes do not begin until Monday afternoon, June 3, but we do have an orientation session on the afternoon of June 1, and we recommend that you arrive at least one day in advance in order to re-set your internal sleep cycle and to prepare your practical needs. Also, on the 2nd (Sunday) we plan on touring the Northern Coast in Northern Ireland.
If you arrive on Friday, just let me know and I'll make sure you have a room.
What do I do when I arrive at Dublin (or the Belfast) airport?
First: Go through immigration. Because you are on a program organized by an American University, when they ask you why you are visiting, your answer is "touring." Do not say "study," because they will assume you are studying for a semester at an Irish University and will want to see your study visa, which you do not need for a short program like ours.
Second: Collect your bags.
Third: Go through customs.
Fourth: Welcome to Ireland! You are now in the arrivals hall. Go to the ATM, use the same ATM card you do in the US, and withdraw some Euros--you'll need them for Dublin and for the bus. If you can withdraw Pounds Sterling, get some too, because you are now headed to Belfast, and as part of the UK, it still uses Sterling, not Euros. If the machine won't give you any, you might want to get some from Thomas Cooke or one of the other money changers in Dublin airport.
Fifth: Exit the arrivals hall (if you land in Dublin). (You can keep your bags on the baggage cart and go outside.) To your left will be the coaches for Belfast. Ask any of the bus and coach folks for the many companies there. They will direct you to the correct coach. They run frequently enough that you won't need a schedule. The travel time to Belfast is about 2.25 hours.
Sixth: When you arrive in Belfast Central Bus Station (last stop), change to a taxi and tell the driver to take you to Queen's University (our dormitory) http://www.qub.ac.uk. Ask the driver to drop you off at the student center. I will be in the café that is on the right when you walk in.
Is return travel between Belfast and Dublin provided?
Yes. We will travel as a group from Belfast to Dublin by coach on Saturday, June 8, with a tour stop in the Cathedral city of Armagh, where St. Patrick built his first church, http://www.geographia.com/northern-ireland/ukiarm01.htm, and where we will visit the Robinson Library, http://www.armaghrobinsonlibrary.org/ (where the philosopher Berkeley worked and where Jonathan Swift wrote part of Gulliver's Travels.)
Will my cell phone work in Ireland?
Maybe--ask your provider, but don't just ask if it will work, ask how much it costs per minute. The ability to work will depend on the number of bands the phone provides. But often, even if the phone works, you'll pay for a transatlantic call to phone the US, and TWO transatlantic calls just to phone your friend in the next room in Dublin who also has a US number. First, check with your provider to see if your phone number is locked. Second, if the phone is not locked you'll save money by getting a new SIM card when you get to Ireland and put it in your phone. (The shop clerk will do it for you.) You will be able to get one for about twenty-five dollars and you'll get twenty-five dollars of pay-as-you-go calls, so the card costs nothing. You can add time on the phone at any newsstand or convenience store. The only catch is that the new SIM card will mean you have a new phone number. An alternative would be just to buy a new phone in Ireland that would also be pay-as-you-go. You should be able to get one for about fifty dollars.
Phoning the US. You have four choices:
- You can use your cell phone directly as described above.
- You can buy a pre-paid card at a convenience store and use it with your cell phone, go to a pay phone, or use someone's private home phone with the international PIN number.
- Being an international city, Dublin has small shops that are either combination internet cafés and call centers, or just call centers. You get your own private phone booth and the rates are generally good.
- A really good alternative is to buy a headset, sign up for Skype online (audio only will do), and pay pennies per minute to talk to the US through your laptop.
Should I take my laptop?
Yes, take your laptop, but if you don't have one available, that's okay too. In both Belfast and Dublin there are computers for your use. The buildings we use will be wireless generally. The materials for the course will mostly be the Blackboard website that is designed for this program. Most laptops work on the electrical system in Ireland. Check your power cord box or the computer itself for INPUT. So long as it reads 100-240 Volts, it will work. The only thing you will need is an adaptor so that your plug will fit into the Irish wall outlets, which take three thick, flat prongs. You do not need a transformer.
Should I bring a hairdryer and/or shaver?
Nope. Both run at a different number of cycles from Irish electricity. Hairdryers at best will run, but very slowly, and more likely will either burn up, or blow open the breaker switch on the wall. Shavers generally just run slowly, but don't burn up or blow the breaker. The solution? If you can't live without a hairdryer, you'll need to buy one there.
Should I bring any blankets, pillows, or towels?
Yes and no. Blankets and pillows will be provided at both Stranmillis and University College Dublin, but towels will not be provided, so bring a couple of towels.
Will we have Internet access in our rooms?
Will my credit card work in Ireland?
Your credit cards will work there, and your cash machine cards will work there as well. We recommend just waiting until you get to Dublin airport and getting cash then. Have some dollars with you in the event of a cash machine emergency in the Dublin airport (whatever that could be). There are Thomas Cooke and other agents who can change the dollars to Euros and Pounds Sterling for you in the Dublin airport.
What is an appropriate tip?
Restaurants: First of all, in other countries, restaurant workers make a living wage, so tipping is not a big percentage of the bill. At most, leave ten percent.
Bars and pubs: NO tipping whatsoever. They won't even know what to do with it.
Taxis: Round up to the next Euro or Pound--that's it. And if you are close to the next Euro already, add one. So for example on a 10.20 Euro fare, give the driver 11 Euro. On a 10.90 fare, give the driver 12. That's it. None of that fifteen percent or higher stuff. They'll happily take it, and might even expect you to give them a big tip (that's why they'll try to cozy up to you and ask "So what part of America are ya from?"), but they know better.
Americans are not required to pay the Value Added Tax that exists in the UK and Ireland to support the European Union. Therefore, if you buy significant items (such as clothing, books, CDs, or crystal) (not groceries or daily goods), you qualify to get a significant portion of the tax back. Take your passport when you go shopping and ask. With luck, they will deduct it immediately. If not, they will give you a voucher you must submit at any European Airport at the point of your departure from Europe. You then either get your cash back or they put it back on your credit card. Look for the "Tax Refund" blue square in shop windows.