The Medical Poland Admission Office support service suggests that the increase in EU applications may be good news for Ireland, showing it’s gaining a competitive advantage against the UK and confirming students are ready to move around the continent again to experience new cultures, languages and in search of quality education.
It is for exactly those reasons and because of the limited number of places in Ireland, hundreds of Irish students move to Poland, the Netherlands and other countries for third-level education.
Each year over 100 Irish students go to Poland alone to study medicine, veterinary medicine and other medical sciences.
Irish student Sadhbh Moran is studying veterinary medicine in Poland, but it wasn’t really her intention.
After a biomedical degree in Maynooth she had thought she might get a place in postgrad veterinary medicine in University College Dublin (UCD) but the course is very competitive and a postgrad requires additional academic experience, such as written papers in scientific journals, something that was going to require more time.
She soon set her sights on studying abroad and was all set to look into Budapest at a careers fair only, unfortunately, the rep didn’t show due to a travel issue.
However, at the same careers fair she came across Medical Poland and let’s just say, it must have been written in the stars for her.
“I basically just connected straightaway, and it was just Poland and veterinary – that was my future. It’s really coincidental, I wasn’t planning on going to this careers thing, I was saying I was going to work in a lab and build up to work toward my postgrad in UCD in veterinary. My mam really encouraged me to go to the careers event to see what else might come up,” says Sadhbh.
“It changed my life. It’s mad how just one evening changes your life. Medical Poland were able to tell me about Wroclaw – the city I’d be studying in and how more and more Irish people were studying veterinary, medicine, dentistry and even physio over in Poland. It has become really popular,” she says.
Since Sadhbh began her studies in Poland she has seen a huge increase in the number of Irish students coming to study at Wroclaw University of Environmental and Life Sciences.
The veterinary programme in Wroclaw is five and a half years of study of which Sadhbh is entering her 5th year.
While she is very happy with her move to Poland to study, she did have some initial nerves about making the leap to study abroad.
“I was nervous because I’m a quiet person and it’s totally daunting moving country and going on your own. Medical Poland were just so helpful, they talked me through everything and they organised a university tour so I flew over to Wroclaw with my mam and we got to walk around the university and get a feel for it. It was really relaxing and a really nice vibe,” she says.
“It really eased my mind and I just said, ‘Why not?’ – study and travel at the same time is the perfect combination,” she adds.
What to consider
So, what is it like to study abroad? What about the language barriers? While the course is taught in English, many eastern European countries, English is not as commonly spoken as it is by our more westerly neighbours. And of course, Polish is not a common language in the Irish Leaving Cert.
“We have to take Polish classes in university, it’s part of Polish law. No matter what you study you have to do a foreign language, a sport and social science. You do those over first and second year, so you learn a lot of Polish when you get over there, and it’s really conversational. It’s really ‘How to survive in Poland’ because they don’t speak a lot of English, especially the older generation, they speak Polish, German or Russian,” she explains.
“It’s great that we have that in university because it’s a good standard, it’s a high standard and you’ll be able to get by.”
During COVID-19 the international students were back home in their own countries for the last year of studies, only able to attend online classes so it’s been a year back home for Sadhbh.
“From last October everyone has been pretty much at home. There are a lot of international students in my class from Norway, America, Canada and Kenya, so we have all travelled home and studied online,” she says.
As with most international fees studying in Poland is not cheap. Fees are around €8,000 a year (for veterinary medicine), but for comparison, this is about the same as the cost of the cheapest accommodation for an academic year at one of Ireland’s most popular colleges.
Weighed up against the cost of living and the student accommodation fees of €120/month, then it’s not entirely the most expensive way to qualify in your chosen field. Off campus in Wroclaw, €400/month will fix you up with decent accommodation.
Irish students studying abroad may be eligible for a SUSI maintenance grant if it’s your first time studying but there is no grant towards the cost of fees.
Sadhbh applied for a student loan for her fees which she recalls was a straightforward enough affair.
Finally, one of the best things about studying abroad is all the unique friendships and memories you will make. In Wroclaw there is a growing Irish community that Sadhbh is very fond of.
“We are still quite a small community but it’s building up. I know in Warsaw they have a bigger community and have a GAA team who play against other European city Irish groups,” Sadhbh says.
“We have a soccer team here in Wroclaw and we have social activities and St Patrick’s Day parties. We’d be very close with the Norwegian students, and they have a massive community in all cities around Europe as well so we kind of joined forces with them.”
“With COVID it has been difficult to get in with all the new Irish students but it’s something we are working on and hopefully next month we can set up all those types of activities.”
If you have applied to study abroad and are still sitting on the fence about it Sadhbh has the following advice for you.
“Just go for it! If it’s something that you have always wanted to do just go for it, there is nothing holding you back. It’s amazing, it’s such a good experience,” she says.
“Obviously I’m so thankful, I’m so lucky that I was able to do it so yeah, you won’t regret it one bit,” she adds.