Borja Pérez-Mínguez | Travel blog

Last October we were able to visit and select some of the best public and private schools in Ireland, one of the most demanded available academic programs. Thanks to the proximity to any European country (barely a couple of hours to Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Rome, Munich or Vienna) with direct flights to Dublin and a very affordable cost (11.500€ + our fees 4.000€ + VAT), it has become one of the best options for studying abroad.

It’s essential to keep in mind Ireland is a traditional and rural country (except Dublin, the capital and a couple more major cities), and therefore it’s very important to have real expectations about the program so there is no cultural shock upon arrival. The Irish citizens usually live in very quite and safe medium sized towns where everybody knows each other, and the host families normally are composed of hard working people who come from modest backgrounds so it’s very important the international students know what to expect regarding the towns, houses and income of the families. This way they can appreciate what they have back at their home countries and enjoy a more rural experience.

Another major feature of the Ireland program in ubdoubtedly it’s weather since almost every single day of the year the sky will be cloudy and of course they will have some rain so it takes a while for international students to adapt to their new environment. In Ireland there are also less daily hours of sun light than in any other European country like Spain or Italy and therefore at 18h it usually starts to get dark so every student should always be at home by then, and it will take a while for them to settle to the Irish way of life

If the students have an open mind and quickly understand the school will always be their main entertainment source, after a few adjustment weeks they will start taking full advantage of the program and live a great experience. The options offered are very diverse since every center will have many different extracurricular activities like soccer, basketball, field hockey, rugby, music, performing arts, or chorus among many others.  Here at International Academic Programs we always encourage our students to get out of their comfort zone and try new sports and programs since those are the best ways to improve their English skills and make new friends.

As long as the students understand the above mentioned premises of the academic year in Ireland and try to make the most of the experience, the program will be a success, but for students who can’t see themselves in a rural environment, schools with modest facilities or host families with humble incomes, the best option would be finding an alternative program or destination like Canada or the United States.

Included in the cost of the academic year each student will get their own Student Advisor for the entire length of the program and this local figure will meet each candidate once a month to discuss about their academic performance, English level, and relation with the host family. After every visit we will receive a report talking about these matters so parents can always be informed. It’s very important the students are completely honest with their advisors and talk about anything they may need since they will be in charge of the students and their only purpose is to make sure they are happy and making the most of the program.

Regarding the schools, in our trip we got to visit the best public ones and some of them offered very atractive academic programs with many options like engineering, technology, robotics, web design, coding, woodshop and modern facilities like 3D printers or laser cuts.

We also got to visit the capital of the country, Dublin, one of the most characteristic European cities visited by thousands of tourists each year and with a wide range of recreational activities like restaurants, movie theaters, shopping malls, parks, rivers, and all kinds of historic sightseeing locations. We were happily surprised by the incredible Phoenix Park, with hundreds of wild deers living freely in it and one the biggest parks in Europe, also the place of residence of the President of Ireland and the American Ambassador.

In order to live the full experience Ireland has to offer we always encourage parents to visit their children and spend at least one weekend in Dublin since it’s one of the most exciting European capitals and completely different from the rest of the country.

Regarding the Irish academic system, the grades are divided in two different cycles:

  • From 1st Year (12 years old) to 3rd Year (14 years old) the last academic year of the Junior Cycle with the official Junior Certificate exams at the end of it.
  • From 4th Year (15 years old)  to 6th Year (17 years old) the last academic year of the Senior Cycle and the year before university. They also have the official Leaving Certificate exams at the end of it.

Due to the specific features of the Irish academic system there are 3 grades to specially consider:

  • 3rd Year. At the end of the academic year every student must take and succesfully pass the official Junior Certificate exams to validate the year at their home countries so it will be a challenging academic year.
  • 4th Year, also called Transition Year. This would be by far the academic year with more international students in Ireland. As it’s name states is an academic year of transition between the above mentioned cycles and therefore the academic load will be significantly lower than any other grade. For these reasons the students get to focus in making the most of the experience with all kinds of field trips, teamwork presentations, personal research projects and even 2-4 week mandatory internships at the local business of their choice. Thanks to this first work experience the students get to taste the labour market and improve their self confidence while they learn how to prepare their own professional résumé and deal with real customers and assignments.
  • 6th Year. Due to the heavy academic load and the official Leaving Certificate exams at the end of the academic year most schools won’t consider international students for this grade, unless their English level is very high and the student is very academic.

Therefore, the academic year program in Ireland is a great alternative for mature and resilient international students willing to adapt to the Irish culture and rural environment.

At the following link you will find all the details of the program:


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