For students who have left their families to study abroad, Christmas can be a difficult time. Whether it be financial worries, travel and visa issues, or personal reasons, not everyone makes the trip home and campus can become a lonely place. But at University College Dublin, this has begun to change.
Colum Cronin, senior international officer at Dublin City University, collaborated with colleagues at UCD last year and created ‘Dublin in December’, a staff and student partnership programme aimed at alleviating homesickness and fostering community spirit. The programme consisted of four events which led up until Christmas. From movie nights to Christmas Day breakfast, the sessions successfully brought 150 students together with staff and alumni.
The scheme not only combatted isolation, but also created possibilities for building friendships. One participating student said, “The programme gave me an opportunity to meet a lot of people, some of whom I am still in contact with today.”
Information is key
As well as facilitating new social networks, another one of the project’s aims was to provide students with information about what Christmas is like not only at UCD, but across Dublin and Ireland. As the predominant religion in Ireland is Christianity, Colum created a handbook which contextualised the holiday for students of all backgrounds.
But most notably, the programme informed institutions on how to immerse international students into their social fabric. The key theoretical frameworks underpinning Dublin in December focuses on how to improve the student experience of international students, as well as what they can offer to the community.
As a result, Dublin in December has been routinely referenced at international conferences, such as Student Affairs Ireland and NACADA, as an exemplary model to follow by. Its student/staff structure demonstrates how institutions can aid students in becoming more engaged, whilst simultaneously gaining a deeper insight into the international student experience.
Dublin in December will be running again over Christmas 2019.