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The College Guide To UCD: Insider tips, top study spots, and the best chicken fillet roll

If you’re heading to UCD this year, read this first.

SPRAWLING ACROSS A large chunk of Dublin 4, University College Dublin (UCD) is Ireland’s largest college by campus size and student population, attracting 25,000-odd students to its gates every year.

It has a reputation as the jack-of-all-trades college – ranked among the world’s top 200 universities – and teaching everything from veterinary to broad arts courses that could lead you down hundreds of career paths.

Its sheer size can make it a daunting place. If you’re on your way to UCD this coming semester, here’s your guide of what to expect and how to fit right in.

What’s the campus like? Big. But you can see for yourself! Here you are outside the sciences building.

What’s the most Instagrammed place on campus? Definitely the lake. It’s got swans and everything.

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🤗❤️ Family

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What’s the best spot for a chicken fillet roll? Most buildings in the college have their own little food joints, but let’s be real here, students want to know where’s the best chicken fillet roll. The answer is Centra beside the student digs at Merville. It’s a bit cramped in the queue, but it’s worth the wait.

Where are the best study hideouts? Each library on campus is open to all students, so sample the buzz of the James Joyce Library first – it’s the largest on campus but can be full of distractions. If the hum of laptops gets on your nerves, the quieter library in the veterinary building might be a better pace.

Is there a bar on campus? You bet there is, but not as many as you would think for such a large mass of students. The famous UCD Bar closed down in recent years and has been a hollow shell ever since. What has taken its place is the Clubhouse Bar – formerly known as the Forum Bar – which is wedged between the new and old parts of the UCD Student Centre.

It shows sports and live music, has regular drink promos including visits from craft brewers, and has been known to host Beer Pong Mondays.

How can you sound like a final year? Know about the secret lake.

Everyone knows where the big lake in front of the library, but knowing where the ‘secret lake’ is means you’ll be a step ahead. So before you arrive on campus, get out a map and make a note – it’s the one closest to the veterinary school. Trust us, inevitably someone will say, “Did you know UCD has a secret lake?” When this happens, you’ll be able to say exactly where it is.

In the same category as the ‘secret lake’ is UCD’s network of secret tunnels – an even more guarded gem than the ‘secret lake’. There are some rough maps, but don’t get your hopes up too much, the tunnels aren’t very accessible.

And one other hidden gem you could surprise your campus friends with is knowing all about the Ag Shop, which makes a cheap (but also mean) cup of tea. The shop is tucked away in an alcove of the agriculture school’s basement and is tough to beat with its unlimited supply of biscuits to dunk in tea.

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RIP sun May 2018-July 2018

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What do UCD students love about it? The size, says recent zoology student Joanna O’Malley.

Some people thrive in smaller groups and colleges, but for me a bigger college meant I was able to try more things. I ran the biological society and also ran the arts society. They are part of two different faculties and they do completely different things but I got to give them both a go, which is a weird juxtaposition.

The extracurricular activities, says recent genetics student Dylan O’Neill.

The highlight was having a play I wrote and directed produced in Dramsoc when I was in second year. The whole process of auditions and being on the other side of the table was a surreal feeling.

And… what do they NOT love about it? The FOMO, says Dylan.

The lowlight of UCD was having to go home every weekend because I lived in digs. My digs family was lovely towards me and they made delicious dinners, but I had a severe case of ‘fear of missing out’ having to take the train home every Friday evening.

The size again, says Joanna – because it can mean that groups from school stick together.

UCD definitely can be daunting. I understand why a lot of students would stick to their old groups and classes. I know in medicine, from day one you get to know your class and create a community, but for people in arts and science some have to stick to their original friends groups because it’s easier.

What should freshers know? It’s plain and simple: Avoid the library during study week at all costs.

“It’s full,” says Dylan. “You will walk around looking for a table with a socket, give up and call it a day, having gotten next to no study done. Set up a space at home for study. Preferably not near a couch or bed.”

And hit Starbucks for free plugs and tables.

“Loads of science students live in the Science block”, says Joanna, but “there are hidden gems in other parts of the college. Like the Starbucks in Quinn often has plugs and tables free and most science students wouldn’t even know there was a Starbucks in the Quinn building.”

Who should I follow? You could get in the good books of Shane Bergin, physicist and an assistant professor, by following him on Twitter. Or if you happen to taking a politics elective, Aidan Regan is your man.

The college is also full of up and coming rugby stars and future Olympians. Until recently, Belfield was a regular stomping ground for one half of the Ireland’s Rio 2016 medal-winners who “pulled like a dog”, Paul O’Donovan.

Naturally, being a hive of millennials, of course there is an influencer or two on campus. Louth-native Katherine Beirne goes as @petrolrose on Instagram and is worth a follow.

But if you just want to stay straight-up informed about what’s going on, college newspapers the University Observer and the College Tribune have the scoop.

What’s the accommodation situation? There are several on campus, from the fancy Roebuck Halls to classic student digs in Merville. Naturally, it’s pricey – this is D4 after all. But UCD is so well-connected to the rest of Dublin by buses, you don’t need to necessarily live on its doorstep. Here’s a look at rentals in the area on Daft.ie.

UCD in numbers

  • 6: The number of colleges within UCD which focus on specific areas, such as arts, business, engineering, health, agriculture, science and law.
  • 138: The number of different nationalities on the campus in 2017.
  • 185: This was UCD’s rank in the latest QS World University Rankings, which means the university is in the top 1% of higher education institutions globally.
  • 33,000: That’s the total number of UCD students based on the campus in Belfield and at overseas operations.
  • 1.7 million: The approximate number of visits made to UCD’s library each year.

Are you going to UCD this coming semester (or is it your alma mater)? Share your opinion in the comments!

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