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National College of Ireland


International Students - Adjusting to Academic Life in NCI: Surviving Your First Semester

International Students

Surviving the First Semester

As you adjust and settle into your new environment and life at NCI, the main differences you will find are likely to be as follows:

  • You will have a lot more independence in terms of how and when you study.
  • The ability to think critically and analysing your topic will be more important than remembering facts.
  • You must give credit the work of others and all other sources that you use when writing your assignments.

Time Management

It's very important that you begin planning your time at the very beginning of your course. As well as adjusting to life in Ireland and NCI, you will be expected to prepare and study for several different assignments at the same time.

It's vitally important that you attend all of your lectures and that you attend them on time - it is no coincidence that the students with the worst attendance rates are the ones with the worst course marks.

When you're not attending lectures, you will need to be disciplined and plan your study and preparation for your assignments - it is not uncommon for assignments to be due in the same week or close together. It is your responsibility to plan your deadlines and make sure that you hand up your assignments on time.

Working Independently

In Ireland, you are expected to read independently in preparation for your lectures and assignments - as well as recommendations from your lecturers, you will be expected to find information for yourselves. Instead of just reproducing information from textbooks, you will be expected to read and research academic journal articles, particularly on postgraduate courses. Many of your assessments will focus on the understanding you have gained about your topic rather than just repeating facts.

Study will be much more an individual activity - you will need to manage your own time, do your own reading and research, prepare for your classes and complete your assignments on time. You will spend many more hours studying independently than attending lectures - you are responsible for your own learning and just because there are no lectures, it does not automatically mean that you have time off.

Six Ways to Survive Your First Semester

Keep on top of things by attending all of your lectures, review your notes regularly, keep up with your reading and ask questions if you don't understand something.
Be organised by planning your study time and by keeping tidy and organised lecture notes.
Make use of the technology and resources available in at NCI and make sure you are aware of and know how to access all the library resources. Take a look at our Subject Guides to find all relevant resources and be aware of what's on the NCI website and your Moodle pages.
Keep in touch with your lecturers, academic support services and  other students on your course. Also regularly check your college email and Moodle pages to stay up to date.
Don't suffer in silence, if you don't understand something or if you have a problem, ASK FOR HELP! Unless you talk to your lecturers or academic support services, nobody will know that there is a problem until it's too late. You can contact the Library Academic Support Centre or Student Support for help.
Embrace college life! While it's important to stay on top of your studies, it is also important to have a varied college experience outside of your studies. There are lots of opportunities to get involved in student activities at NCI, a great place to look for social activities is the Student's Union or the Sports and Recreation webpage.

Managing Your Reading

You may feel overwhelmed by the amount of reading you are required to do on your new course - this can be particularly stressful when English is not your first language. Here are some tips:

  • You are not expected to read everything on your reading lists from beginning to end - at first you need to be strategic in your reading; just concentrate on the core texts.
  • Read your course material selectively, just looking for information on the particular topic you are researching at that time. Your first goal is to understand the main ideas in relation to your topic - this will help you build more confidence and also help you better understand the lectures.
  • When reading journal material for the first time, it's always a good idea to read the abstract, summary or conclusion - this should be enough for you to get an understanding of your topic at the beginning; you can go back and read the material in more detail later.

Need advice for your assignments or research?
The Library Academic Support Centre is here to help!
We offer in-person and online appointments, remote assistance via email and a drop-in service.
For more details about how we can help you, see here.

Keep up to date on any library news and resources by following @NCILibrary on Facebook Twitter Instagram
Communications from the Library: Please note all communications from the library, concerning renewal of books, overdue books and reservations will be sent to your NCI student email account.