Hi, I’m Aisling. Nice to meet you!

Life isn’t all learned in lecture halls. Hallowed though the halls of UCD are, I’ve decided to jump ship for a trial run at adult life – I’m going on an engineering internship. From May 2014 to May 2015, I, Aisling, Chemical and Bioprocessing Engineering Student, will be working at MSD Ballydine, a pharmaceutical plant in Clonmel and Glanbia Ballragget, a dairy processing site in Co. Kilkenny. I’m not alone in this endeavour – several of my classmates have committed themselves to 3 month or 9-15 month work experience programs across the land. One is even going to be an engineer at a chocolate factory! I’m going to document all my experiences as a UCD intern right here.


I started my UCD journey in 2011, a girl fresh from her Leaving Cert in Waterford, taking on Engineering (Omnibus) with 260 others. I’ve now completed my third year in my chosen speciality, Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering, with many adventures along the way. UCD has taught me to cook, brought me skiing in the French Alps, and has renewed my love for dancing and given me the best friends I could want, among so many other things. I may be living on the other side of the country but Belfield is still home for now!

Despite being situated fairly centrally in the largest city in Ireland, UCD can sometimes feel like living in a small town. The pub, shop, cinema and all your lectures are usually a max. 20 minutes from your house and you’ll never walk far without bumping into someone you know. It is this bizarre but comforting proximity to everything you need and everyone you know that makes UCD life so sweet. That is, until summer rears its beautiful, sunny head and all of your college mates scatter to the four corners of the Earth like a dropped bag of Maltesers.

A large cohort of my classmates are living it up in a big house in Cork City, working at some of the world’s top 10 pharmaceutical companies. One Cork-based colleague is being shown the ropes in a major oil refinery and he’s not the only one – a UCD Chem Eng student has been given the opportunity to experience life as an engineer first-hand in the Corrib Gas Field. Two of my classmates are currently working for a massive international Oil and Gas Company in Southampton, taking part in major projects based on catalysis in oil refining and project management. Other students from my class are taking up intern positions in Wales or research placements in France and in the US. It’s hard to believe that just two months ago we were all in the same classroom together. Even though the variety of roles, industries and countries is enormous between the members of my class, the outcome is nearly always the same. We all spend a summer constantly learning useful, applicable information that will be invaluable to our final year of study. Oh, and I suppose, we have a bit of fun on the weekends along the way!


It’s not all work and no play for UCD students though. The expansive stretch of nearly four months free from any major commitments brings out the creativity in all Belfield’ians. First stop for many is Interailing. There are literally countless photos on my Facebook newsfeed of Heroes Square in Budapest, The Berlin Wall and Croatia’s pristine white beaches. With one ticket, you can go nearly anywhere in Europe and on a budget too. Hostels and continentally-priced food make this the ultimate student way to see as much of Europe as you can.

Another summer rite of passage is the almighty J1. The Irish Invasion begins in May every year and cities like Chicago, Boston and New York are usually flooded with UCD kids out for a great time. There are always UCD communities spread right across the US. My roommate is currently coming home each night to a frat house in San Francisco. More UCD engineers are taking over Santa Barbara further south in California. There’s plenty on the East Coast too, with groups settling in Newport, Rhode Island and Ocean City, Maryland. The J1 experience is almost indescribable, as it is so different for each new participant in the program each year. Life in the various cities of America is diverse, but always entertaining.


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There are more creative summer agendas for many UCD students too. Another two of my roommates are about to embark on a seven-week Asian adventure, taking in the awe-inspiring scenery of Vietnam, the unbelievable cuisine of Cambodia and the harmonious mix of laid-back days and jam-packed nights on the Thailand islands. Others are trekking their way through the rainforest in South and Central America. The summer is an excellent time to do your bit for charities across the globe and some Physiotherapy student friends of mine are volunteering their expertise in Nepal and Uganda, and many more UCD students from all disciplines are giving their time to teaching English, aiding construction projects and other vital volunteer services in India, Tanzania and many other developing countries.

Travelling further afield

The opportunities for travel are endless as a student, those three-and-a-half month gaps are what sets the student life apart from working life. It’s invariably easier head off for weeks on end as a student and therefore it’s a sin to not take advantage of your summers. One thing UCD students always know is, no matter where your summer takes you, you will always have a Belfield buddy, be it your planned travel companion or someone you bumped into out of the blue. That’s just a snapshot of how far and wide my UCD flock is spread this summer. As for me, my internship in Clonmel may be more educational than exhilarating, but there’s always next summer for that!