Ciara  explains what it was like to take part in theUniversitas 21 Summer School last summer

Last year, I was fortunate enough to be chosen as 1 of 5 delegates from U.C.D. to travel to the University of Glasgow to attend the annual Universitas 21 Summer School. Founded in 2004, these summer schools are hosted in a different country each year, and aim to bring together students of all disciplines from 21 universities across the globe to study, share ideas and learn about a unique topic each year.

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In 2015, the topic was “Cities and Citizens in The Digital Age”. We had lectures throughout the week on subjects such as “Big Data”, and “Smart City Development”, taught by expert professors in their fields. We learned about Glasgow’s progression through the industrial age and the Great Depression to become a leading city in technological advancements as it is today, and the incredible efforts made to engage the public in this “Digital Age”.

One of my favourite aspects of the summer school was the group project; at the very start of the two weeks, we were split into small groups and each given the same assignment- to imagine the digital future of a city of our choice and to prepare a three minute presentation in which we would showcase why this city is succeeding and how. With such a diverse group from so many different countries, each with different areas of expertise and interest, it was incredibly fun to let our imaginations run wild. Additionally, it was very interesting to integrate and collaborate all the lecture content into the project and see its realistic potential in different cities across the globe.

One of the best nights had to be the night of the Céilí. Hosted in the Glasgow University Union Debates Chamber, a band of local musicians taught us all how to do traditional Scottish dancing. Just as the night was coming to an end, the five of us from U.C.D. decided to teach everybody some Irish dancing! Not without difficulty, we eventually we had everyone perfecting their “1, 2, 3’s” as they danced “BallaÍ LimnÍ”.

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At the weekends, University of Glasgow organised day trips for all the students and we had the chance to indulge in the local culture and visit the some of the famous tourist attractions of Scotland, such as Loch Lomond, the Glenboyne Whisky Distillery, and Edinburgh Castle. Sundays were typically free, so I used that time to explore the magnificent Highlands and went hiking with friends. We also had ample opportunity to visit the University of Glasgow Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, which is the oldest public museum in Scotland.

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There is something special about being part of a Universitas 21 summer school; the combination of countless cultures, inspiring lectures, and enthusiastic students really makes it a unique experience. I have returned from Glasgow with multinational perspective, advanced knowledge of “smart cities” and the confidence to question and critique the world around me. I have gained new friendships and global links, which I hope to last a lifetime. I feel privileged to have participated in this extraordinary opportunity, and would highly recommend it!

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