AN Erasmus year in Cork in 2014 shaped the future for 27-year-old Maëlle De Francesco, who moved to the Rebel County after studying for a semester at UCC.
“I remember when I first got to Cork, in 2014, I got a taxi from Cork Airport,” Maëlle said.
“It was rainy and grey, but I loved it. I knew I had to come back after graduating, I just loved Cork.
“When I saw UCC, I just knew that’s where I had to go ... because it looks like Hogwarts. That’s the main reason why I decided to come to Cork, and somehow I must have good instincts because I’ve never regretted my decision, and I fell in love with the city instantly.”
Now the operations manager at HireHive, a Cork-based company offering recruitment software to help busy teams hire people, Maëlle said she feels content in Cork.
In fact, she said she loves almost everything about Cork, apart from the weather and the high cost of accommodation.
“The people are very friendly and welcoming, it’s a great place to meet people from all over the world. The city is big enough that there’s all you need there, but not too big either.
“It felt like home from the day I arrived! I’m also lucky to be working in a great environment — the company I work with, HireHive, has a great company culture, and I just love the Irish way of living life and doing work.
“There’s definitely a different atmosphere from what I was used to when I was living in France. People are so relaxed!
“As a foreigner, it can be quite hard to meet local people, especially if you work for one of the big multinationals, where you tend to meet only international people.
“In my case, our office is based in Republic of Work (ROW), an amazing coworking space that’s located at the heart of the city centre, and it’s a great place to meet local people, and they’re always happy to answer my questions about Irish culture and Cork slang!
“That’s a community I’m glad to be part of. My life in Ireland would be very different without everyone in ROW.”
The young language expert, who speaks fluent French, Italian, and English, said one of her favourite things to do is explore the cuisine and nightlife of the city.
While the French woman is fond of Irish food, she said she does miss French cheese and said that Irish cheese just isn’t the same.
“I love to have food and drinks with friends,” Maëlle said, before adding that the parks of the city were also a great release for her when she needed to relax.
“I also love walking to Fitzgerald Park and to Blackrock Castle, those are my go-to places when I need a breath of fresh air and to relax a bit.”
Maëlle is also a dedicated swimmer and is often in the pool doing laps.
“I love swimming, it is my therapy. In the water, I find the solutions to my problems.”
Over the past two years, Maëlle said the lockdowns and restrictions had been difficult, but she was happy to have been here instead of France, where the rules were stricter.
“I think Covid was handled well here. I think it was sensible. My family were telling me that they needed a cert to go out for an hour and they had to stay in a 1km radius. My parents live in the middle of nowhere, an hour in a 1km radius is tough. I don’t know how people managed.”
Maëlle said that she really enjoyed her time studying at UCC and has a lot of fond memories of the time she spent there.
“I loved the time when I was studying in UCC, as student life is unreal here in Cork.”
After four years in Cork, Maëlle said she feels more at home here than in France.
“My friends have become my family here. Most of my friends are foreigners too who have been living in Cork for a while, so we’re a family of sorts!”
In terms of picking up habits or mannerisms, Maëlle said one thing she has learned to do in Cork is understand when a bartender is asking for your order.
“I know that if a bartender in a pub asks you: “Are you OK?”, they’re not actually asking how you are, but are asking for your order… You would be surprised how many people get caught by that!”