Elizabeth Jane (Lizze Jay)
Politics and Philosophy, 2nd Year
From: Greater Manchester (Salford)
School: I attended St. Marys RC High School, Astley from my GCSEs and
Holy Cross College, Bury for my A levels.
'Moving over here and learning about the culture has been incredibly interesting and exciting'.
Lizzy-Jay, can you tell me why did you chose Queen’s?
I chose Queen’s because I wanted a university which offered a really good course in both Politics and Philosophy. With Stormont (Parliament Buildings) only a short distance away from the University and amazing extracurricular activities to get involved with in philosophy, Queen’s was the obvious choice for me. I also wanted to have a different experience than if I went to an English university and to move away from home.
Is Queen’s what you expected?
I was excited to move to Belfast and start studying at Queen’s, and in that way the experience is as I expected - it has been very exciting! However there are some things that I didn’t anticipate. There is lots to learn about the culture of Northern Ireland (the Ulster Fry is amazing) and the university itself has so much more to offer than I previously realised. For example, the accommodation team offer loads of weekend trips, like going to Dublin, and there are lots of part time job opportunities within the university and the Students’ Union.
How would you sum up your experience at Queen’s and living in Belfast?
Northern Ireland is different from the rest of the UK, which makes moving over here and learning about the culture incredibly interesting and exciting. I think the main difference is the fact that there is such a strong local identity. However, both the students and staff at the university as well as the locals have always made me feel welcome and at home.
My experience at the university has been overwhelmingly positive. I have been supported at every step throughout my degree course by staff at my school and by the Students’ Union, so even when times have been hard I’ve always had someone to turn to. Also, I’ve never been bored because there is so much to do with societies.
What do you think is different about going to Queen’s and living in Belfast compared to if you had gone to a university in England, Scotland or Wales?
In the rest of the UK, it is common for students to stay at their university accommodation over the weekend, but quite a few Northern Irish students choose to visit home. I think this is because Northern Ireland is smaller so most students only live a couple of hours away, so it’s easy for them. But this means that English, Scottish, Welsh and international students have the opportunity to kick back and relax at weekends, and to get together more then. It is also worth remembering that Queen’s is like a campus university but in a city, so there is still a good buzz around the city at the weekends, with people travelling from across Northern Ireland to Belfast on a Saturday night. There are also lots of tourists coming to the city now.
Whilst I lived in Elms Village, myself and loads of other students who didn’t go home all got together for pizza and film nights etc. Also, studying in Belfast means that you have the opportunity to study things that will not be on the curriculum at other UK universities. You get to study from both the British and Irish perspective, which makes Queen’s both unique and exceptional.
Can you tell me a bit about travelling over from England to Queen’s?
It is a lot easier than you’d think to travel between the rest of the UK and Belfast. There are several ferry links and dozens of flight links. There are advantages to both flying and getting the ferry, and I’ve tried both of them in the time I’ve been at Queen’s. Flying is much, much quicker but on the ferry there is no cost for luggage - bring as much as you want to carry. The ferry can take up to 8 hours whereas flying only takes one hour.
It is not too expensive to travel to and from home and university. For example, to travel from Manchester to London on the train can cost £50, but travelling from Manchester to Belfast can cost £30. I usually pay less than £60 for a return trip home. The most I have paid was £90 but that was because I travelled the same day I bought the flight tickets - it is generally cheaper to book far in advance. There are some brilliant comparison websites to look at which will help you get the best deals.
I wouldn’t let the fact the Queen’s is just across the Irish Sea put you off from considering a university which could be perfect from you.
Have you got involved in anything ‘different’ outside of your degree?
I have had so many great opportunities as a result of studying at Queen’s. Firstly, I got involved with the Philosophy Society, and became President in my second year. Being a part of a society has been so beneficial to my learning and has made my time at university unique.
Choosing Queen’s has meant that I got the opportunity to earn a bit of money whilst studying. I got a part time job working for the Queen’s Annual Fund, a charity which is a part of the university and helps students and societies. The Annual Fund only employs Queen’s students, so it is a great environment to work in and my manager understands that I am a student and is really helpful.
In addition to this, Queen’s offer so many extracurricular activities with the Students’ Union, such as leadership and business courses.
What about your degree, what is that like?
Studying Politics and Philosophy at Queen’s has been so much more than just earning a degree. The courses at Queen’s don’t just teach you how to pass an exam, but relevant and cutting edge research. You can choose your own modules and within those modules you can choose which of the recommended readings you base your work off. Your essays and assignments are what you chose them to be, as while you have to answer a set question you can make whichever argument that you believe in (as long as it answers the question, of course). This means that whilst at Queen’s I have not just learn about the outside world, but developed my own thoughts and beliefs too.
Can you tell me a bit about your accommodation since coming to Belfast?
In my first year of university I lived in the student halls, Elms Village, like most other English students. I really enjoyed living in Elms for a number of reasons. Firstly, I got to meet lots of people from all parts of the UK, Ireland and the rest of the world. It is almost impossible not to make friends as you are living with fellow students, as everyone is really friendly and there is lots of social activities to do in Elms. Secondly, Elms is very secure – the security staff were very helpful as were the staff who worked at the reception, meaning that you were never far away from help and you always knew you were safe. Finally, Elms was very practical, and I miss living in halls for this reason. There was study space, a computer room, printer, laundry room, shop, social activities and even BBQ facilities all in one area and just 20 minutes’ walk away from the main campus. Now I’ve moved away from halls I am not so lucky!
However, in my second year I was ready to move away from halls. I had a set of friends I wanted to live with, who I had met through the Queen’s accommodation forum, which is open to all students are really helpful for finding information about accommodation outside of halls. I was also ready for a little bit more freedom, and living in privately rented property was perfect for this.
The Student’s Union helped so much with preparing to live away from halls, advising me on things like signing contacts and where to look for a property to rent. I know that the Union is always there to support and help me with any difficulties I have regarding accommodation. I was very nervous about finding a property to rent at first, but after speaking to someone at the Students’ Union I saw that there was nothing to worry about.
Privately rented student accommodation in Belfast is very good. As Belfast has the lowest cost of living in the UK, it was easy to find somewhere affordable and close to Queen’s main campus. Most places are 4/6 bedroom houses or flats but there are other options available. In my second year I chose to live a 20 minutes’ walk from Queen’s, and save money on rent, but next year I am looking for a place only a 5 minute walk away, which may be more a bit more expensive, but still reasonable.
What advice would you give anyone who may be thinking about coming to Queen’s?
Moving from school or college to university is always an exciting and nerve-wrecking time, with so many things to do. My advice would be to know that everything will be ok, because it will be! If you are thinking about coming to Queen’s I would advise you to bring over only personal belongings and everything else, bathroom stuff, kitchen stuff, stationery, etc. get in the first few days of being settled in your accommodation. There’s no point bringing more than necessary when you can get it once you’re settled and know exactly what you need.
Don’t worry if you know nothing about your course, if you got an offer from Queen’s then you are prepared enough without spending your summer locked inside pouring over books. You will be taught everything once you start your course and your lectures will be aware that some students didn’t study the subject at ‘A’ level. First year is all about bringing everyone up to speed, while second year is when the deeper learning begins.
Don’t be too concerned about the difference between the rest of the UK and Northern Ireland, you will be greeted with the warmest welcome. If you feel homesick (as I did when I came first) there is plenty of support on offer. Studying outside of Britain is not something to be worried about, but incredibly exciting! It will also make you stand out when you go to apply for a job – you have done something very different compared to many other students.