Niamh, why did you choose Queen’s?
I chose Queens because I liked the fact it was in the heart of such an amazing city and yet still had a campus feel in the student village and with all the buildings being so close together.
Has Queen’s lived up to your expectations?
I don’t really think I knew what to expect to be honest, but since coming here I have tried so many things that I never pictured myself doing such as rowing and volleyball. I have also undertaken an internship as part of my degree. The University has opened so many doors for me that I never expected.
How would you sum up your experience at Queen’s and living in Belfast?
For me it all came down to the city and the people. There is so much to do in the city itself and the people are so friendly, even if you can’t understand the accent at first! The city is full of culture, with museums, bars, food and music; it really is an exciting and wonderful place to study.
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?
I think by moving to Northern Ireland you get a real sense of independence and adventure which, for me, made the whole experience that little bit more interesting. It has encouraged me to become much more confident in my own abilities because I can’t just grab a train home at the first sign of trouble.
Can you tell me a bit about travelling over from England to Queen’s?
It takes me 20 minutes to get to London Luton Airport from my village, the flight is only 50 minutes and on average costs around £30 one-way with Easy Jet. I fly into Belfast International Airport and from there I can get a bus. It is so easy and cheap in comparison to some of my friends who study in England and have to pay extortionate train rates.
If you do have very helpful parents with a car, or if you yourself have a car, I would suggest on our first trip taking the ferry into Belfast so that you can get all your stuff over as you are charged for hold luggage on flights. However both are easy enough so it’s completely up to you.
Can you tell me about anything ‘different’ that you have done during your degree – placement, part-time job, clubs and societies etc.
I had the opportunity to participate in an internship with the Conflict studies/ Politics side of my degree. I put in an application and then had an interview. I was selected to join the Northern Ireland Finance Department, which ended up being a lot more fun than it sounds. I was part of the engagement team and had the opportunity to visit many places such as Stormont and City Hall to investigate how the Northern Irish Government could improve their engagement with the public. It was one of the most rewarding experiences I had at Queen’s and will look great on my CV, which is an added bonus.
I also joined the University’s Ladies Rowing Club in my first year, which was completely alien to me. However I had an amazing time, making the friends that I live with now two years later. Though I have to admit capsizing in the Lagan River was definitely not the highlight of my rowing career, but at least it didn’t happen in the winter.
What about your degree what is that like?
Because my degree is a Joint Honours it is split each term. In semesters 1 I study two Politics modules and one History and in semester 2, I study two History and one Politics module. Each year you have two compulsory modules (one for each side of the degree) and then two optional modules. These have included American Slavery, Modern Britain and Modern America, alongside Security and Terrorism and a module on World Politics.
Normally in my degree you would also complete a dissertation, you would get to choose between doing one in History or Politics, however I chose this year to do an Internship instead.
Can you tell me a bit about your accommodation since coming to Belfast?
As a first year I lived in the Queen’s Elms student Village. It was great because, unlike some student accommodation, it was not a collection of flats with only five people but halls of twelve. This may seem a bit daunting at first but actually makes it easier to avoid people you don’t like and increases your chances of making friends. I have heard horror stories form my friends at other universities where they didn’t get on with any of the five people they lived with and ended up staying in their rooms most of the time. With Queen’s that just isn’t an issue.
Value for money in comparison to the rest of the UK is incredible. When I visited universities in England their first year accommodation was over £1000 more expensive that Elms, despite being very similar in quality, and sometimes even worse.
For the three-bedroom house I am sharing currently I am only paying £233 a month while friends in England are paying on average £400. There is a lot of value to be found living in Belfast.
What advice would you give anyone who may be thinking about coming to Queen’s?
Please don’t let the fact it is far away put you off from giving it a chance. This University has so much to offer and it really is incredibly easy to get to and from England. All students are in the same boat when it comes to first year and everyone is eager to make friends and do as much as possible, it may seem like miles away, but give it three weeks and you won’t even notice.
If you ever do find yourself in Belfast going to St. Georges Market on a Saturday morning is a must. They have the best hot chocolate in the world.