History and International Studies, 3rd year
From: Southport in Merseyside
School: Greenbank High School and King George V College for my A-Levels
‘I thought Northern Ireland would be a fascinating place in which to study my degree’.
Sophie, why did you choose Queen’s?
I chose Queen’s because I’ve always been pretty outgoing and adventurous, and I really fancied going somewhere a bit different for university! I loved the fact that while it opened up this new and exciting Irish culture, in a bustling city, it really wasn’t too far of a journey from my hometown. I visited and thought it was an amazing and unique city, and really liked the size. It wasn’t a place I would get lost in, yet there was so much to discover.
I also thought Queens would make a really interesting place to study the particular degree I do. Not only is Irish history very rich and intertwined with British history, but Northern Ireland is an extremely politicised country, which is why I thought it would be a fascinating place in which to study my degree.
Has Queen’s lived up to your expectations?
I didn’t really know what to expect moving to Northern Ireland, but I’ve definitely had a lot of positive experiences here. Something which I didn’t properly realise before I came to Queen’s is just how close everything is, the library, student halls, student houses, gym and lecture spaces are all very close to each other. This makes it really handy as you can walk everywhere, saving you much needed money as a student and means that especially at exam time you don’t have to worry and stress about public transport.
I didn’t know how lively the nightlife would be in comparison to cities closer to home, but there really is somewhere to go every night of the week if you wanted, and the nightlife is varied.
How would you sum up your experience at Queen’s and living in Belfast?
I would say it’s different from England, with its own unique, quirky culture which has been very welcoming to me.
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?
Something that I’ve found different about Queen’s compared to my friends that went to English universities are the friendship connections you make here. Northern Ireland is smaller and more connected than England, and a lot of people know each other. I’ve found this has made it easier to make friends. For example, I made friends with students from Derry (second largest city in Northern Ireland), and they subsequently introduced me to all of their friends. As a result of this I’ve visited Derry on many occasions which has been really fun.
I also think coming to Queen’s makes you more independent compared to if you had gone to university somewhere closer to home, which I’ve really appreciated.
Can you tell me a bit about travelling over from England to Queen’s?
I fly over from Liverpool John Lennon airport to Belfast International and it’s a short flight, only around 35 minutes. The cost of flights is usually around £40-£50, and it’s so easy to book flights early and cheaply. Tips I would have for travelling to Belfast is to download the airlines app! It just makes travelling so much less stressful having your boarding pass on your phone and it also lets you know if there’s any flight delays. Another useful tip if you’re flying to and from Belfast International is that, if you’re flying back within a month its much cheaper to buy a return ticket than two singles.
Can you tell me about anything ‘different’ that you have done during your degree – placement, part-time job, clubs and societies etc.
I’ve had the opportunity during my time at Queen’s to do lots of volunteering through the University’s Volunteer SU, which connects students to charities and organisations where you can really make a difference. For example, during my first year and third year, I have helped local children improve their school work and confidence through the university run ‘Homework Clubs’. I have also picked up Spanish with the Queen’s Language Centre, where for £20 I got 12 weeks of Spanish classes twice a week, which has helped improve my language skills.
What about your degree, what is that like?
My degree is a joint honours degree, which means I get to study both History and International studies in equal proportion. I really like this, as I think I get to study a nice variety of modules. I’ve had the opportunity to study everything from modern Irish and British history, Medieval German history, Middle Eastern Politics and Asylum and migration. I think this has meant that due to the variety, I’ve really enjoyed studying these modules and my interest in them has never really faltered.
Can you tell me a bit about your accommodation since coming to Belfast?
Since coming to Belfast I lived my first year in halls in Queen’s Elms Village student accommodation, which allowed me to make many friends who I then went on to live with in my second and now third year. I live in Stranmillis which is one of the main areas where students live in Belfast. It’s a short walk from the university, has a student vibe and surrounds the Stranmillis Road which has all the shops and eating places you really need as a student!
What advice would you give anyone who may be thinking about coming to Queen’s?
I would say – consider Queen’s! Don’t discount it if you’ve never been to Northern Ireland or know anyone here. The people here are famous for their warmth and friendliness, the countryside around Belfast is beautiful and there’s lots to do. If you have the opportunity to come visit, definitely go for it and see what it’s all about.
What I really like about Queen’s is that it offers a lot of opportunities and experiences in a setting different to the one I grew up in, so if you are open to it and really take all the opportunities here you’ll have a great time at university in Northern Ireland.