Going to university abroad is a life-changing milestone; you are packing your bags and moving to another country all by yourself. It can be intimidating, but also extremely empowering to stand on your own two feet. Every student has their own expectations of what life in Belfast will be like. For me, I admit I did have a few preconceptions which I’m happy to say were inaccurate. Here is what I got wrong…
1. People DON’T have English accents like they do in the movies
As someone who was traveling abroad for the first time, my idea of the UK consisted of English accents, freezing weather and lots of long coats. This was all thanks to Hollywood movies and how they interpret British culture (think every film Hugh Grant has ever made). So when I first came here, I was all geared up to hear people communicate in English accents but to my surprise, it was an entirely different story. I vaguely remember getting in a cab to go home and having to ask the cab driver to repeat what he was saying three times. In the back of my head, I kept questioning my inability to understand English despite having a good hold on my language skills but hey, Irish accents will do that to you. The good news is the accent grows on you over time and now that I think about it, I understand every word they say.
2. It’s actually a really vibrant city
I did worry that Belfast and Northern Ireland wouldn’t have the same level of diversity as other UK cities in England. I half expected it to be all countryside but in reality, Belfast is a perfect mix of country and city life. With the city centre buzzing with music and crowds at all times, you don’t only enjoy the bustling city life but also the beautiful mountains in the distance. And just a short drive can get you to the coast and countryside. And in terms of safety, you will find yourself surrounded by people who are happy to help anytime. I have never felt unsafe roaming around in Belfast. Of course it’s inevitable to have your guard up in a new city but I’m pleased to say, you have nothing to worry about in Belfast.
3. I don’t have to take a train to university
I had assumed that going to university would require commuting because I had always heard my friends tell me stories about hours of commuting to university and back. But to my surprise, this was not the case in Belfast at all. Everything is so close by, walking is your best bet when you finally get here. The city centre is a 15-minute walk from the university and most of the student accommodation is based near university as well. This gives you great peace of mind knowing you don’t have to travel for hours to get to class.