What our students say
"University has been a rollercoaster: from moving away from home; to discovering a new city; to learning to sort of live independently; to doing a course that has stimulated me every week."
"I came into Queen’s thinking I knew what English was but over the past three years I have been blown away by the range of texts and ideas I’ve studied. University has been a blast and I will take the skills I’ve learnt to whatever I do, but more importantly I’ll take the great memories the last three years has given me!"
"My three years of studying English have provided me with opportunities I would not have had elsewhere."
"I've had an internship at the Lyric Theatre, represented my year on the Staff Student Consultative Committee and become president of the English Society. I’ve worked with and been taught by brilliant academics, who have helped me immensely. These opportunities have increased my confidence and I know I am capable of achieving anything."
"Completing my degree in English at Queen's is easily one of the best decisions I have made. I've had number of jobs thanks to the OnCampus Jobs scheme; I've been a member of various societies; and I've helped in my school whenever possible – my time at Queen's has allowed me to develop in ways I didn't think possible, and the university has had a big impact on all areas of my life."
From New Orleans to Belfast
I did my undergrad degree in English and history at Tulane University in New Orleans. After working for a non-profit for a couple of years, I decided that I wanted a chance to focus on writing, as opposed to tacking it onto the end of workdays.
I researched a few other creative writing MA programs here and in the States, but none seemed to fit my style as well as Queen’s. I was intrigued by Belfast, first off. I knew I was ready to come back to the UK to continue my higher education; I’d lived in Scotland and travelled all over the UK and Ireland, but had never been to Northern Ireland, so that seemed the perfect place to start.
Luckily Queen’s had a creative writing program that seemed to be right up my alley. I liked the sound of the Seamus Heaney Centre, which was dedicated entirely to creative writing, and felt drawn to the personality of the course: neither overly intimidating nor didactic, it seemed to be entirely about giving space and guidance for writing as opposed to working miracles or overloading students with dogma and structure.
I’ve found my work and my ideas about writing have been both supported and challenged, expanded, revised and invigorated. I concentrated on prose fiction and scriptwriting in the MA, which meant lots of in-depth workshops on my own and my classmates’ work. Then all the right ingredients came together at the end of my master’s degree and I was lucky enough to stay on as one of the first four students to begin PhDs in creative writing at Queen’s. Being a writer at Queen’s has meant being introduced (and I mean that literally) to the Irish literary scene very quickly. Thanks in part to the series of visiting writers presented by the Heaney Centre each year, I’ve met authors and poets such as Ian Rankin, Roddy Doyle, Alan Sillitoe, Liz Lochhead, Colm Toibin and most recently Anne Enright.
In no way was my experience a limited or solitary one, despite being able to work on my own writing. Due to its quite free form, creative writing at Queen’s is very much what you make of it. Opportunities abound to join existing groups and events or start your own. I’ve attended the Queen’s Writers Group, which has allowed me to get to know local poets and their brilliant work. As a PhD student I taught on an introductory course in creative writing for second-year undergraduates, and during my MA, I initiated a creative writing project in a local secondary school. I’ve co-written and directed plays, travelled, sung in choirs and work part-time at a local charity café. It’s been a wonderful place in which to make a home, as well as a great place to study.
If you haven’t been to Belfast, you’re hardly alone. I moved here from Los Angeles – not exactly the classic relocation decision, but a brilliant one nonetheless. Belfast is no London or New York, and thank God for that, says I. It’s perfectly sized, really affordable, close to the sea and some of the loveliest parts of Ireland, and always adding to its menu of things to do. I had an immediate sense of community when I arrived, particularly at the cafes and bookshops around the university area; everyone actually does know your name.
– Emily DeDakis completed a PhD in Creative Writing, after which she was a recipient of a BBC Performing Arts Fund Fellowship and is now a Producer and Dramaturg with Accidental Theatre