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Students from Great Britain

An open letter to my 17-year-old self, three years after I almost missed out on coming to Queen’s


 Dear Alisha, 

You’ve just failed your first round of AS Level’s, and I know you’re feeling lost, worried and disappointed in yourself. If there’s anything you need to do now, it’s work harder and stay focused – because one of the best experiences of your life lies within your grasp. You’ve had your heart set on Queen’s for a long time now, and even with an extra year of exams lying ahead of you, just know that it’s all going to be worth it.

teenage girl

'Belfast will feel like home sooner than you think'

With the resit aside, I know you have reservations and apprehensions about potentially moving to Belfast. You’ve always wanted to study away from home, but with that time is fast approaching, it’s even more daunting. What if you miss your friends too much? What if you regret moving? What if you really struggle being away from your family? The good news is that there is no need to worry - Belfast will feel like your new home sooner than you think.

girl on a plane

'Friends will come easier than you think'

You’ll feel immediately welcome when you arrive at Elms, with the student staff being super friendly and approachable. Friends will come easier than you think - I know the thought of being away from home around so many strangers terrifies you now, but it’s all in your head. Everyone wants to make friends, and it makes it that little bit easier when everyone else is in the same boat.


'This is the place you're meant to be'

You’ll love Belfast from the get go. The vibrant city life and incredible culture will capture your heart quicker than you’d have imagined. Belfast is so different to your home town of Manchester. Despite being half the size and across the Irish Sea, this city is steeped in history. In your heart, you will feel that this is the place you’re meant to be. It’s not just the place itself – you’ll feel supported by the staff at Queen’s in this new adventure, with events being held for GB students and the Student Union’s support centre ensuring that you’ll never feel alone.

There are times when you will feel too far from home and will miss your family and friends, but the airports are so close, and the flights are affordable, so going home for a weekend here and there won’t break the bank.

sparkler girl

'You'll learn to be adventurous and brave'

You’ll learn to be more adventurous and brave when you move to Belfast. I know that you currently have a perpetual fear of pubs, clubs and anything to do with socialising in big groups, but at university you’ll thrive off occasions like this. You don’t even like getting the train alone at the moment but being responsible for yourself in a different country will give you so much confidence. I know it all seems scary right now, but trust me, you’ll thank yourself for the rest of your life once you’ve taken the plunge, because the three years you spend in Belfast will be the best you’ve ever had and you will completely change as a person - for the better.

student with backpack

Love Alisha x



Photos: Allef Vinicius; Anthony Delanoix; Eepeng Cheong; Killian Pham; Scott Webb/Unsplash



Alisha Ratcliffe

BA English | 2nd year | Manchester, England

I’m 20 years old and originally from Manchester, now in my second year at Queens studying English. I’m obsessed with cats, cooking programmes and spending money on pointless things I don’t need. I am a member of QUB Ladies Rowing, I work at Belfast Waterfront and I love eating out (or anything food related). 

BA English student, Aisha Ratcliffe