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Support and Wellbeing

GB Students: Welcome and Orientation Experience

Welcome, new students! History and Politics undergraduate James explains how you can make the most of your orientation experience at Queen's below.

Students and Staff in the One Elmwood Students Union building

Moving to Queen’s University Belfast should be an exciting opportunity for all students from Great Britain! Looking back at my first year at university in Belfast, the only regret I have is that COVID plagued some of the amazing chances that every first year deserves to have.

Welcome and Orientation

The welcome and orientation experience was predominantly online for me; however, throughout my time at Queen’s University Belfast, I have discussed and seen the great events that are on offer, and I would encourage all students to attend these. Both the university and the Queen’s Students’ Union (QSU) put on these events. Although I did not attend the in-person orientation events at Queen’s, I did do a semester abroad at George Washington University in Washington DC. These orientation events introduced me to new students and allowed me to connect with people with similar interests which in turn allowed me to establish a friend group for my time abroad.


On check-in day for new students who are staying in Queen's accommodation, staff and student ambassadors are on hand to make the process as smooth as possible and ensure that you receive a warm welcome to the university.

Making friends

I would also add, which I have stressed before in previous blogs I have written…DO NOT PUT PRESSURE ON YOURSELF TO MAKE A CLOSE FRIEND GROUP IN YOUR FIRST SEMESTER OF UNIVERSITY! I fretted so much on this topic, and the truth is that throughout your time at university you will meet your closest friends and often they are not the people you meet at orientation events. However, often they are… so do attend them, just don’t put pressure on them being the 'be all and end all'. Think of them more as a place to get to grips with the new university infrastructure, vibe of the city, and what initially piques your interests (rant over)!

Within the new state of the art One Elmwood Student Centre, there will be plenty of chances to engage with new students feeling the same apprehension and excitement as you. My personal favourite spot to hang out is the rooftop on the third floor. There is a very cool little green bench with the engraving “Alright stranger? What’s the craic?” The bench’s goal is to encourage students to socialise, so this would be a great place to grab a free coffee/tea from the rooftop and meet some lifelong friends. Also, for any Warhammer or Dungeons and Dragons players, often I see them competing on the roof, so societies do make good use of the space!  

Students on roof of One Elmwood building

Hang out with friends at the One Elmwood Student Centre

World-class teaching

Despite COVID establishing an online learning experience for my first year of university, I was enthused by the passion that my lecturers had for their respective subjects. Yet, it is important to understand that these compulsory modules build crucial skills for your university course. I would strongly advise you watch YouTube videos on key fundamental academic tools that can be used throughout your modules. I wish I had learned key skills such as referencing, proof reading and critical thinking sooner as my first-year grades would have been drastically improved.

For any History students, I would advise you choose modules taught by Dr Eric Morier-Genoud, Dr Scott Dixon, and Dr Crawford Gribben. These lecturers were extremely inspiring to my academic studies and shaped the course of my studies throughout my time at Queen’s University.

The university offers disability services for any student who may be affected. This includes mental-health support as well, which I have heard has been very valuable to students affected. As well, support funding can be made available to students if they are going through financial struggles which has benefitted many during the cost-of-living crisis.

Network with students by joining a society

Throughout my time at Queen’s University, I have found myself in a decent number of societies which have been a great deal of fun. The first society I joined was the golf club, which had some of the most pristine merchandise I have ever seen. My black golf Under Armour top with the Queen’s logo is always complemented at whichever clubhouse I have my post-round pint in. I then ended up joining the Queen’s Boxing Club, which I have written a blog on and offers more in-depth analysis of the training. As the article states, I recommended people join the Queen’s Boxing club, even just for fitness purposes.

Another society I joined and had a great deal of fun at was the Wine and Cheese society. It was a great opportunity to network with students with some casual drinks and tasty, often Lidl-branded cheese (at least that’s what I brought) and live out our middle-aged fantasies much younger than expected!

Queen's Boxing Club

Follow Queen's Boxing Club here

Overall, if you are starting your university experience this month you should absolutely feel apprehensive, but you should embrace this apprehension because in three years’ time, once you have graduated, you will miss the sheer excitement that the first year will bring. Throughout your university experience, you will likely make life-long friendships, learn how to live independently and even meet the person you marry!  Embrace the nervousness, go to as many orientation and welcome events as possible, join loads of societies, work hard, but most importantly without sounding corny - have a lot of fun. Peace!

Find out more

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James McGeehan 

BA History and Politics| Undergraduate Student |Bournemouth, England

I am a third-year student heading out to the United States, Washington DC to enrol in a study exchange programme at George Washington University for Semester 1. Once I am back from the States, I will be enrolling in a political Internship that will continue throughout my second semester. I've lived in Elms BT2 and Elms Village and Stranmillis.

Throughout my time at Queen's, I have been a member of the Boxing Society, Golf Society, Wine and Cheese Society, Politics Society and Archaeology Society so I have kept myself busy. If I have free time at the weekend once my studies have been completed my favourite places to party are The Points, the Cathedral Quarter and Thompson's!

James at City Hall