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Queen’s from the Perspective of an American Student

Conflict Transformation and Social Justice student Sami explains why she made the long journey to Queen's University Belfast from Maryland USA to pursue postgraduate study.

Aerial view of the main campus

In September 2022, I exchanged the letters of my postal country from USA to UK. I knew that getting my master’s degree abroad would be both a challenge and a learning experience like no other. After all, as a 23-year-old who is fresh out of undergrad (with a good portion of that education being remote due to COVID-19), I decided to uproot my life and move for an education and experiences in another country. Sitting here almost 12 months later, I am reflecting on my time, and asking the questions of why… why did I jump on that plane? Why did I move my life to the other side of the Atlantic? Do I regret it? This blog will address these points and more.

Hillary Clinton speaking at Queen's University

Hillary Clinton speaking at Agreement 25 conference

Why Queen’s? Why conflict transformation?

In January 2022, I didn’t know what I wanted to do after graduation. I didn’t know if I wanted to go into the workforce, volunteer for the year, or continue my education. I decided to apply for a range of opportunities covering all of these.

What attracted me to Queen’s was simply my love of international studies and interest in the Middle East. Learning that there was a Conflict Transformation and Social Justice programme sparked my interest. Knowing that this topic is often considered to be a niche field, I understood that it would be in my best interest to get a graduate degree in the hopes of making me more competitive within the job market.

I always knew that I wanted to live in a post-conflict society that was taking active steps to address their past and work towards their future. The range of internships and organisations that address the past, while working towards the future is one of the reasons why I knew that I wanted to be in Northern Ireland.

Student signing peace wall

Signing a peace wall in Belfast

My Queen’s experience would not have been complete without working at PeacePlayers, a basketball organisation that brings together Protestants and Catholics. I am a big believer in learning outside of the classroom and the real-world opportunities that Northern Ireland has afforded me are immeasurable.

"I always knew that I wanted to live in a post-conflict society that was taking active steps to address their past and work towards their future."

Although in the US some people might not know what a ‘Russell Group’ school is, Oxford and Cambridge are highly regarded within the US, and attending a school that was part of the Russell Group was a dream come true. Although this is an added benefit, it was by no means the driving reason why I decided to move to Northern Ireland. 

The Graduate School

Being part of a master’s programme meant that I got access to the beautiful Graduate School building. This was definitely an added bonus since the graduate school building includes a quiet room with computers (which I prefer to use compared to the library). Furthermore, the Graduate School held various events for graduate students such as breakfasts and a taste of Northern Ireland welcome event. All these events were a great way to meet other graduate students which allowed me to feel part of a smaller community within the Queen’s student body.

Queen's University Graduate School, the Lynn Building

The Graduate School

How welcoming is Northern Ireland?

I have found Northern Ireland to be one of the most welcoming places I’ve ever been! The people are super nice, gracious, and overall, a great bunch to be around. I have found that whenever I’ve needed help with directions, locals are always willing to lend a helping hand.

Students at Giants Causeway

Visiting the Giant's Causeway

Additionally, Belfast is such a unique city and is the perfect place to study conflict transformation. Again, I’ve learned so much from living in Belfast and being immersed in a post-conflict society.

"Attending a school that was part of the Russell Group was a dream come true."

Cost of Living

Belfast does have one of the lowest costs of living in the UK. This was not the reason why I moved here, although I can say that it has really helped stretch the value of a pound. One of the best things is the National Health Service (NHS) as well as the price of medicine. Coming from a country that requires private health care, it is a shock to be in a place where there is free health care for the entire country. When I’ve been sick, the only cost that has come out of my pocket is the Uber ride to the hospital! Additionally, buying over the counter medicine is usually a couple of pounds, compared to the US where similar medicines would cost between 10 to 20 dollars.

All in all, I am thankful for the opportunities that I have been presented this year both from Queen’s and from living in Ireland.  I couldn't imagine a master’s programme that offers more opportunities!

Find out more

USA Admissions Guide

Postgraduate study at Queen's

Fees and Funding

Sami Koitz

Conflict Transformation & Social Justice | Postgraduate Student | Maryland USA

I've always been interested in the Middle East, specifically the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and non-profits that work towards building bridges between divided societies.

I am from Maryland, USA (about a nine-hour flight from Queens) and graduated in 2022 from Susquehanna University with a double major in Communication Studies & International Studies.

Outside of academics, I am a member of the equestrian team, Jewish Society, and wakeboarding club. I love meeting new people and I look forward to chatting with you.

Sami Koitz