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Why Choose Queen’s

Studying at Queen’s - Reflections of an International Public History Graduate

Moving to a new place can be scary. When that new place is over 3000 miles away, it can be even more so. Hear from US student Molly on what convinced her to study at Queen's and how Belfast became her home away from home.

Group of students
My American friends and I waiting to see King Charles in September 2023

When I was thinking about studying abroad for my master’s degree, I was excited about visiting new places but constantly worried about being so far away from home. After taking the leap and spending a year at Queen’s, however, I found a new home in Belfast. From my programme of study to all the guidance I received from the Queen’s international team, it was an unbelievably easy transition from the USA to Northern Ireland.

Outside Lanyon and University Square street sign

Shot of Queen's on my first day

Finding my programme

When I was looking for postgraduate programmes, I was already keen on going abroad. I’ve always had a love of travel and was excited at the prospect of being able to incorporate that into my education. I applied to a few universities in the UK, but what impressed me most about Queen’s was their level of communication with me as an international student. I had a lot of questions as a first-time international student, but they were always there to help. I was also able to speak to other students at the school who communicated a more personal perspective on life at Queen’s. Everyone was so welcoming, both online and in person once I arrived. It was comforting to know that whatever I needed, someone would be there to find the answer.

"What impressed me most about Queen’s was their level of communication with me as an international student."

A worker's strike protest at Belfast city hall

A worker's strike protest I attended for work at Linen Hall Library

Another thing that drew me to Queen’s was the Public History programme itself. Before traveling to Belfast, I was able to meet with my professors over Zoom and discuss the layout of the programme, as well as the opportunities for work placement and creativity within the modules. Compared to the other universities I applied to, the Queen’s Public History course was very flexible and allowed me the space to research my own interests. Belfast itself is host to a rich assortment of histories, some of which factored into my final dissertation. Being able to live and study in such a unique city was a wonderful new perspective that I had never been exposed to before.

Learning and working on campus

One really unique aspect of my experience at Queen’s was the opportunity for work experience. The public history programme is designed to help students discover what type of work they enjoy within such a multidisciplinary field. Our second semester included a built-in internship at one out of a range of public history institutions, which was an amazing opportunity for practical learning. I spent my internship with a fellow student at the Linen Hall Library in Belfast city centre where we were able to archive a brand-new collection of documents on the women’s rights movement in Northern Ireland.

Lynda Walker discussing her collection at Linen Hall with two students

Myself, my coworker Asha, and Lynda Walker discussing her collection at Linen Hall

Not only was I able to learn new archiving skills, but I was also able to interact with the woman who donated the collection, Lynda Walker, and learn more about the history of women’s rights in Belfast from her point of view. It was such an amazing experience to work in the city centre like this. I felt as if I was part of the city and was receiving exclusive types of knowledge I never would have pulled from books alone.

Additionally, I was able to find a work placement on campus with a professor in my department. Firstly, I loved getting to work on a new history project, especially one which involved oral history interviews. Secondly, it was a great opportunity for me to work close to home and support myself financially while still focusing on my studies. I worked in a few other capacities for the university throughout the year and found that they were always looking to hire students across all fields of study.

Living at Queen’s

I think the most daunting part of moving to a new place is trying to find a comfortable place to live. Especially when moving overseas, I was nervous about securing housing without being able to visit the area first. Luckily, Queen’s offers several options for international accommodation depending on what you prefer.

Group of students posing together

My friends and I at Willow Walk after our 30-person Thanksgiving in November 2022

I chose an apartment in the Willow Walk complex which is about a 15-minute walk south of the main Queen’s campus. While it’s not in the city centre, I really loved living in this more residential area. It was incredibly easy to walk to and from class and if the weather was bad, there was a bus stop just outside the neighbourhood. Since public transport isn’t super popular in the US, I couldn’t have been more thankful for how easy it was to use the bus system in Belfast whenever I needed to.

Willow Walk is within walking distance of several of my favourite cafes, grocery stores and shops. It was a small joy for me every Saturday when I got to walk along the tree lined sidewalks on my way to get groceries (but not before stopping for a cappuccino and pastry).

Cup of coffee and saucer on table in cafe

Flat white from one of my favourite cafes

One of the best parts about accommodation, for me, was the friends I was able to make. This is a little more coincidental, but a lot of the other American students I met in orientation were also living in Willow Walk. We spent the first few months meeting up to walk to movies, dinners, pub quiz nights, and all sorts of other activities. I was assigned a random roommate, but she also happened to be a history major and we got along instantly. I think having this kind of proximity to friends made moving in all the easier.

Not to mention the Queen’s staff at Willow Walk were also super helpful with any questions we had. They helped my friends and I with figuring out laundry, posting letters, signing up for banks, and even the occasional restaurant recommendation (not an official duty but they had some great ideas). The Treehouse centre outside Willow Walk even provides a study and hang out space for students, always stocked with games and free coffee or tea.

Transitioning into a new part of life can be daunting, but having a point of contact and a source of familiarity make the transition much easier. Queen’s provided plenty of opportunities for me to acclimate to life in Belfast and provided advice every step of the way. They gave a warm welcome to the city and continued to work with me until the end of my course. With that kind of communication, I was able to find a home in Queen’s.

Front of city hall

Belfast became a home away from home

Find out more

5 Things I Wish I Knew as an American Coming to NI for Graduate School

Information for International Students

USA Admissions Guide

Molly Elspas

MA Public History | Postgraduate Student | Maryland, USA

I recently completed an MA in Public History here at Queen’s, but I am originally from Frederick, MD in the United States. This is my extended period of stay outside of the US and I love exploring a new city and the many cultures that come along with it.

I live in a 3 person Willow Walk apartment and I like to spend most of my time either traveling the city or exercising at the gym. I am very into food and to either bake/cook at home or trying new cafes each time I go out. When I'm not studying or writing papers, you could find me out on a hike or catching up on the latest movies at the Queen’s Film theatre.



Molly Elspas