Finally found some Wi-Fi! All the outlets are not working in my room, but hopefully they will be fixed tomorrow!
My first picture in Belfast taken on the landing strip.
From Miami I flew into London, then onto Belfast. I almost missed my connection from London to Belfast! My flight into London was delayed due to weather, then when I got to the ticket counter, the woman tried to tell me that I would not make it to the gate in time, because the gate was across the airport. I was about to freak out, when I noticed a group of three girls standing to the left. I could tell they were American by the accents and I heard them asking each other how to get another flight. Come to find out they were indeed American students studying for the semester in different universities all over Northern Ireland. We talked the woman into give us our boarding passes and we ran to the gate! All of us made it on time and I couldn’t help thinking that even though the situation was scary and stressful, it was one of those moments I would look back on and laugh. The flight was nearly empty and the flight attendant graciously let us sit together. We spent the whole flight talking about our homeschools, our majors, Jenna Marbles YouTube videos, home and what we were leaving, but also what we were looking forward to while abroad. Talking about what I was looking forward to was hard, because I did not want to set expectations. The best answer I came up with was to fill my passport up as much as possible and learn more about myself. Going abroad takes my environment, social circle, and comforts out of the equation and leaves me as myself. I have the ability to create the life I want for myself and I am curious as to what I come up with.
My first glances of Northern Ireland were exactly like the luscious green landscapes I imagined and saw in pictures. Everything in sight was quaint countryside that was divided in squares and rectangles by roads and tree lines. The sky was overcast with no hints of blue in sight. The plane window was cold to the touch and rain droplets blurred my view. I am sure not in Orlando or Charlotte anymore.
Once we landed at the Belfast International Airport, the four of us stuck together as we found our luggage and went to exchange our money. Northern Ireland’s currency is the pound, which is different from Ireland and other European countries that use the Euro. At this time £1 converted to about $1.60, making me a little nervous for my bank account. After we all exchanged, the four of us had no clue what to do with ourselves. Each of us had instructions to catch a bus in different directions, but where were these buses? How would we know which was the right one without asking a million questions and feeling like a silly tourist? A woman recognized our distress, walked up to us, greeted us, and asked if we needed some help. At first I thought that she must work for the airport; however, I would tell from her clothing that she was just traveling as well. It was my first time hearing an authentic Irish accent in person and the first of many times to experience the Irish’s friendly nature. All of us were more than thankful to be directed to the correct buses and to know it was okay to ask questions to the locals. I was able to take a bus from the airport to City Centre for £7. City Centre is the busiest part of
This is the Queens Accommodations Building. Behind it is all the parking for students, which is not very large. It is not common for students to bring a car to school, since everything is close walking, and I don't think it is in the culture for people to drink a lot.
Belfast with tons of shopping, charity shops, a mall, movie theater, City Hall, Opera House, and the end point for all bus lines; however, when I got off that first bus, I was tired, confused, and took in none of my surroundings until after I explored the area later. I had to go to the help desk a few times to find bus 8A or 8B that would take me to Elms Village, where I would be living for the semester. Looking back, the walk from City Centre to Elms is not bad, but there is no way I would have made it carrying my luggage. The bus to and from City Centre costs £1.70 and dropped me off in front of Elms.
This is part of my room in Oak. I love having a huge desk! To the left is my closet, which is tiny compared to at home. I am taking the picture from my bed. There is also a little sink in on the other side of the room. It is smaller then a single room at QUC, but it is still plenty big and open.
I expected the reception building to be this grand building, but it is nothing like the red brick of Queens University of Charlotte (QUC). All the newer structures in Belfast seem small and industrial compared to what I am use to in the USA. Even the cars are small or as the locals would say ‘wee.’ It is rare to see a SUV or mini van. I checked in and was extremely happy that I choose to come a day early (Arrived January 24th) to get settled in, and that I had a bedding and kitchen starter kit waiting for me in my room (Even though I learned later that I could have gotten bedding easily for much cheaper). I thought I was going to die when the reception woman told me that I lived in the last building on Oak Avenue, but she assured me that the walk was a lot shorter then it seemed. Thank goodness it was, because I got in with my key card (much like a hotel room key), put the sheets on my bed, and slept for a good five hours.
This is the Treehouse and my saving grace for Wi-Fi! It looks small from this picture, but there is a lower level too. When it gets warmer, the patio will be nice to use!
When I woke up, I started settling in. I found and explored the community kitchen, bathroom, and shower. Elms Village is a large residential area for Queens University Belfast (QUB) and mostly first year students live in QUB housing. It is not like QUC that has seven residential halls. There are around 50 residential buildings that line streets through Elms. For example I live in Oak building 04 off of Oak Avenue and there are eight Oak buildings. Most residential halls are three stories tall. Almost everyone has a single and there are about 10-12 students who share a kitchen, two bathrooms, and two showers per flat or level. I live on the ground floor, which would be the first floor in America. Here it goes ground floor, first floor, second floor, and so on. I would have been confused by it, but Jane Landis, who came for the semester in spring 2011, had warned me when she was telling me stories of Belfast.
In the center of Elms there is the Treehouse, which is complete with a convenience shop, bar, restaurant, computer lounge, laundry, and ATM. Plus on Sunday nights a band comes to play traditional Irish music. One of my favorite Sunday night activities is to sit in the Treehouse, sipping on a pint, and listening to music while hanging out with friends. If you would like to listen to a short recording of the Sunday night music, here is the the link: YouTube-IrishMusic .
This is the Bar and Restaurant at the Treehouse. QUB is much more open about social life and drinking. There are no restrictions about giving students alcohol, as long as they are of age, which is different than in America. Depending on the university, some are wet or dry campuses. The UK is 18 years old, so I am getting use to seeing younger students drinking.
It is always a lively place to watch a rugby game, play pool, or air hockey. It is also the only place in Elms that I can find Wi-Fi! Internet in the dorms is from an Ethernet cable, which is only in your room. Plus it is one of the few places that have TVs. In the UK you are required to have a TV license, so it is extremely rare for a student to have a TV. The only TVs are in the common rooms and in the Treehouse.
All the other international students are coming in today, Wednesday the 25th, and International Orientation starts tomorrow at 9am.