Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter in Belfast

Here in Northern Ireland, Easter is a really big deal. So big, that QUB, and most universities here, give students 3 weeks without classes. Therefore, most Sudy Abroad students do not know what to do. Some explore Belfast and other areas around Europe, some go home or have family come here, and some just stay here embracing the city. As someone with family here, I chose the last option. I have spent the break getting to know my family a little better. With them being so far from my home in Texas, it is nice having some time to get to know them better. I have some pretty amazing cousins and family here!

The day of Easter is simple and similar to the states. Easter Eggs: 
Church and dinner with the family:

It is the day after Easter that is the different part:

Horseback riding (left to right: Me, Steph, and Jess) on Easyer monday. For anyone who rides Western like I learned, it is so strange to transition to English. It is such a different style. Everything from how you sit to how you stop. 

Here, Easter is more than just one day! Easter Monday is a big deal. It seems to be more of a Family Day than the actual holiday. 
This year, my first year celebrating it, was an interesting one. Being a whole 22 degrees Celcius (which is quite hot over here) we decided to have a picnic at the Castlewhellan Forest park, complete with a private tour of the castle courtesy of my Cousin Jess's friends who actually get to live there!:

After that, we took part in a  Northern Irish pastime calls Slack Lining. It is pretty much walking on thick threaded fabric, much like a tightrope. It was very interesting. Jess's friends were pros at it, when I had to hold onto akerrie just to walk across!

We ended the day with dinner at a Chippie and a visit to the Bank that is robbed in the movie MickyBo and Me. If you've never watched it, look it up. It's brilliant!

So overall, the holidays are happy times. However, being abroad, you really get to see and learn how another culture, even one you think is similar to yours, celebrates. Being able to spend a major holiday here made me miss home a lot. However, it is an experience I won't soon forget. 

PS. I love Monica Greene

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

STUDY abroad... Or study ABROAD?

So... I promise to blog more now!

Many people think of study abroad, and focus on the second word. ABROAD.Granted, being abroad is an experience all it's own. Living in a foreign country as more than a tourist, makes you feel like you belong. Then, as for living on campus, it is an experience I am glad to have. Here, at elms, we live on flats with 11 people total, each having their own room. Even though if don't share my room like I do at home, I have developed good relationships with my flatmates. We even celebrated 'Fat/Shrove/Pancake Tuesday' together  last night. 
(Photo courtesy of Rachel... The self proclaimed best flatmates ever!) 

It was 'great Craic' (that's Northern Irish for fun!
Being abroad comes with loads of opportunity for travel, but more on that later, once I actually do some. 

However, once you are abroad, you have to remember it is not going abroad, it is STUDY abroad. 
So, it is the fifth. Week of school. And it's been crazy! 
Here, a full time student is 60 units of class, which is 15 US Credit hours. So, even though that is the same amount of credit, it does not mirror the amount of class time. Each class at QUB is 20 units, or 5 US semester credit hours. Therefore, each student only takes 3 classes, as opposed to 5. And each class is approximately 3 contact hours a week, meaning I, personally, only spend 9 hours a week in class, devoting outside time to other work and papers. 
Then, there is the assessment system. 
In the US, the scale is as follows
100-90 is an A
89-80   Is a  B
79-70   Is a  C
69-60   Is a  D
59-0     Is a  F

However, here in NI, the scale is definitely different. 
100-70 is a 1st mark
60-69 is a  2.1 mark
50-59 is a 2.2 mark
40-49 is a 3rd mark
40-0 is a failing mark. 

The classes are structured differently too. At TLU, my.  Biggest class has consisted of 32 people, but here, my Geography class has over 150 students! It is a dynamic change. But it mirrors the school, having gone from a school of about 1,300 to a school of over 25,000 students. My sociology class has about 75, and THANKFULLY, my dance class, feeling more like home, only has 15 students! 
Overall, the school situation here has been a change in comparison to TLU, But it is definitely one I am glad to get to partake in. 

More to come from the rainy, chilly, yet beautiful city of Belfast.

Signing off, 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Across the ocean, Across the sea

I made it!! After almost a year of 'what if's' and paperwork, I made it to Belfast. I'm so grateful to everyone that helped me get here, especially my family and Professor Bailey. So now... The trip. 

My first impression of the city was just wow. I got here about 2 weeks ago. I spent the first 10 days assimilating into the culture, adjusting to the time change, and getting used to the wrong side of the road! Oh, and spending time with my family. Between being carted around by my various family members, and the huge party thrown as a welcome, I felt like I knew more about this country than any books could teach me. The time spent with my family was a great start to my trip. I continue to get closer to my cousins and see a side of Belfast that I didn't as a tourist. 

They took me to QUB, where I got I wander around the campus I will be spending the next 5 months on. It is beautiful And about 10 times larger than TLU. It'll be a completely different experience thy I cannot wait to begin. 

Then, my actual program started. I moved into the Jury's Inn hotel for part one of orientation. Our advisors, Ger and Eibhlín, taught us all about the cultural differences of the Irish Island and the US, as well as the academic differences. It was a lot I information I cover in 2 days. However, the time spent not in the orientation workshops was spent exploring the city. We are at various Belfast restaurants, and went to the Titanic museum to learn all about the history of ship building in Belfast, and the Titanic itself. 

After a few days of intense Belfast learning, I moved again. This time, the 10 of us in the IFSA-Butler program moved into our rooms for the entire semester. Now, all there is to do, is start orientation at Queens University tomorrow, and start classes on Friday. 

Thing I am missing from Texas;
My friends and family
The sun
Temperatures over 45 degrees (though that not the case there now)
Folders, which don't exist here. The school supies Is way different. 

Other exciting parts of Belfast:
Getting to experience a different culture.
Fun winter clothes
Fish and Chips!

More to come!