Five little ways to make the most of study abroad

Some really helpful tips to encourage you to make the most of your time while studying in Northern Ireland.

A New Adventure Awaits

Everyone’s advice before studying abroad is always, “Make the most of it, because it all goes by too quickly.” But how exactly do you do that, and what are the easiest ways to make your experience more meaningful? After three semesters abroad, here are my top tips on making the most of this special experience.

TravelIf you’re in Europe, budget airlines, trains, and bus systems will take you around the continent for a discounted rate. See as much of the world as you can, chances are, you’ll only have this opportunity a handful of times.

IMG_3100Spend time in your host countryThat said, it can be easy to spend every weekend in a new city when you’re abroad. Focus your energy on the country you chose to study in. Getting to know the culture, people, and environment of your chosen study abroad location is an experience you’ll always treasure.

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Academic Differences You Will Face While Studying in Northern Ireland

One of the less exciting things you will learn while studying abroad is that another country’s academic system can be very different, sometimes in ways you may not expect. This is a little (or maybe a lot) confusing at first. But don’t worry you WILL get used to it. Here we have complied a list of some of the biggest academic differences you will encounter as an American studying in Northern Ireland, plus some tips on how to deal with them.

queens-university-belfast-slider-2

Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

 


  1. Different Class Structure – Lessons in Northern Irish Universities will typically take the form of lectures and tutorials/seminars. Lectures are formal presentations given by subject experts to large groups of students. Tutorials and seminars involve much smaller groups of students (typically 8-15) who discuss and apply topics introduced in lectures, under the guidance of a tutor. Typically, a student may have two lectures and one tutorial per week for each module taken.
  2. Different Workload – Generally, you will not be continually assessed, as you have been in the US, while studying in Northern Ireland. Greater weighting is put on final exams and it is rare to get homework that counts towards your final grade. For example, your grade may be made up of a final exam (70% of your grade) and a paper (30% of your grade).
  3. Extra Credit is Basically Unheard of in Northern Ireland – If students fail an exam they have to repeat it in the summer time. There are no options for extra credit to bring up your grade, so make sure you are fully prepared the first time you sit your exams!
  4. The Grading System is Really Different – In Northern Ireland exam results will usually be given as percentages rather than letter grades. You will also hear people talking about degree classifications (a 1st, a 2:1, a 2:2 etc) ;
    GPA Module Mark (%) Degree Classification
    4 70+ First class honours (First)
    3.7 65-69 Upper-second class honours (2:1)
    3.3 60-64 Upper-second class honours (2:1)
    3 55-59 Lower-second class honours (2:2)
    2.7 50-54 Lower-second class honours (2:2)
    2.3 45-49 Third class honours (Third)
    2 40-44 Third class honours (Third)
    1/0 0-39 Fail

    Therefore, a 70% is considered to be really excellent work and really difficult to achieve. So, if you are sitting on a 1st or a 2:1 well done! You are doing really well, so don’t be disappointed if you are used to getting higher percentages at home.

  5. Picking Classes – Universities in Northern Ireland focus on depth over breadth of study. Usually, there are compulsory classes students must take specific to their field of study. Students do not pick a major while studying at university, they decide what they want to study and apply for \a specific degree before they even arrive to university. Therefore, students’ classes will be very specific to their chosen degree and they cannot take more general, unrelated classes or change majors while at university.
  6. Don’t Skip Classes! – The size of your lectures might be a lot larger than what you are used to at home, depending on what classes you take. This sense of anonymity can make skipping lectures a lot more tempting, because who would notice if you’re only 1 of 100 students? Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you lecturer notices or not because in the long run it will be you not your lecturer who is suffering when you are failing exams.
  7. Independent Study – You may feel like you have less hours of class then what you are used to. This is because a bigger emphasis is placed on independent study. So even if you don’t have that much time scheduled for inside the classroom, you still need to organize yourself, making time for reviewing your lecture notes, additional reading and preparing for tutorials.
  8. Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help – Sometimes bigger classes can leave students feeling more reluctant to ask questions or say if they don’t understand something. If you don’t want to ask a question in front of a large hall filled with people, don’t worry, you can arrange to met lecturers during their office hours.

4 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Arrived in Dublin

Learning from an American student’s experience studying in Ireland!

ISA Study Abroad Student Blog

Kyra Bacon is a student at the University of Florida and an ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Dublin, Ireland.

1. The Weather is Hot-and-Cold, Literally

Being from Florida, I’ve always known only three types of weather. Hot, hotter and just-stay-indoors kind of heat. Ireland definitely has a strange summer, which actually feels more like winter to me. However, just as there are rare days here where I have to break out my thermal coats, there’s also just as many days where I feel like I might as well be in Florida.

In a span of one day, I could go from polar socks and a thick scarf to a thin t-shirt and a very stuffed bag. Layers are really important here, so you better bring a bag that you can fit your jacket, overcoat, scarf and potentially even pack a pair of shorts too…

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My Travel Essentials

Ellis Goes On Holiday

Packing for travel always get me excited. It makes everything seem more real and I get to pick out outfits and treat myself to some new purchases. Having said that, there are always some staples so when RelayRides asked about my travel essentials, I was happy to share.

RelayRides is a peer-to-peer car rental community, where if you wish to rent a car you can enter your location and dates and be provided with a list of all the people in the area who have cars available, along with their prices.

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Production Sector On The Up In Northern Ireland

Interesting stuff about the growing TV and film production sector in Northern Ireland- If your in Belfast make sure to do the tour of the Game of thrones set!!

Blog | ProductionBase - Insider Network for TV, Film and Commercial Production Talent

Sharon Boyd looks at the growing TV and film production sector in Northern Ireland:

(copyright Making of Game of Thrones) Game of Thrones on location in NI.
Copyright Making of Game of Thrones

Northern Ireland being the smallest part of the UK tends to go fairly unnoticed and it’s associated more with The Troubles than anything else. However, over the past few years the media industry has been developing rapidly in this fairly unknown place and suddenly an awareness of Northern Ireland as a filming location has transpired. So instead of talking about the political and religious tensions in the country, people are now fascinated by the likes of Game of Thrones and The City of Ember being filmed in this beautiful part of the world.

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IAS Guest Blogger #1: Preparing for Study Abroad

Becca Hankla is the first in a series of guest bloggers for IAS.
Read more about becca here.Becca Hankla Bio pic

All summer I’ve been hearing this from friends and family: “So when do you go back to school?”

And I’ve been so excited to say, “Well, actually, I leave for Ireland on September 14!”

Which is often accompanied by a look of puzzled excitement, and once I get past that, they begin to tell me what I have to do. From these wonderful people I have compiled a checklist approximately a mile long. For exemplary purposes, I provide page one, items 10-17.

  • Save money for travel.
  • Visit my school friends.
  • Get rain boots.
  • Get a good raincoat.
  • Spend time with my parents.
  • Hang out with my sister.
  • Catch up on my American Netflix before it goes away.

Some of these are simple things that I need to do, like buy a raincoat. I am not a fan of being soaked and cold. Some other things are not so simple, like hanging out with my sister when she’s busy, I’m working two jobs, and she starts school in three weeks. And of course, there’s the American comforts like a mini-marathon of “Melissa & Joey” on Netflix. (Seriously, check it out. It’s fantastic.)

I’ve also crossed some things off my list.

Get a passport. (That was a hairy encounter and if you ever want to die from laughter, I’d love to share).

Register for classes.

Figure out which suitcase to use.

Tell Queens University of Charlotte that I’m not going to be there this fall. (You cannot imagine how many different offices are worried that I haven’t registered for classes and have sent panicked e-mails to me.)

And the list continues. But it will all get done in the mere 50+ days I have left.

So why Ireland?

Most people don’t understand that this is my dream. On September 14, I will depart my beloved America, Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, for the Emerald Isle. My trip will be different from that of my eighth-generation ancestors May Ella and James Dougherty, who left Ireland on a ship in 1851, but no less monumental. I will finally see the places that I have been dreaming of since I was little. I will touch the history I have studied for years. I will finally see Ireland.

And I will get to travel. My best friend, who studied abroad in Florence, says that I just have to try the gelato in Rome. My history professor tells me that the Alhambra in Spain is truly an historical experience that I cannot forgo. My high school French teacher says I need to practice what she taught me and visit Nice or Paris. Plus, my love of “Downton Abbey” says a trip to Highclere Castle is a must.

Just writing that makes me want to get packed and go right now. But there is a flip side to this coin that is begging to be mentioned.

I’m scared.

I currently attend Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina. It’s a tiny private school, boasting a mere 1,869 undergraduates on 95 of the most beautiful acres in the Myers Park neighborhood area of Charlotte. In addition, it is exactly 218.07 miles from my driveway in Atlanta, Georgia.

In September, I will be a fully enrolled student at Queens University Belfast in Northern Ireland. In contrast to my tiny private school, my new Irish University is just a tiny bit bigger, with an enrollment of 17,000 students. I guess the phrase is “little fish, big pond”? In addition, the distance between me and my driveway will no longer be a three and a half hour drive, but rather a distance of 3,888 miles, according to Google.

So it’s safe to say I’m scared. Although I am comfortable in my skin, I get homesick sometimes. I love to talk with my parents on the phone. My 13-year-old sister is one of my dearest friends. And I’m going 3,888 miles from them. I’ll be away from my university home where I have professors who know me, friends I’ve bonded with, and my campus tour job and worship leader position. Everything I know about college is about to change.

There are two sides to this adventure. I can be scared of all the change, the newness, the distance, and the culture difference. I could call and cancel my trip right now. But I think back to one thing that tells me I have to do this. I look at the picture of my 10-year-old self. I think about what she wants. She wants to go to Ireland. She wants to see the castles, eat the food, develop a slight accent, and sing the Irish music. Am I supposed to the let the fears of an almost 21-year-old destroy her dreams? Am I supposed to risk the adventure of a lifetime in order to have a semester of comfort? The answer to this question is no. The answer is heck no. The answer is “shut up insecurities!” I am going to Ireland. I’m a little scared. But that’s okay.

The Various Stages of Culture Shock, Homesickness, and Reverse Culture Shock

Great reflections on studying abroad!

Gilman Global Experience Blog

When I first arrived in Spain, it took a few weeks before I fully adjusted to everything: the bizarre eating schedule, the food tastes, the money, the unknown streets, not to mention the language barrier. However, I knew that if I threw myself into it, I could overcome the challenges and learn to enjoy myself. Initially, that worked. It was a new country with new people and places to see; I loved trying everything new and soaking up as much of it as quickly as I could. Eventually though, I couldn’t take it; I became overwhelmed with the differences, and the having to think in a foreign language constantly became mentally exhausting. I really started to miss home, and I’d only been abroad for a few short weeks. I missed late night Steak n Shake runs with my friends, peanut butter, mac n cheese, and going to the movies.

Honestly…

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Study Tips: Reading Comprehension

Some great tips for studying!

Bobcat Blog

Succeed In College: Read To Understand

By SLAC

Try not to be overwhelmed by setting a reading schedule, Bobcats! Try not to be overwhelmed by setting a reading schedule, Bobcats!

Love it or hate it, you have to get familiar with academic reading in college. Your exams may include questions about readings that professors assigned but never discussed in class, so learn to read to understand. The more active your reading, the better your chance for thorough comprehension. Use a structured reading method involving forethoughtperformance, and reflection.

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