Coping With the Physical and Mental Strain of Studying Abroad

manchester: on the road

By Imogen Henry-Campbell, Case Western Reserve University, USA

Studying on a year abroad is one of the best opportunities that you will ever have in your life. Meeting new people, being in a different culture and learning to be completely independent are incredible skills to have, but studying abroad can also be extremely tough, especially if you get ill. I, unfortunately found myself in the hospital after a month in and although it was hard, I am feeling much better.

As a student who has also suffered from anxiety and stress-related problems, year abroad can be especially tough on your health. So these are my tips for coping with the mental and physical strain of being abroad:

  • If you are feeling sad or homesick, speak to someone about it. I can’t stress how much better I have felt after just explaining to someone how I feel. If someone asks ‘how…

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Thriving Industries of the North of Ireland


Northern Ireland traditionally had a strong industrial economy, focusing on linen production and shipbuilding. At one point Belfast possessed one of the world’s largest shipyards. These shipyards built the world’s most famous ship; The Titanic, most recently celebrated through the recent completion of Titanic Belfast, the world’s largest Titanic visitor center. The center allows visitors to learn about the thriving industry, city and people who made the now notorious Titanic. Although, this industrial economy is a much prided part of Belfast’s history, it is very much in the city’s past.

The North of Ireland now has a developed manufacturing and engineering industry and is home to many companies specializing in areas such as; aerospace & defense, electronics, construction and consumer products. This is one of the largest sectors in Northern Ireland accounting for 11% of employment.

Additionally, Belfast has made a name for itself in one of technology’s fastest growing areas, financial technology. A combination of a highly qualified workforce, competitive operating costs have helped to encourage and support this growth. As a result many financial services giants such as Citi, The Allstate Corporation, Liberty Mutual and Chicago Mercantile Exchange have thriving offices here.

Another rapidly growing industry is the creative industry, specializing in cultivating creative talent for commercial purposes. This involves areas such as film and television production, performing arts, music, visual effects and design. In particular, recent years have seen high profile television productions, such as Game of Thrones and The Fall, film in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland | 10 Reasons to Visit the Antrim Coast Even if You’ve Never Seen Game of Thrones

Some great suggestions of places you can visit along the North of Ireland’s Antrim Coast!

10 miles behind me

If you’re as obsessed with traveling as I am, you’ve probably heard a lot about Northern Ireland lately, which likely has something to do with the hit HBO show Game of Thrones. 80% of the scenes in GOT are filmed in Northern Ireland – though many of them are filmed in Paint Hall Studio in Belfast, and are therefore not open to visitors. I wouldn’t normally advise traveling somewhere just because it’s on television, but the scenery in Game of Thrones is truly stunning. Since returning home from my latest trip and catching up on what I missed on GOT, I’ve found myself paying even more attention to the scenery and wondering if I’ve been to more of these backdrops myself. Even if you haven’t seen the show (which, like, WHY), you’ll get a lot out of these dramatic sights and even more along the Antrim Coast of Northern Ireland…

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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.


  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!

The ISA Journal

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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