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From Queen’s to global peacemaker

Conor Houston, Queen’s Law graduate is Director of Houston Solutions Limited, and Chairman of several organisations including the Federation of Small Businesses Northern Ireland, One Young World 2023 Belfast, and of Fleming Fulton School. He is also the Governor and Trustee of the Irish Times Media Group.

Conor Houston

What does Queen’s mean to you?

 I’m often reminded of Seamus Heaney, his famous line when he talked about the original centre. I think, as I reflected, I’m making this video today, Queen’s University very much is for me, my original centre. It’s where I formed my passion for Law, which was the career I practised in for most 10 years. But it also gave me a number of skills, perspectives and opportunities that continue to this day, and I’m very proud that I have for almost 20 years, I’ve had an association with Queen’s University. 

What was your Queen’s experience like?

I graduated in 2004, with my Law degree. I had a fantastic three years at Queen’s, made a lot of friends who are still very much friends today, and I suppose it ignited my passion and interest in in law and the rule of law. I was very fortunate through my times at Queen’s to be involved in a number of summits and conferences, but also to go and study at the European Public Law Group Academy in Greece, in 2004, which was a really fantastic opportunity. It was my first time, I suppose, with young people from right across Europe studying together, all the different languages, cultures coming together and united by European Union law. 

That was a very formative and special time. And in fact, a number of the things that I’m continued to be involved in, tend to have that international perspective and lens. After I had completed my Law degree, I went on to study for my Master’s in Human Rights law, and was very fortunate that there was an opportunity to do a cross border element. So I did the first half of my Master’s in Queens, and the second half of my masters at the National University of Ireland in Galway. And again, that was a very special time and experience and a number of the friendships and relationships I enjoy to this day were because of that cross-border experience. 

What was your first graduate role?

I graduated from Queen’s with my Master’s and I then went back to Queen’s to study at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, where I was finally admitted as a solicitor in 2008. I was lucky that I had a firm that I did my apprenticeship with John J. Rice and Company in Belfast, which was a criminal and human rights firm.I worked there for almost 10 years and was fortunate to be involved in many of the pioneering human rights cases of that time. I was dual qualified in that I was qualified both in Northern Ireland and also in the Republic of Ireland. So I practised a lot in Belfast and Dublin. And during my time in practice, I was very involved in the profession. Firstly, through the Young Lawyers Association, the Northern Ireland Young Solicitors Association, which I ended up becoming Chair of, and we had some fantastic conferences and events and a lot of fun with that group. I was then the first lawyer for Northern Ireland to be appointed to the board of the European Young Bar Association, which our relationship continues to this day. And 2010, we actually brought the European Young Bar Association conference to Belfast, so it was fantastic to bring all these international lawyers to our city. 

What has been a career highlight?

I suppose a combination of all those roles, as well as being so very fortunate to be representing some leading human rights cases represent journalists, politicians, and many others. I suppose I became very interested in how law can affect change, I was very passionate about making a difference. And that’s what attracted me into law, the power of law to create change in a society. 

I was very fortunate that the cases I got to work on, were very much about driving that change. But I suppose I became interested in how could I do even more so in 2014, I was awarded a scholarship by the United States State Department. And I spent a few months, I took a sabbatical and took a few months out to Boston College and then into Washington, and on their rule of law programme, which really started to develop my thinking more around the skills and experiences and perspective I had, and what I could do. 

Whilst my mission was very much about helping people and making a difference, trying to refine what I could do with that, I became very interested then around maybe getting involved around politics and trying to create change to help complete our peace process, and to, I suppose, realise the enormous ambition and potential of Northern Ireland. 

What are some of your favourite work-related projects? 

I was very honoured to be appointed as the programme director at the Centre for Democracy and Peacebuilding. And I worked there for a number of years and worked on some fantastic projects around working with, for example, community organisations, youth groups, loyalists bands. And it was a great privilege to be involved in their work in trying to help to complete the peace process and build capacity within both civic and political society. 

One of the amazing projects I got to work on with them was the EU debate programme, which was set up about nine months before the EU referendum. And the idea was to create a space for informed thinking and debate in Northern Ireland, on the issues that the Brexit referendum would have, particularly as it pertains to Northern Ireland. 

I was involved with the board in rolling out a very ambitious programme where we engaged with community groups, youth organisations, religious organisations, every political party in Northern Ireland. And we really began a conversation, we weren’t trying to determine the outcome of the debate, we were trying to make sure that there was a debate. So we were neutral in that we weren’t trying to tell people to leave or remain, we were just trying to present all of the arguments and create that space. And that was a very humbling experience. 

Queen’s University Belfast were very involved in supporting that project. In fact, we launched a new debate in the Great Hall in Queen’s and academics from the School of Politics, including Professor David Phinnemore were involved in writing a briefing paper for us. So it was very important to us that it would be underpinned by that credible academic expertise, but also the have that support of the reputation of Queen’s.

Why did you set up your own business? 

I decided to set up my own consultancy, and I suppose what brings together a number of the clients and projects that I work on, is that one thing to realise the ambition of Northern Ireland. So I work with a number of leaders, all of whom may be coming from very different backgrounds and sectors, but all of whom are very passionate about realising the enormous potential of Northern Ireland, and trying to drive change here. 

I suppose that’s what unites the number of projects that I’m privileged to work on now. And as I mentioned, I’m government trustee of the Irish Times Media Group. So the Irish Times is owned by a trust, and there are eight of us appointed to effectively act as the shareholders of the group. So we’re there to sort of look at the long term vision and that’s been particularly interesting, interesting in an age of post truth and thinking about the lines around freedom of speech, etc. So, and a lot of that, of course, goes back to the learnings that I had when I studied both my Law and Master’s degree around the issue of proportionality and competing rights. 

What is One Young World? 

I’ve been involved in leading a bid to bring One Young World to Belfast in 2023. So in 2017, I was asked to address the one Young World Youth summit in Bogota, Colombia. One Young World is the world’s largest youth summit. It brings over 3000 young people from every country in the world, to a city each year. And it’s one of the only organisations aside from the Olympics that actually gets every country in the world involved. 

And this is about identifying the future leaders, both within business but also within NGO sector, just young people that are passionately driving change right across the world. So I was very fortunate to be invited to address this summit in Bogota, Colombia in 2017, and was introduced on stage by the then president of Colombia, President Santos and the late Kofi Annan, the former Secretary General of the United Nations. Both of those men spoke about the impact that Northern Ireland had on their journeys to peace, and this was a very humbling moment for me. 

When I addressed the summit, I realised the power of our generation and the generation watching this video, to effect real change, not just within the place we will call home, but also in terms of making an impact in the world. So I then began the process of building a team to put together a bid to bring One Young World to Belfast in 2023, and we were successful in that. 

How has your degree from Queen’s helped you?

Queen’s is that passport, not just for your career, but to accessing opportunities, and a fantastic network right around the world. So, you know, I’m extremely proud of the many hats and roles and things I’ve been involved in being a graduate of Queen’s University is really up there, and I look forward to continuing that role with Queen’s. 

What challenges have you faced?

When I was a lawyer, and some of the projects I work on, particularly some of the Civic roles that I have, I think one of the challenges your generation is going to face is how we engage with the people we disagree with. So one of the challenges is always when you have very passionate about change, or seeing something happen, and you encountered the resistance to that.

I think that one of the big challenges that I challenge myself every day, I think that we have to all turn on is what can we do to engage with the people that we disagree with, how we, I’ve often said we don’t have to agree but being disagreeable is a choice. So we need to find more places and spaces in which we can find that ability to respectfully engage with each other and actually see that compromise is an art, it’s not a sellout.

I think this is something that I encourage your generation to really challenge I think that the future will belong to those who can build relationships that can be constructive that can respectfully disagree with each other, but can see the common good can work together for the common good, can see the bigger picture that is the challenge of your generation. 

What gets your out of bed in the morning?

I don’t feel that there’s an average week. For me, I think that’s probably what I love most about my, my work. In fact, I don’t even feel like I have a job because I’m very fortunate that everything I do, whether it be in my business life or my civic life, they are projects and issues that I’m very passionate about. So I jump out of bed in the morning, passionate about making the change in the area that day, whether it be through being on the border shadows and LGBT youth organisation, whether that be in promoting the role of small businesses through the five and a half 1000 members, and I have the privilege of being Chair of the FSB, and speaking up on their behalf, whatever I can do to to advocate change, to advance those who are trying to make a real impact. 

That’s what sparks me on in the morning. 

What advice do you have for graduates?

I think that’s one of the most exciting things about this generation, the graduates of today is that you really do have a blank canvas to create the kind of life and career that you want for yourself. And Queen’s University, as I say, is the ideal place to give you that toolkit for you to be able to do that. 

It’s for me, it’s that life journey, it’s not just about getting that degree wasn’t really that important that you do, and it’s about the relationships that you build, the skills that you have, and they will sustain you for the not just years but decades ahead. And you know, as I said, it’s 20 years this September since I started Queen’s, and I’m reminded of something my late grandfather said to me, he said 20 years is a long time looking forward, but nothing looking back. 

And for the first time, I can tell you, it doesn’t feel like two decades ago I entered Queen’s University, but those two decades, I’ve had that original centre of Queens, which has, as I say, been a constant thread throughout my career both here in Northern Ireland and through the international experiences and opportunities I’ve had. 

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Alumni Global Opportunities Gradfest2021 Graduate success History and English Teaching

Career lessons from a graduate teacher

Maddie Warren, a Queen’s History and English graduate and a newly qualified teacher offers her advice to students and graduates.

Maddie Warren, teacher and Queen’s graduate

You are supported to explore your options at University

When I started at Queens, I thought that I might want to be a teacher. And I did my first year of Queen’s and I kind of like I loved it. I loved getting involved in different things at Queen’s, I became a student ambassador, and did lots of tours for Queen’s, and kind of really, really enjoyed my first year. And towards the end of it. I had a bit of a careers crisis where I thought that maybe I didn’t want to teach. Maybe that wasn’t the right role for me.

I kind of had a bit of a freak out and really, really didn’t know what I wanted to do. So I had a chat with my university professional tutor, which was really helpful. And I also went to a few talks that were run by different businesses at Queen’s and one of them was an organisation which organised things like camp America and stuff like that, and I got in contact with them. And they ended up getting me a placement to go and work in Spain for the summer. So I went over to a lovely place near Marbella, in the south of Spain. And I spent my first university summer kind of working there looking after some children, learning Spanish and teaching English there. And that was amazing. 

Education is an experience, not just a route to a career

My summer in Spain was kind of life-changing for me. I realised that I didn’t need to have a career when I finished university like straightaway. I met a lot of different people who were travelling around and I realised that there were kind of like loads of different things I could do and doing an English degree or humanities degree didn’t lump me into doing just the one career. So that was a really, really great opportunity for me. When I came back to Queen’s for my second year, I got really involved with the Widening Participation Unit, and started to do a lot of outreach stuff with the university. So I started to help to run workshops for primary school children, who might be the first in their family to go to university and kind of really work with some of the deprived communities around Northern Ireland.

And I found that so rewarding, probably the most rewarding experience that I ever had. I met some really, really interesting people from all over Queen’s and I met some people who

really kind of motivated me and helped me to think about what I actually wanted and to think of education as, or my education path and my degree as more of an experience than a direct route into a career.

Build up work experience where you can

I ended up going and spending my summer in America where I worked for a camp for young girls, and doing a lot of empowerment work with young girls in America, and sort of building them up to feel like they can, they are equals and have the same opportunities. The camp was a no-technology camp, and fully outdoors, we were living in the woods for the whole duration of it. And that was really, really great for the kids, especially some of the girls who had sort of had no confidence in society without things like makeup, or their phones or things like that. So that was really, really great.

Yeah, I loved it. And kind of ignited that passion, again, to work with young people. And yeah, to work, it was nice to get to work with them sort of outside of an educational setting, and do different kinds of workshops and things with them.

Life experience will benefit your career

The experiences that Queen’s had given me made me feel like I could become a better teacher if I had more life experience. So it was really important for me after graduation that I didn’t just kind of graduate from my degree and become a teacher straight away because I wanted to have experiences that I could bring to the classroom and bring to young people to help them become rounded people. I think that school is so much more than just your kind of academic education. I think it was really important to me that I was able to shape children as citizens. So I really wanted to get some more life experience. So I decided that I wanted to do an International Development Master’s.

Global experience is life-changing

My Master’s degree is in gender violence and conflicts. And when I went into the Master’s, I knew that I wanted to do some work in India. So when I was writing my thesis, I got the opportunity to move out to India and become a research assistant for a charitable organisation called Men against Violence and Abuse.

It was about working with men, especially in deprived communities in Bombay, to prevent abuse against women. It was really, really tricky for me to kind of set that placement up, I had to do it all myself. But luckily, whilst I had been at Queens, I was given the opportunity to kind of sort some placements out. I went to college in America for a while and had a lot of support with that at Queen’s, but had kind of been taught the skills to set things like that up. So I went out to Mumbai, and I didn’t know anybody. And going out there was probably the scariest experience of my life. But I did make some amazing friends and I got to work with this brilliant, brilliant organisation. I got to do some really great research with them, which benefited them and also write my thesis at the same time. So kind of a win-win situation really. I worked a lot with boys who were at college, so between the ages of 16 and 18 running workshops, discussing the treatment of women in their society, especially by sort of the older generation of men and how they wanted to improve it and what they already knew we did a lot of training around sexuality, and around transgender people, which is kind of still a very, can be a very frowned upon thing in some Indian societies.

There are different routes into teaching

I applied to a few different teaching courses. And there are lots and lots of routes into teaching, which I think people kind of don’t really realise. I ended up doing a route called Schools Direct where you are kind of placed with a school and you have a university link. So I worked at a school in West Sussex and had a link with Sussex University and found it so rewarding from kind of day one. It was definitely the most nerve wracking thing I’ve ever done in my life. My interview was to teach a year eight class of 13 year olds, I had never taught before, I had kind of worked with, with young people to do workshops and things like that. But there are a lot more interactive than lessons where I had never kind of led from the front like that. So that was really scary, but it obviously went okay, I got the position. 

Life throws your curveballs

I went onto my teacher training in September of 2019. That’s was an absolutely exhausting year. I think a lot of people say that teacher training is one of the hardest years of your career if you become a teacher. I don’t know if I’ve been in the career long enough to confirm or deny that. But I can definitely say that it was exhausting.

Funding for teaching degrees is quite limited. It’s becoming even more limited. So I was having to work at the same time. I would go to school Monday to Thursday, University on a Friday. And then Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays, I would work at a restaurant. I was lesson planning and marking in the evening, I was still writing University assignments. I was absolutely shattered. And when the pandemic came in the March I was our placement stopped. And I was absolutely crushed.

Honestly,, at first, the pandemic was a bit of a, I was slightly grateful for it, because I don’t know if I would have been able to keep going at the rate that I was. Luckily for me, I had been offered a job just before the pandemic hit. And the job that I had been offered was to start in June. So I had a couple of months between finishing my teacher training and starting my job were kind of nothing was happening. And then I started my job in June and I started teaching online, which is not something I think any teacher had ever planned to do was a massive learning curve as elsewhere a lot of things during the pandemic. But I found it really rewarding, you know, found that I was kind of getting to know some students online, which was really nice. And, and yeah, it was great. And then I went and started in school in September, and have been at the school for just over a year now.

You’re still learning on the job

During the year, I have been involved in a couple of other things. I do some mentoring. So I do mentoring for students who are often economically deprived eor socially deprived in some way. And I also work with the woman’s voice group that we have in school. I do some mentoring there and I help run some some workshop sessions, which is kind of more like the stuff that I had been doing before.

I have found teaching so incredibly rewarding. I absolutely love it. I think that’s the skills that I learned at Queen’s, the things that I was able to do in terms of student ambassador in terms of working for the WP Unit, in terms of the trips abroad, going to college in America, working in Spain… they helped to set up for me all of that really. It gave me a huge amount of confidence. It also allowed me to be independent and kind of gave me guidance on how to do things whilst ensuring that I did them myself, which I think are things that you kind of don’t necessarily learn whilst you’re at school.

The hours are long

In terms of my career now, I think that people massively underestimate the hours that go into teaching. I leave my house by seven o’clock, most mornings, and it is not uncommon for me to get home, you know, half, five, six, I would say. The last week of term has been quite lovely, because I’ve been able to leave nice and early.

There is always extra, your job is never finished, there is always extra things you can do. There are always kind of students that you care about that you want the lesson to be tailored for them in a certain way. There are always more things you can plan. There are always more parents you can contact. It’s a job that is never finished. And it has been really, really important to be able to prioritise tasks in, otherwise I would live at school.

So that has been a thing  I underestimated, kind of how never ending the to-do list is and the fact that you just can’t like it’s it is impossible to do at all. I am a person who loves to finish things and you just can’t do it. So I think I definitely underestimated that.

The rewards are huge

Working with young people is just so rewarding  –  seeing the difference in their progress both academically and as people is phenomenal; having kids come and tell you that they love your subject or they have a great lesson,; having kids email you over Christmas to say Happy Christmas because they have built relationships with you. Back in May, I had a group of students invite me to a birthday party in my classroom for me, where they had baked me cupcakes and decorating my classroom and hid in a cupboard.

Lots of people have said to me that they think they would enjoy teaching, but they think it would get really samey which always shocks me because I have never done anything which has been so varied in my life! I can teach the same lesson four times in a week, and it would never be the same.

And just  knowing that you can shape their future. And knowing that, as well as being able to shape their future, you can really make students feel seen and feel represented. 

There are no career wrong-turns

To an extent there are no wrong decisions. I think that everything can teach you something. I think the decision, the people that I have met because of the choices I’ve made… I can’t imagine my life without the people that I’ve met at university or my travels in in the different organisations that I’ve worked for. And yeah, I just think that things come around. If you’ve done something and it’s not right for you, then make another decision and find something else. I don’t think that careers these days have to be linear.

I felt a huge amount of pressure coming out of university to know what I wanted to do. I felt that from my family, I think, to kind of know what I wanted to do; to get job; to settle down; to make money for myself. And actually, it’s okay to just take a break to figure things out to try different careers. You don’t have to get it right first time.

You can re-watch Maddie’s recent live stream here:

https://www.qub.ac.uk/sites/graduate-support/UpcomingLiveStreams

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Blogger Career planning Clubs and Societies Degree Plus Global Opportunities Media and communications MEDIA Programme Queen's sport Student blogger

WHY QUEEN’S CAN GIVE YOU MORE THAN A DEGREE

Órla Mallon

A degree might be the main reason you go to university, but as Órla Mallon, a third year Liberal Arts student and blogger from our MEDIA programme discovered, there is so much more to gain from the Queen’s experience. Here, she lists 8 things she’s gained on top of her parchment. 

  1. New Friends

This might be an obvious one – but maybe the most important! At Queen’s, you’ll get the opportunity to make new friends, and forge a lifelong relationship, at every turn. Although this year has been a little different, Queen’s runs many events (either in person or online) during Freshers week, and more throughout the academic year, giving you a chance to socialise! If you decide to live in Queen’s accommodation, you’re sure to become best friends with your fellow students. 

2. Degree Plus

We all have hobbies or activities we love to do – at Queen’s you could get a formal recognition of them! Degree Plus is an award that formally recognises your extracurricular experiences, and is sponsored by employers. With over 100 activities that you can participate in, you’ll be spoiled for choice! From volunteering to peer mentoring and learning sign language (BSL), these skills deserve recognition. You can get an extra accreditation on top of a degree, build networks and gain experience for your future career – what’s not to love? To find out more, click here

3. You could meet your partner!

We can’t guarantee it, but it does look like love is in the air around the Queen’s campus. Just take a look at some of these Queen’s Love Stories. You never know who you might run into at Queen’s!

4. Career opportunities are endless

Your dream career is never too far away at Queen’s. Our Careers, Employability and Skills Service is always on hand to help you find your way into the world of work. No matter what career path you are interested in, there is always an opportunity to get ahead. They run careers and placement fairs, give you advice when it comes to interviews and CVs, and Queen’s is ranked 11th in the UK for career prospects after 15 months! Students can access virtual 1-2-1 appointments to hear how to make the most of their degree. Check out the Careers page to see all the opportunities. 

5. Belfast City

Even though Belfast student life is little different this year, it still has plenty to offer Queen’s students! Our student areas are vibrant and exciting, with endless cafés, restaurants and shops to explore. Or, take a walk through Botanic Gardens, or even Cavehill for a birds’ eye view of the city. 

6. Global Opportunities

Queen’s offers so many opportunities to go global – and while travel has been limited this year, there is still the opportunity to discover other cultures through virtual internships, language courses and international clubs and societies. 

For all of our Global Opportunities, click here

7. Queen’s Sport

If you love keeping active, Queen’s is the perfect place! There is world-class sporting facilities at our PEC – where students can join at a discount – and join any of our fitness classes. We also have a wide array of sporting clubs and teams to choose from. From martial arts, rugby, tennis, and gaelic football (all for men and women!), you can keep active, make new friends, and maybe win a nice trophy or two. Find out more about Queen’s Sport here

8. Clubs and Societies

Queen’s has over 200 clubs and societies for you to join. You can help out in charitable causes, get political, or, get creative with art and photography, you can even improve your language skills from home, and that’s just a few! Not only will you be expressing yourself and making memories, but a club also always looks good on a CV!  For a full list of clubs check out the SU Page!

What has made your Queen’s experience special? This year, Development Weeks is themed ‘Celebrate, Reflect, Introduce’ – send in your video to share your experience with the wider Queen’s community.

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Global Opportunities international experience MEDIA Programme Networking Think Pacific Virtual internships

Making a Difference from Home – My Virtual Internship Experience

Daniella Timperley is a 2nd year student at Queen’s and a blogger from our MEDIA programme. She recently completed a virtual internship with Think Pacific – a volunteering organisation working with remote villages in Fiji. Here is how she got on.

The Think Pacific Virtual Internship was the answer to getting my international fix in the midst of the pandemic. My expedition to Fiji was cancelled so I took on a 12-week internship which provided me with the opportunity to still make a difference in Fiji and more importantly learn about the Fijian culture. I was very fortunate to receive a full scholarship for the internship from Think Pacific.

A personal highlight…

Before you even get started on your internship, you are immediately welcomed into the Think Pacific family and immersed into a community of highly motivated change-makers who are ready to make their mark in Fiji. Some stand out moments during my time on the internship was definitely grabbing a virtual tea or coffee with another intern and getting to know all about them and their goals. Other interns aren’t the only people in this online community that are committed to making you feel welcome on the internship, you will also be assigned a Think Pacific mentor that will be available to answer any questions you have and also guide you when you are creating your action project. A personal highlight of mine was my mentor calls with Cam. I loved sharing my ideas for my action project and Cam bounced off of my passion for my project and was extremely encouraging. Also Monday briefings with Cam and Katherine was a personal favourite moment each week on the internship. This feeling of being surrounded with support from the Think Pacific family definitely fuels inspiration and motivation to continue to make a difference. 

Learning a new culture…

The discovery phase of the internship is the first of four phases, but it is the most fascinating. In order to be able to make a sustainable impact in Fiji through your action project, you need to understand the people, the culture and their way of life before coming up with a project that can be put into action in Fiji. The discovery phase covers everything from understanding the complex term ‘vanua’, learning some of the Fijian language, getting an idea of the gender roles in Fijian society, getting to grips with the sustainable development goals and so much more. It is really hard to be able to make a difference in a country you know nothing about, but this phase really breaks down everything you need to know to become familiar with the country and help you to feel connected to Fiji. During the discovery phase I set 3 goals that I wanted to achieve throughout the course of my internship; my personal goal, my professional goal and my contribution goal. My goals are as follows:

1. I personally want to enjoy learning about the Fijian culture and in particular Gender Equality and Women’s role in society in Fiji. 

2. I want to boost my network by taking part in one virtual coffee every week with other interns in my field.

3. I will learn 7 modules per week during the discovery phase.

Making the most of the experience…

As you go through the different phases of the internship, you can explore as much as you like. If you are an international development intern, you can still learn all about global health or mental health so the possibilities and learning opportunities are endless. I personally loved looking through all the different organisations and action projects available. There are so many sports organisations, NGO’s and businesses in Fiji that you can choose to partner with. I partnered with FemLINK Pacific to create an awareness campaign for violence against women. I have been campaigning against violence against women for over 7 years but doing this in a different country, especially a developing country like Fiji was a challenge. I embraced the challenge and proposed an international campaign that still takes place in many countries across the world that encourages men to never commit, condone or remain silent about abuse against women. I have created a manual about the campaign and how it can be implemented in Fiji as well as social media posts that FemLINK Pacific can use to promote the campaign. So, I would recommend choosing a project you are passionate about but that will challenge you as I can say from experience you will get the most out of the internship and learn a lot about yourself.

Keep an eye on our events page for more virtual internship opportunities or contact our Global Opportunities team for information on work or study abroad opportunities.

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Belgium Erasmus erasmus study programme Global Opportunities Go Global Go Global ambassadors MEDIA Programme Slovenia Study abroad

What Can You Gain from an Erasmus Study Placement?

Kirsty King, a blogger from our MEDIA programme, sat down with fellow Erasmus Study alumna Rose Winter to exchange travel stories and memories.

Kirsty in Belgium

This time last year I had just packed my bags and jetted off to Belgium for an Erasmus Study Placement. Now looking back, I can safely say I’m a different person to the one that set off twelve months ago.  

I sat down with fellow Erasmus Alumna (Slovenia), Rose Winter, to chat about our experiences and think about the skills that we developed on our foreign adventures. The good news: we agreed that these skills will help us to stand out to any employer.If you are considering Erasmus, don’t miss the upcoming information session. Register here

Let’s talk: Organisation

Before you’ve even set off on your adventure, you will be developing your organisation skills, whether that’s by looking for accommodation, planning travel arrangements or doing other paperwork. While this may seem overwhelming at first, your ability to organise will stand you in great stead further down the line, believe me.

Rose says: “On my placement I had to study more modules each semester than I would normally study at Queen’s, and some of these were Master’s courses. This meant I had to have good time-management skills to get all my work done.” 

Like Rose, I also had to study more modules than I was used to, which meant I had to organise my time well too! While this may sound difficult, you’ll soon get used to the different size of workload, and what’s more, I’m definitely better at multi-tasking now.

Kirsty (centre) with friends in Belgium

Let’s talk: Resilience

Going abroad doesn’t come without its challenges, and things might not always go to plan. That’s where resilience comes into play.

When I landed in Belgium, one of the first things I had to do was register at the city hall. I didn’t get off to the best start when I turned up at the wrong city hall, but don’t worry, with the help of the Tourist Information Office I soon found the right one. Another new experience was having to open a Belgian bank account, which did take a while to set up but was worth it in the end!

Rose tells me: “When registering my accommodation in Slovenia, the police didn’t think my property existed. It was only when I told them the names of my housemates that they realised where I was staying was a real place!”

What Rose and I have both found is that when we ran into difficulties abroad, we showed resilience and were able to solve the problems we were faced with.

Let’s talk: Independence 

Travelling away from home means you have to work things out for yourself. This may seem like a tall order, but you’ll soon discover you’re able to figure out a lot more than you thought.

Rose says: “Going to university in a different country means you have to deal with new situations on your own such as getting used to a different teaching and assessment style – this gives you a lot of independence.”

I definitely agree. Since going abroad, I feel like I now have the confidence to ‘get on with things’ on my own, without having to ask for help every time I try something new!

Rose (right) with friends in Slovenia

Let’s talk: Communication

When you go abroad, you’ll meet A LOT of new people – flatmates, classmates and more. There’ll always be ways to meet others – you just have to find the right way for you! 

Rose explains: “There was a social group at my university that organised day trips and events such as beer pong and quizzes – it was a great way to meet other students.”

My host university in Belgium told us about the Erasmus Student Network, a group which organised loads of trips and events for Erasmus students throughout the year. These fun get-togethers were where I made some great pals! 

Rose and I both agree that going away by yourself really pushes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to get to know new people. And you never know – these people might become your best friends!

Let’s talk: Confidence

Heading to a new country by yourself for the first time sounds daunting, right? But imagine how you’ll feel when you take this jump – capable of anything, that’s what! 

Rose says: “Going away by yourself and being faced with a completely new system gives you the confidence to adapt to new environments more easily.”

Since going abroad, I’ve definitely found it much easier to say ‘yes’ to new opportunities, when in the past I would have been hesitant. Giving new opportunities a go will boost our employability – and we have Erasmus to thank for that!

Register here for our upcoming Erasmus Information session  

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Advent Calendar advice Global Opportunities Go Global Language skills

Careers Advent Calendar: 5 Benefits of learning a new language

If you haven’t heard already, all Queen’s students are being given the opportunity to take a course at Queen’s Language Centre for free in Semester 2 – all the details including how to apply can be found here. There are so many benefits to learning a new language. Here are just seven of them.

  1. It Boosts Your CV

Having another language is seen as a major plus by employers, particularly in today’s global job market.

2. It’s Good for the Brain

The cognitive thinking and problem-solving skills required to learn a new language rivals Sudoku when it comes to giving your brain a workout.

3. It develops a global mindset

Learning a new language gives you a greater global understanding of the world and how it works.

4 It allows you to experience other cultures

Learning a new language exposes you to new cultures. You will have the chance to see new things from a different perspective and be able to connect with people across the world. You get to learn what’s fashionable within a culture, including music, style, history and literature. This, in turn, will help you grow as a person and appreciate things that you wouldn’t have noticed before.

5 It helps you multitask

Switching between languages outs extra demands on your brain – those that can manage it are better at multitasking and managing stress. 

For more resources on boosting your language skills, visit our website.

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fun Global Opportunities Go Global movies Summer camp USA USA SUMMER CAMPS

5 Movies About USA Summer Camps to Get You Pumped for Summer 2021

Forget dreaming of a white Christmas, we’re dreaming of summer adventure. If you are planning ahead for 2021, come along to our USA SUMMER CAMPS – INFORMATION SESSION on 26 November to see where you could be spending a blazing hot season of lake swims, campfires and friendship. 

Need some celluloid inspiration to get you in the mood? Check out our pick of the best summer camp movies to watch now. It’s amazing what a group of adventurers can achieve when they bandy together, huh?

The Parent Trap

Tiny Lindsay Lohan squared + hijinks at camp = Disney classic.

Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson + picture perfect Camp Ivanhoe = sweet ode to summer love.

Wet Hot American Summer

Bradley Cooper + Amy Poehler = satirical comedy genius.

Camp Rock

Demi Lovato + Joe Jonas = summer of song.

Addams Family Values

Wednesday + cheery camp = her personal nightmare.

If you want to star in your own real-life summer adventure, register for our USA SUMMER CAMPS – INFORMATION SESSION on 26 November at 12pm via the link below:

https://event.webinarjam.com/register/186/q7v7vtwo

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Confidence George Moore Scholarship Global Opportunities Go Global Mental Health Scholarships Study USA USA

How I Overcame Self-Doubt as a Mature Student to become a George Moore Scholar

Emma Shaw, George Moore Scholar

Queen’s graduate Emma Shaw was awarded the George Moore Scholarship in 2020 to study an MA in Educational Policy and Planning at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas. Here, she talks about overcoming health problems and insecurity to follow her dream.

 “I completed my undergraduate in International Politics and Conflict Studies at Queen’s and graduated ‘virtually’ in July 2020 with a 2:1, and was also awarded the Best Improved Performance Award between levels 2 and 3,” says Emma, whose path to success was not easy.

Imposter Syndrome

“I returned to education as a mature student and a single mum with two children.” 

Among her biggest challenges was just getting through the first year – a time when both she and her daughter experienced health problems. “First year was definitely one of the most challenging, both myself and my daughter had health issues, but I persevered and made use of the services offered at the University.”

Despite her ability, Emma admits she was plagued with self-doubt. “I had this feeling that I didn’t belong and that maybe I wasn’t good enough, I continuously doubted myself.”

Finding my confidence

By second year, Emma had made a conscious decision to engage more with campus life. 

“In my second year at Queen’s I made the decision to run for HAPP School Representative and became more active on campus. I would go on to also be the AHSS Faculty Rep and Part-time Mature Student Officer,” she says.

If you are struggling with life at university, Emma has this advice

“University can be a lonely place and it’s easy to get caught up in the pressure of it all. Some of the best advice that I could give to other students would be to find your tribe, whether it’s a small group of study buddies keeping you on track or becoming active in a club or society or even both, it’s important that you engage with your peers both for moral and mental support.”

Scholarship success

Before being awarded the prestigious George Moore Scholarship, Emma began to pursue her passion for inclusive education. “In my final year, I conducted independent research seeking to understand the viewpoints of young people ages 11-16 on higher and further education. My focus was on schools based in my community of East Belfast and what the barriers were that young people faced when thinking about their next steps in education.”

Currently completing her MA at the University of Texas, Emma’s home community is at the forefront of her mind. “When I return to Belfast, my aim is to found a non-profit community based organisation that will tackle some of the barriers faced by the community in terms of educational underachievement.”

We’re confident Emma will succeed in whatever she chooses to do next. 

To find out more about the George Moore Scholarship, don’t miss our information session on 22 October 2021, 1pm 

Register here

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Business Food Global Opportunities Go Global Go Global ambassadors Go Global Fair Go Global Week North Carolina Study USA World Food

Study USA: My Time in North Carolina

Phoebe Craddock-Bligh, Queen’s History and Politics student spent a year at William Peace University Raleigh, NC, as part of the Study USA programme. Here is how she got on:

I applied to take part in the Study USA programme after hearing about it at the Go Global Fair two years ago. I also attended other talks but decided that Study USA was the one for me. In a very boring and practical way Study USA was the most economical way for me to take a year out and to be honest that was my driving factor in applying (that and REALLY wanting to go to America). – Getting accepted was just the biggest rush and it just goes to show you, if you don’t apply you won’t ever know- so why not take the risk?

Learning a new subject

I was placed by Study USA in William Peace University in Raleigh, NC with the primary goal of studying business classes and gaining an understanding of American culture. As a History and Politics student I was initially nervous about taking business classes, especially as I hadn’t taken a maths class since 2016! There were moments where I did struggle (especially in micro and macroeconomics) but I quickly realised that it wasn’t just me who was finding the content hard- the whole class was, which was quite the relief. 

Through some hard work, a bit of mentoring and wonderful and caring teaching staff, I ended the semester with a distinction from the Dean and a 4.0 GPA! I was also pleasantly surprised at how interesting I found the business classes, plus I was able to take 1 elective per semester, so alongside organisational behaviour and marketing, I tried out completely new classes such as creative writing and women’s studies. In short – don’t rule out applying for Study USA just because you’re not a business student. The business skills I gained made me feel stronger in my position going forward into my career, and I’m grateful I had the chance to learn more about business in such a unique way.

A taste of the USA

Now for the fun stuff: living in the States was amazing! I loved every second, even when I wasn’t loving it. When I was presented with the reality of returning home pre-lockdown, I was distraught to be leaving so soon and not getting to finish the year on a high. Of course, I’m still incredibly grateful that I had the opportunity and the experiences I did. I got to visit NYC, explore Washington DC, take a Spring Break road trip to the mountains, and even a 9-hour drive to Florida (and back- we should have flown). And, of course, explore plenty of North Carolina. One of my favourite parts of being in The South was the BBQ! I can’t even write this without thinking about North Carolinian chopped BBQ, coleslaw and vinegar based hot sauce – and then there was the Mexican food! Sorry Boojum, but I’ve seen the light.

Joining the frat pack

Ultimately though, my favourite memories of my time in the States are less to do with all the cool places I got to see, and more to do with my friends and experiencing American college life. I thought I was prepared for the ‘American college experience’, I’d seen the films I thought I knew the craic. One thing I was not ready for was the sheer level of enthusiasm I was met with. From day one I became a Pacer, embroiled in college tradition and part of tight knit, caring community. I loved all the free merch we got to show off our ‘Pacer pride’, the welcome dinners on the front lawn and the events put on for students. Weekdays were always so busy with sports games (I’m now an avid basketball fan), ice cream socials or movie screenings, not to mention several failed Zumba classes. It was great being so involved. 

Treasured friendships

My friends made my year though. I met some of the most fantastic people (and of course some not so great ones – but that’s just life!). I got particularly lucky with my suitemate Shawntez though. We met in the bathroom, where so many great female friendships begin, and were pretty much inseparable after that. What I miss the most from my time on Study USA is the people. It’s cringey but it’s true. It was my friends who made 8am classes bearable, or broke up the tedium of cafeteria food with weeknight trips to Wendy’s for burgers. My favourite memory with Shawntez was the NC State Fair. We accidentally parked 2 miles away, refused to wait for the shuttle bus so walked down a highway in the rain only to queue for 40 minutes just to get inside. But you know what, we still had the best time. Our night ended at 1am with a giant turkey leg, chocolate dipped cheesecake, and an entire deep fried onion. An initial disaster turned into the best memory.

Interested?

Your main reason for studying abroad might not be to meet amazing friends you will inevitably have to leave, but it’s these people who end up making the day to day life, classes, homework and missing home enjoyable. 

Sometimes I scroll though my camera roll looking at my photos from last year, and it still doesn’t always feel real. The experiences I had genuinely changed how I look at and approach the world in the best possible way, and my resilience has increased 10 times over. It wasn’t all plain sailing. Naturally there were times when I longed to go home and see my family, but I would do the whole thing all over again in a heartbeat if I could, the bad and the good. 

If you’re even the tiniest bit considering that you might like to spend some time studying abroad, I would encourage you to take the plunge and apply. Start the process and you never know how far you might get. 

Find out more about Study USA by joining our information session on Oct 20 and Nov 3

Register via our events page

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Fairs Global Opportunities Go Global Go Global Fair Go Global Week Uncategorised

29 Amazing Companies To Meet at the Go Global Fair 2020

Who’s ready to shake off 2020? You can start planning the 2021 you deserve at Go Global Week from 12-15 October. Culminating in the virtual Go Global Fair on 14 October, this is your chance to chat to organisations that can offer you an experience of a lifetime to study, work or volunteer abroad during your degree. Here is just a snapshot of some of the organisations you can meet.

American Summers

Summer camp jobs Stateside

British Council – Study USA 

Spend a full academic year at an American college or university studying business or business and STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology and Maths).

British Council – IAESTE

Are you a science, engineering, technology or applied arts student? From electronics in Japan to earthquake detection technology in Colombia, an IAESTE placement is a guaranteed way to boost your career. 

BUNAC

Life-changing global work and travel

Camp America

Offering cultural exchange USA summer jobs in America.

Campus France UK

By studying in France, you will discover a diverse country with a rich and multi-cultural history.

CRCC Asia

Internships Abroad in China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, India. 

Erasmus Programme – Study and Work 

Exciting opportunities for UK participants to study, work, volunteer, teach and train abroad in Europe.

EcoSwell

The aim of EcoSwell’s volunteer internship program is to drive the creation and implementation of our sustainability projects, whilst transforming our volunteer-interns into agents of change.

First Derivatives

As recruiter Jordan Hendricks recently told us at an Employer Panel: “Our graduate recruits have gone to New York, London, Australia, Munich – you can go anywhere where we have clients. There is a big social aspect to it as well.”

Global Volunteering International (GVI)

Worldwide sustainable development programs.

Gotoco

Funded and free summer camps and TEFL in China.

Habitat for Humanity

Help families around the world build and improve places to call home.

Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET)

An official Japanese Government scheme aiming to improve foreign language teaching in schools and to promote international understanding.

Jameson International Graduate Programme

Kick-start your career in marketing on a global stage.

Opportunity China

A gateway to exciting and enriching teaching opportunities in China.

Meddeas

Teach English in Spain

Mountbatten Institute

Connecting top global businesses with the brightest young professionals.

Pagoda Projects

Internships in China, Vietnam and Mexico.

Politrip

Short-term volunteer placements on international political campaigns

Raleigh International

Work in remote, rural areas to improve access to safe water and sanitation.

Rian Immigrant Center 

Provides Irish students and graduates with the opportunity to gain professional skills and experience across the U.S.

The Student Language Bureau

Work placements abroad for UK modern language students.

University Exchange Programme to Australia and Canada

Spend a year or a semester studying in Canada or Australia.

USA Summer Camps

Your perfect summer job is waiting.

US-UK Fulbright Commission

Scholarships for postgraduate study in the US

University of Poitiers

Study in Poitiers, France

Work the World

Tailor-made electives and placements in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Washington Ireland Program

The Washington Ireland Program (WIP) inspires and develops promising leaders through a program of personal development, policy debate and community service.

Register for the Go Global Fair here: