Grace McSorley is a final year student who had the opportunity to attend a placement at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Here is what she had to say about her time there!
“Last month, I had the opportunity to complete a study abroad placement in Utrecht University in the Netherlands, and it was an amazing experience. The course, ‘Exploring Data through Culture’, was a great learning opportunity and it provided me with the chance to learn several new softwares, whilst equipping me with a range of new data skills and techniques.
One of the highlights was the chance to work alongside a brilliant group of students and lecturers from across the world. The team collaboration was fantastic, and together we presented a research project investigating the rise of Chat GPT and natural language processing AI within education. The insights, skills and experiences I have gained from the Summer School will be invaluable as I commence my final year of university.
The European Student Exchange Information Session took place on 2nd February 2023
Erasmus is the European Higher Education programme which enables students, already enrolled at a university in Europe, to take time out from their own institution and spend one or two semesters at a partner university
Here are the top 3 takeaways from the session:
1. Experience a new culture, city, language
2. Over 200+ study exchange destinations across Europe
The Canadian and Australian Information Session took place on the 18th January 2023.
Interested in studying abroad in Australia or Canada? 🌎
Queen’s History and Politics student Isobel spent six months studying at the University of Newcastle in Australia.
She says: “I loved studying in Australia; I loved being submerged in the culture; the familiarity of the English language but the weather and environment was so different to anything that I had grown up with.”
Here are the top 3 takeaways to remember from this session:
You can study at the University of Alberta, Queen’s University Kingston (both Canada) or the University of Newcastle (Australia)
You can study for one semester or the full academic year
Applications close on 3rd February (through MyFuture)
Queen’s student Claire McGurk completed an internship with INTO Queen’s as part of the Working Globally from NI programme. Read how she got on and apply here.
The global organisation felt like a family
INTO QUB is part of a wider worldwide network, with many similar education centres across the world. It provides a stepping stone for students to attain the qualifications necessary for university, with classes delivered in a similar format to those in university. INTO also assists international students to develop their English language ability before commencing university. To me, INTO QUB has the same friendly atmosphere and community feeling as a school. As well as achieving academic goals, the students were provided with many opportunities to socialise and develop friendships.
I boosted my CV
The application process for the internship made me focus on improving my CV and developing my interview skills. This will be of great assistance when applying for placements next year in Spain. Ciaran McMullan in the Placement Office was particularly helpful and gave me some great tips on improving my CV.
I gained office experience
I gained useful experience of what an office based workplace will be like once I graduate from university. Key to this was regular communication with team members, with daily meetings and clarification of the tasks I was to complete. Of particular value was the regular use of Excel and Canva, allowing me to increase my skills in the practical use of these packages. Above all, I was made to feel very welcome and was given structured tasks to complete with both clear direction in advance and helpful feedback upon completion. I was very lucky to have had Ciara Murray as my mentor, as well as working alongside Javlan and Sulekchya.
I got hands-on experience
One of my main tasks during my internship was to organise a Graduation Reception for all the INTO students graduating from QUB this year. I drew up and issued the invitations; sourced and ordered decorations, food and merchandise for the event. We got a strong turnout, and everyone had a great day. It was clear that for the graduates, their time in INTO had been a key part of their QUB experience. I was really impressed with the teachers and the student support services staff. It was clear that there was a strong bond between the students and their teachers and support staff at INTO.
The work was fun
I was also fortunate to take part in in several other events at the centre, including a poster presentation day; bingo; a campus tour and a garden party. I really enjoyed working on a script for a ‘Day in the life’.
Joining INTO as an intern for a month was a very positive experience and I am grateful to both INTO and to the Global Opportunities Team for this fantastic opportunity.
As F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “It’s a funny thing about comin’ home. Looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You’ll realize what’s changed is you.”
Canada has always been on my travel list; known for its great outdoors, safe multicultural cosmopolitan cities, and friendly people. Engaging with people who had visited, Canada was always described to me as one of those places thats experience is nearly impossible to describe and after visiting once you’ll want to return.
So when the Mitacs Globalink Research Internship was released, it posed as an opportunity to spend up to 12 weeks researching in a country on my bucket list. And when people ask why I applied, I say why not, because I had so much to gain from this opportunity and little to lose.
I first applied for the Mitacs Globalink Research Internship in 2020 however was unsuccessful in my application. Fortunately, due to a change in my degree programme I became re-eligble to apply and reapplied in August 2021. Receiving, notification in September that my application had been nominated for the programme I began the process of filling out the application form, detailing experience I had gained from work experience the year before and what skills I could bring to the programme. With my application submitted it, I was left to wait to see if any Canadian professors would contact me. I was fortunate to be contacted by two professors in November to further discuss their projects and my suitability.
By December, I had been selected and confirmed my place on the 2022 Globalink Research Internship.
From January through to departure in May, I organised my flights, housing, visa, starting/ finishing dates for the internship, and a small amount of currency. Connecting with my supervisor during this process made it feel less intimidating as I was able to ask questions or express queries.
Before I knew it May had arrived, and I was stood at the airport waiting to depart on one of my biggest adventures yet. An 8 hour flight, and 2 hour immigration wait later, I was in Toronto.
The first week, I was provided with a tour around the faculty, opened up a bank account, and familiarised myself with the campus. I was able to meet my supervisor and research team in person as well as start on my project. Over the next 10 weeks I was able to develop a general research topic of Micro-structural analysis of advanced composite structures, into a working conference and journal paper focusing on Investigation of impact response of 2D braided hybrid composites using Micro-CT. Throughout the project I was able to develop my knowledge of braided composites, non-destructive analysis, and composite sample manufacturing.
Alongside researching, I took the time to explore the city of Toronto through events such as Toronto Pride, Canada Day at Woodbine Beach, and a Blue Jays game at the Rogers Centre. These formed some of the key highlights of my internship in addition to trying different foods and visiting the key tourist attractions such as the CN Tower, Casa Loma, and the Aquarium.
As the end of July approached, I realised I had learnt more, made international friends, gained new experiences, and stepped out of my comfort zone to my growth zone. It’s an experience I will always look back on fondly and would encourage people to take as many opportunities to develop themselves personally and professionally.
Ask for help
Take time to explore where you are, it’s easy to get stuck in work
Keep in contact with your support network back home
Take lots of photos and videos
Plan in advance especially housing, visas, flights, packing.
Every year over 900 Queen’s students take the opportunity to go outside Northern Ireland to study or gain work-related experience. Louis Anthony, a Psychology student is one of them. Read how they got on..
What shocked you the most during your time abroad?
Whenever I went out on the Study USA programme, I never realised how different American culture really was to Northern Irish culture. I think it probably took me the guts of the first semester to really adapt to it. Not necessarily adapt to it but learn about it and really know the boundaries within it. But I think going forward, looking to my career, I’ll be able to reference that in interviews with how I was able to adapt to the culture and interact so positively with so many people from different cultures and from around the world at an American college. You know, I made friends out there that are absolutely going to be friends for life. I love the American culture, I love their humour, I love their optimism, I love the whole vibe you got off them. So, it’s definitely something I’ll be able to use in future job opportunities about how well I interacted with people from the American culture and also other international cultures.
What did you learn about yourself?
During my time in America, I realised I had skills I didn’t initially think I had. I was initially very worried about being home-sick and not being able to adapt to the culture but I realised, actually, I am very adaptable, when I went over there, which is something I was quite proud of. Obviously at the start I was kind of nervous and wasn’t sure how I’d be able to adapt to the culture and had a fair bit of self doubt but I think by just putting myself out there and, like, making myself feel uncomfortable I naturally became more adapted to the American culture. I feel proud of the fact that I was able to adapt and make the most of the year I was given. You know, I look back on it so fondly and I wish I could do it again to be honest but I feel proud that I was able to make the most of it and not let my self-doubt get in the way.
Every year over 900 Queen’s students take the opportunity to go outside Northern Ireland to study or gain work-related experience. Cate Benson, a law student is one of them. Read how they got on..
What skills did you learn during your Erasmus trip abroad?
It honestly taught me so many skills, like it made me a lot more independent, I would say, like, as I said, I’d lived away from home, but it’s not the same if you’re not, you know, coming home every Friday, giving your mummy your washing or something, you know, it’s properly living by yourself in a different country. You don’t know anybody, you have to learn to sort things out for yourself and even, like, on the trips we went on obviously things went wrong. You got lost. You know, there’s always something going wrong. So, really helped problem-solving skills, like you just had to learn to deal with it and move on and be resilient, maybe, even that too
Every year over 900 Queen’s students take the opportunity to go outside Northern Ireland to study or gain work-related experience. Lydia Hossain, a Common and Civil Law with French studentis one of them. Read how they got on..
Tell us about yourself.
Hi, my name is Lydia Hosain and I’m from County Donegal. I am studying Common and Civil Law with French at Queen’s University Belfast and the language part of my degree made it so that I had the opportunity of spending time abroad in my third year.
Where did you go and why?
I travelled to Toulouse for my Erasmus year, spending a full academic year studying in UT 1. I decided on Toulouse because it’s really student-friendly and it has great weather. I took the plane to France with my mum and spent a few days holidaying; getting to know La Ville Rose.
Who was the first person you met?
I quickly realised that Toulouse has a real supportive international student community as, although I felt really nervous in my introduction week, the first person that I met was an Italian student called Leonardo who helped settle my nerves and introduced me to other students who became my friends. I participated in Erasmus student-network events, the SN, which helped welcome newcomers and I quickly realised that everyone was going through the same thing.
What was the biggest culture shock?
Having visited France many times before, I was fairly surprised by the different culture of Toulouse, with its Occitan and Spanish influence and, honestly, how well-dressed French students were.
What was the most exciting part? Most memorable moment?
There were many highlights but the stand out one for me was just having complete freedom and being in a completely different country and having access to fantastic public transport that can take you anywhere around the city. But the most important one for me was making the most amazing friends and just the feeling, not to be cliché, but that the feeling that you can reinvent and truly find yourself. There were many memorable moments during my time abroad but, if I had to pick a few, it would be the one Euro train tickets that I was able to get to travel to towns all around Toulouse, travelling across Europe, experiencing cultural events where I was able to taste wine and cheese from all across the region and I even visited my first rugby match in Toulouse stadium and it was just amazing.
What knowledge and insight did you gain to help your career?
While I’m still studying, I can definitely say that I improved my transferrable work skills through working in hospitality in Toulouse where I learned a completely different work culture and definitely gained resilience to adapt to new situations. Working abroad, it really made me consider working in different countries in the future as well. So, I think that it has widened my choices for the future.
How was your time abroad different to what you had imagined?
One thing I discovered was that it’s definitely not lying when it’s said that France loves its paperwork. Bureaucracy is definitely a thing, however, I quickly adapted to it and realised that as long as you work with it and not against it, you’ll be fine. And I learned how resilient I am as an individual through all the processes and all the procedures that I had to go through. My year abroad was, honestly, better than I had imagined. Although time flew by, I spent it with friends, volunteering with the SN and ‘Les Piafs de la Rue’, helping homeless people and really just getting out and exploring the city and seeing what Toulouse had to offer.
How did you meet people?
I chose to live in student accommodation where I was immersed in the student experience and I made many new friends and met so many new people and I learned, really, a lot of things about different cultures. Through my volunteering role, I met and made really close friends, all of whom were international students just like me. The people that I met really inspired me as they were just themselves. They were educated in different countries, knew many more languages than me and they just had a really relaxed attitude about travelling and living in Europe that really inspired me.
In what ways has the experience built your confidence?
Through my experience, my confidence has really grown. Where I would have said “no” to an opportunity in the past, now I say, “why not?” I know I’ve really grown in myself and believe my outlook on life has definitely changed.
What advice do you have for fellow students who want to experience a similar time abroad?
The advice I would give is to really do your research beforehand and that going solo can be daunting but it’s really well worth it. And I would say to take every opportunity as it comes as the year is so incredibly short, to connect with people, and just have fun.
In what way do you feel you made a difference in your time abroad?
I feel that I made a difference through the friendships I made with others, being there for people when they needed it most and through helping the local homeless charities in my time volunteering; I found it was very rewarding.
What skills have benefited you the most?
The skills that would have benefitted me most is that I’m a people person. I love to communicate with others; I find it easy to make friends. I’m adaptable to new situations in the university and work and I found that having a sense of adventure really helped.
What’s the one thing you will never forget about your time abroad?
One thing I’d love to forget about my time abroad are all those mosquito bites but one thing I’d certainly remember are all the friendships that I made and how they helped me grow as a person. I would definitely recommend taking a year abroad or a Global Opportunity to any student studying at Queen’s.
Every year over 900 Queen’s students take the opportunity to go outside Northern Ireland to study or gain work-related experience. Daniella Timperley, a Queen’s Broadcast Production studentis one of them. Read how they got on..
What was your highlight of your time abroad?
I think the part of the experience that will stay with me the longest would be the community aspect of student life on campus. There was always something going on in campus mall, such as food trucks, volleyball tournaments and even an international DJ came to play a concert for the students. Another part of the community aspect would be sports events, which was one of the parts of American college that I was most excited about. I think I went to almost every basketball, baseball, soccer match there was to support friends and just go with friends on the weekend for fun.
What knowledge and insight did you gain to help your career?
I feel so much more informed about business as I’m a broadcast production student at Queen’s University in Belfast. So, taking all business classes was something I had to adapt to and it was very, very different for me. I got the opportunity to take public speaking, communication classes, marketing classes, survey of management and it was really, really interesting and I feel like I can take that business knowledge with me in the future. I just loved having the opportunity to take classes that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to take at home.
Which of your skills did you use the most?
A skill I used the most was probably listening. I learned a lot about issues in America just from living there such as gun violence, racism and healthcare. I also learned a lot just from talking to my American friends and how their experiences differed from state to state. And it was really, really interesting and really eye-opening for me.
How was your time abroad different to what you had imagined?
I never imagined I would be struggling to adapt to food in the United States, but I really, really struggled with this for the first couple of months. I wasn’t expecting food to be an issue, I always imagined food in America, to be way, way, way better than home, but I eventually was able to overcome this issue with friends cooking me their home cooked meals and driving me to Walmart for groceries.
What were the people you met like?
I met so many great people during my time abroad. I met people from not only the United States, but from the Bahamas, France, Costa Rica, Haiti and Malaysia. I loved how all of them were so proud of their cultures and wanted to cook us meals from their home country. Even the first friend I met at the University brought me home to her island in the Bahamas and brought me to family get-togethers and give me a tour of her Island, Nassau.
In what ways did the people you met inspire you?
The people I met really inspired me to learn more about other cultures, because this is one of the things I enjoyed most about my study abroad. I just like trying new foods, hearing stories about myths and legends, and I want to go and visit more of their countries, this inspiration kind of started when I met my friends, but I was even more inspired after my trip to the Bahamas. I didn’t stay in a five-star Resort. I stayed in their homes, learning about the real bohemian experience.
In what ways has the experience built your confidence?
I overcame self doubt by sticking with it and not jumping on a plane to come home if I was having a rough couple of days. I became a lot more confident in myself. Before I thought I didn’t like change even though I’m an extremely ambitious person. But I found out that I really enjoyed the independence that came along with studying abroad and meeting new people.