Every year, Queen’s Global Opportunities offer students the chance to participate in The Think Pacific programme. They have a chance to tackle global issues and achieve real outcomes for our partners in Fiji. Chelsie Haddock was among the successful applicants to the programme. Chelsie took part in the Think Pacific Programme spending a month working on a community build in Namau, Fiji. Here is her experience:
Sota tale Fiji! (See you again, Fiji!)
This was the most unforgettable experience with the most amazing people. Throughout the month of June, I was grateful enough to work alongside volunteers from the Think Pacific Programme as well as the Fijian youth of Namau to build and produce a health dispensary within the village of Namau.
During this time, I was also welcomed into a wonderful family who I am now blessed to call my own. This experience was truly a once in a lifetime blessing. I fully embraced the Fijian culture and loved every second of the culture classes that we also took part in. This included, trying new foods and learning how to cook some of the traditional meals. I built rafts, attended church services and learned Fijian songs. I learned about the history of Fiji and the village of Namau. I also performed traditional dances, ‘mekes’ which was my favourite part as we performed them as a family.
This adventure has been so surreal, all thanks to the village of Namau, who warmly welcomed us into their village and treated us as their own from the very start. Your culture and stories will never be forgotten, and I cannot wait to go back in the future!
Electrical and Electronic Engineering student Vihan Fonseka spent four weeks at Mourne Dew Distillery as part of our Working Globally from NI programme. Read his experience below.
Going outside my comfort zone
I started my International Marketing Assistant with Mourne Dew Distillery just a week after my final year exams ended. I was very excited from the start as this experience would be outside my comfort zone and a whole new domain for me coming from an engineering background. This opportunity would be put in a place where I can expand and learn new skills and broaden my perspective.
Learning about the company
My interest for Mourne Dew began when I came across the internship posting where I was impressed to learn about their story from starting very small to now producing award winning Whiskies, Gins, Vodkas and Poitins. The craftmanship involved in producing these spirits further attracted me to apply as I learned about how Mourne Dew infuses the essence of the famous Mourne Mountains into their products as well as various botanicals. From a perspective of an international student and someone who doesn’t drink alcohol, I found the craftmanship, dedicate and innovation that goes into making these products very interesting and something I would like to be a part of.
Leading my own projects
My internship at Mourne Dew consisted of various projects that I led and delivered. From conducting research into revamping the current booking system through analysing suitable software to collecting and compiling business tenders to sell the byproduct of the production being hand sanitizers I was exposed to different functions of the business from Day 1. Mourne Dew is still a growing business, and I partook in their expansion efforts through conducing market research into the spirit markets of USA, Poland and Germany, I was able to learn about different spirit products, various pricing methods, ingredient mix and generally what whisky or gin or vodka is popular in different regions.
In addition to working remotely, I was able to visit the distillery in Warrenpoint and meet the team behind it. Neil Flemming (Sales Manager) had kindly picked me up and brought me to the distillery plant. It was interesting to see the production process of creating high quality Whisky, Gin, Vodka and Poitin as Eimear and Donal (Operations Assistant) gave me a breakdown of the distillation process, packaging and was impressed that the entire batch is made by hand. I had also got a sniff of the different experimental botanical mixtures that Donal (owner) had been testing from seaweed to citrus and they all smelled incredible.
Overall, working at Mourne Dew for the past 4 weeks had been an incredible experience that helped me step into a totally different domain, learning about marketing, sales and generally how a distillery is run.
During my time as an intern at Queen’s University Belfast’s Student Experience Team, I had the incredible opportunity to work alongside a dynamic group of people dedicated to enhancing the university experience for international students. From supporting video production to conducting research and providing feedback, my internship provided me with invaluable insights into the behind-the-scenes efforts that contribute to creating a welcoming and enriching environment for students.
Working with the International Student Group:
One of the highlights of my internship was working closely with the international student group. Together, we collaborated on filming promotional and informational videos aimed at helping international students navigate their journey at Queen’s. It was a rewarding experience to witness first-hand the impact of these videos in providing crucial information, easing the transition, and creating a sense of belonging for students from diverse backgrounds.
Building upon my Research Skills:
Another significant aspect of my internship involved conducting research on other universities to identify potential areas where Queens could further improve its support for international and local students. By exploring innovative practices implemented by other institutions, I aimed to identify valuable insights and recommend new initiatives that could enhance the overall student experience at Queens. This research not only broadened my understanding of the international education landscape but also allowed me to contribute meaningfully to the ongoing development of support systems at Queens.
Contributing to Website Enhancement:
Additionally, I had the opportunity to provide constructive feedback on the “My Queens” webpage—a vital platform for students to access information and resources. By analysing its user interface, content, and functionality, I proposed enhancements to ensure that the website remains user-friendly and serves as a comprehensive hub for students seeking assistance. Collaborating with the Student Experience Team, I contributed ideas to enrich the webpage’s content, making it more inclusive and responsive to the needs of students.
Learning from Student Queries:
Working at the student information point reception desk on Wednesday mornings provided me with a unique perspective on the challenges and concerns that students face. By interacting directly with students and observing how my colleagues handled their queries, I gained insight into effective communication strategies and problem-solving techniques. This experience deepened my appreciation for the importance of providing timely and accurate information to students, fostering a supportive environment for their academic and personal growth.
My internship at Queen’s University Belfast’s Student Experience Team was an enriching and fulfilling experience. Through my involvement in various tasks, I was able to contribute to the enhancement of support services for international students, provide valuable insights, and learn from the experiences of my colleagues and fellow students. Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as an intern and would highly recommend other students like myself to apply for internships within the university and even volunteering opportunities as it has been a very enjoyable experience and I have enjoyed meeting and interacting with new people from many different backgrounds.
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)
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.