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
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.
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.
Maisie Linford, MA Media and Broadcast Production student joined our Future-Ready Skills for Leaders Global Leadership Programme in Toronto. Here are her ten takeaways.
I was among the 25 QUB students across all subjects from first year to PhD who travelled to Toronto for the Global Leadership Programme (now Future-Skills for Leaders: Go Global). We explored the city, networked with businesses and pitched a smart solution on return to Belfast.
Toronto is known as the city of Immigrants. Over 50% of the cities residents are born outside of Canada. Being such a diverse city means that it’s also open to change and as the site for Alphabet’s proposed first Smart city it was the perfect place for us to learn about leadership and smart city solutions. I can’t cover everything in one post, but here are the top 10 things I learned on the programme.
Lesson 1: How to use Design Thinking
Our learning actually began well before we’d even arrived in Toronto, with intensive training on Design Thinking. We were put into teams with people who thought differently based on personality tests and given the challenge ‘How might Smart Cities solve 21st Century problems?’ Using all of the phases of design thinking we found real problems facing Belfast and devised a concept that would use new technology to find a solution.
Lesson 2 : What makes a Smart City
On our first day of business meetings in Toronto we went to the Sidewalk labs office to learn from legal, policy, strategy and outreach professionals at the Alphabet company. We got a real sense of what Sidewalk Labs wants to achieve in creating a smart city in Toronto and the role design thinking played in coming up with smart solutions. They also shared how they’re dealing with media challenges around data and privacy and the strategy for getting approval from the council.
Lesson 3: Diversity of thought is important
City of Toronto officials gave us an insight into their strategy on smart cities. The representatives emphasised the importance of diversity of thought in public planning and commended the group on the range of ideas we shared with them. It was really interesting to gain both sides of the perspective on city planning from a private and public policy perspective.
Lesson 4: There are lots of ways to be a strong leader
We continued to develop our smart city solutions and learned about the ways AI can influence business strategy, gaining further insight into the different strategies to being a strong leader from Brian McKenna, Linda Blair and Raman Rai, who shared the different approaches to leadership. This session completely changed my understanding of business strategy and leadership, making me feel more confident about the corporate environment and the different ways you can show leadership. I feel more knowledgeable and open to different career paths thanks to the insights shared.
Lesson 5: Leaders need to keep learning
We learned more about how Artificial Intelligence works at Element AI, who shared that although AI is a significant market force it’s not too late to learn and get involved. If you are studying French, Computer Science or Media Production (like me) it’s worthwhile to learn more about how AI works and is changing all industries. We continued to develop our smart solutions, thinking more specifically about the ways artificial intelligence could and is being used.
Lesson 6 : Leaders should listen
John Speers, Managing Director at Bank of Montreal gave us a crash course on how financial services work and an insight into the trading floor. His key lesson was that leaders need to be able to listen. In finance that may be listening to what is happening with the markets, what your manager or your client needs. This works across all sectors, the better we are at listening the more effective we will be.
Lesson 7: Networking is another place to learn
At networking events I met people working in all sectors in Toronto including programming, the Toronto Film Festival, EY and diplomats. This wasn’t just a way to get business cards. It was a chance to meet new people who could give insight into leadership, business and innovation. I also got to know the other people on the Global Leadership Programme and fellow young leaders from Canada who were starting their own social enterprises and could share their experience.
Lesson 8: Do what you love, where you belong
David Walmsley, Editor-in-chief of the Globe and Mail explained the importance of finding the right fit for you. He always knew he wanted to be a journalist, but it took a while before he found an organisation that was a perfect fit. He shared the importance of liking the people that you work with. I was most looking forward to this visit, as my course specialises in broadcast journalism but was most engaged by the interest of students from other disciplines; such as astrophysics that could challenge David on the changing media landscape and role of AI in the future of journalism, which makes finding a place you belong to as a journalist all the more important.
Lesson 9: How to pitch an idea
Returning to Belfast we continued to refine a smart city solution and honed our respective pitches, which we delivered to an expert panel at Ormeau Baths, Belfast’s innovation hub. In my team we had developed an app that could connect homeless charities in Belfast and be uploaded onto the new pulse smart hubs. I was nervous during the pitch but tried to stay focused and got positive feedback so feel more confident pitching in the future. The response we had has led to continued conversations with EY on making these projects a reality and continuing to be involved with conversations at home that shape Belfast as a smart city.
Lesson 10: Leaders support each other
The greatest lesson is from all the fellow global leaders on the programme. Whether they were studying law, medicine, business management or computer science everyone in this talented group changed my way of thinking about leadership. It’s not a matter of being the loudest or most confident person in the room. By being open to all of these lessons, leaders in our own field and supporting each other we learned how to be leaders. I have made great friends on this trip with people I would never normally come into contact with and I look forward to seeing the great things they all achieve in the future.
Find out more about the programme go.qub.ac.uk/careersprogrammes
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.
Wes Anderson + picture perfect Camp Ivanhoe = sweet ode to summer love.
Wet Hot American Summer
Bradley Cooper + Amy Poehler = satirical comedy genius.
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:
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.
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.
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