Before getting into the theme of my piece just thought I would introduce myself. My name is Ethan McLaughlin and I am a final year student, studying International Politics and Conflict Studies. I am looking forward to graduating and leaving, before I touch on my experience as a “GB” student at Queens I just thought I wanted to briefly explain the question I continue to get to this day, from students from here. Why Queens? Alas, it’s pretty simple, my dad is from Derry and being here not only sounded good to me, but I loved the place when I visited. My course is fantastic.
1) Adjusting to first semester/ meeting Northern Irish friends
Being a GB student comes with many things it takes some time to get to grips with. The major adjustment was getting to grips with weekends, but being fortune enough I was in elms. But if I did not have people round me at all times that would have been difficult to get by through those times when I had little to do and not knowing where to go. Before I came I don’t think I really appreciated the difference between being a “GB” student and a Northern Ireland student, I really don’t see or associate as being different to Northern Irish students around me. But there are some.
2) Getting into the swing of things
Firstly there is a strange realisation of being a student in your own country but not quite feeling at home, thankfully this was never something I had to comprehend. But I know of people and have talked to many potential students on behalf of the university where this issue has been the main factor keeping them of Queens. Also it was extremely difficult to get to grips with the fact a lot of the NI people you got to know, still hang out with their school friends and for me, it was difficult to break into those circles. As a result many of my closest friends unfortunately are fellow GB students who like me, got involved in societies looking to get to know people.
3) Going home
One of the biggest adjustments has been how to deal with going home and being around people who aren’t living in the community you are. I still remember my friend’s faces when I mentioned my first Christmas that we had, had five bomb threat and that that was not a big thing. Going home, you also appreciate how far you have come as a person. This was the case especially in my second year where I really had to appreciate the fact that my parents couldn’t just pop over when I had a problem and I had to deal with the problems myself. Whilst I never normally like to think about the distance, there have been many times when home has felt very far away. Problems ranging from getting dumped to trying to find a new home, there have been many. But I would say that is part of the growing up process and what university is all about.
4) Why I love this university and why I love being able to promote it
But before I get too doom and gloom, I want to highlight why, despite the difficult time, why I love this university. Firstly the strong community thanks to the support of the Uni, but also because we are all learning together. As I sadly come to the end of my time here, I could not have made a better decision. This university and the people I have met here have given me an amazing experience that I am grateful for. But for all of my Northern Irish colleagues, in the lower years please remember that your flat mate, your course friend might be feeling really alone at times and to just check up every now and then. We will be grateful.