I took a leap of faith when I moved to Belfast from Scotland to study at Queen's. My contingency plan was to see my first year out and apply for a Scottish uni for 2nd year entry if I didn't like it, but it's been a life-changing experience and I have no intention of leaving.
I applied for student accommodation and stayed at halls. The village is huge, with 10-11 students sharing on each floor of each block. There is a 'Treehouse' which houses a shop, laundry facilities, lounge, computer suite, bar and restaurant etc. The laundry was quite expensive for a nursing students who had to wash their uniforms several times a week but the drums are huge so you can get a lot in! There aren't enough computers for busy study periods but I think they may have plans to bring in more. I've never seen the restaurant open as there wasn't any demand for it and we always had pre-drinks in the flat so never drank at the bar but I know they ran open mic nights for a while. The security is very tight in the evenings which surprised me at first (nobody can get into the village unless you've signed them in before 9pm that evening and you accompany them) but before the end of the year I grew to appreciate it because it was so safe and I never had any worries about getting robbed or anything. I joined several societies last year, also taking up a sport - rowing - which I never imagined I would do. There is a society for pretty much anything, and if you find you want to set one up - as I have this year - you get a lot of support to do that from the Student Union.
The SU has several bars and a nightclub, coffee houses, a new beauty salon and chillout areas, as well as a new rooftop beer garden. A comedy club runs out of it and I've been to see Andrew Maxwell and David O'Doherty there. The food in the SU isn't nearly as cheap as other uni's unions and the same can be said throughout the uni buildings and facilities - of which there are many. The sports facilities are fantastic and the gym memberships are from £12.50 per month off-peak; they have facilities for anything from martial arts to climbing and mountaineering on their climbing wall. Queen's also have a lodge at the foot of the Mourn Mountains.
The general feel about the University Quarter is one of a student community; the Uni is in the 'suburbs' of Belfast and right next to the Botanic Gardens, so it's a lovely place to be with some fantastic bars and food places, and only 15/20 minutes walk into the City Center. When it's warm, you'll find everyone lounging about on the grass in the Botanic Gardens, and in the summer there's often an ice cream van there.
The McClay library is great for studying - I've pulled some long shifts in there approaching exam time - it's not uncommon to see people sleeping underneath their desks during this period, or slumped in front of their computer. There are many floors and when the computers run out during peak times, there are laptops to hire if you haven't brought your own. Once those are gone, however, you're scuppered!
There is a Queen's Film Theatre right next to the university, with an in-house bar and the comfiest cinema seats I've ever sat in.
The uni also employs students as much as they can, whether it is for functions, in the uni shops and bars, or within the Schools.
I found the application process for my course quite intimidating, but once I was enrolled any worries I had were put to rest; the teaching staff on my course are excellent for the most part and I can't fault the course structure. We study 6 weeks in university, 6 weeks out in practice, and so on. The teaching environments are good, aside from the usual problems with lecture theatres being either too hot or too cold!
The part of the course I most enjoy is when we split up into tutorial groups (around 15) for practical sessions in the clinical skills rooms, which are kitted out to resemble a ward environment. Ordinarily there are around 300 - odd in my class, with all of the fields (adult, learning disability, mental health and children's) together. You separate into your specific fields in 2nd year for the most part, however.
The part I enjoyed least were the seemingly constant group presentations we did near the start of the course, although I recognise that it has been of value as I am no longer quite as nervous presenting now.
All in all, my year at Queen's University has been amazing and I feel that there couldn't be any more to enrich my student experience.
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