Getting Situated at Home
The past couple of days have been extremely amazing and extremely tiresome, all at the same time. Before we left the Jury’s Inn hotel in the heart of the city, we decided to go and check out the Titanic museum. The museum is an absolute wonder and I highly recommend it to anybody who visits Belfast. The outside resembles the front of passenger ships and the place is just massive. Right outside, they have the original slipway that they used to drop the ship into the water after it had been built. There is also a memorial for all the passengers and crew that lost their lives during the voyage. The inside of the museum gives so much information; it is almost overwhelming at first. It reminded me of going to the Holocaust museum in Washington DC. They give so much history of before the ship’s creation and about all the industries in the city that help provide goods and services for the ship. The place is very well lit and friendly until you turn this one ominous corner. All of a sudden, … never mind. I am not going to spoil it for you for you! You will just have to come and check it out for yourself!
Moving into my new room at Queen’s Elms Village was quite the hassle. I was forced into a temporary room for three days because my official room was not ready yet. I did eventually get to move into my real room, but it was a pain having to live out of a suitcase for an extra three days and having to lug your stuff around the village multiple times. Luckily the two buildings are relatively close together, so it was not too bad. The layouts are the exact same but my new room is much nicer. I have about a six foot long desk with four electrical outlets built in, a radiator underneath the window that does not seem to work properly, and an extremely tiny bathroom complete with a sink, toilet, and shower. My room back home at WSU had a sink in the room, and a bathroom attached to it. So I am used to having this type of accommodation. There are only three real problems with the room, and it is not just here at Elms. 1) The light switches to the bathrooms (everywhere in Belfast) are on the outside of the door. So when I go to open the door, I have to back out and walk to the switch to turn it on. Growing up for 19 years with a light switch on the inside has definitely thrown me off. 2) The doors and hallways are very small and generic. Back home, my building had wide hallways and were painted and styled with colour. Here, the doors need to be forced shut or opened (probably because they are new), and the hallways are beige cinderblock so it looks like a prison. Not sure how much I like that aspect of the village. 3) The showers and sinks are such a tight fit. If you drop your bottle of shampoo, you almost have to get out of the shower in order to pick it up. The sinks have separate taps for the hot and cold, so getting a specific temperature is difficult. And do not bother on having much hot water – it goes out quite quick here. Overall though, I cannot complain too much. The village has laundry facilities very close by (at a slight cost) and has a place called the Treehouse, where you can hang out and grab something to drink.
One of the events that the RAs in the village put on was a life music and “chill session.” The five of us from our group made our way to the Treehouse around half seven because that was when we thought the show started. When the band arrived (an hour later), they went straight for the bar and grabbed a pint to drink. It was quite entertaining watching them try to set up their equipment while holding a beer. As they started playing, more and more international students began to show up. This was one of the first nights we met people on a large scale. I still talk to most of the people I came into contact with that night. Having a band play ten feet in front of you in your village’s lounge was pretty awesome. We talked to them after the show and they said that they are touring in America next year, so hopefully I can catch them again. Their name is the Hootin’ Annies and they are from Northern Ireland. This is there Facebook page if you are interested: https://www.facebook.com/TheHootinAnnies?fref=ts.
Orientation over the last few days has been super boring. People already know and understand most of the information they are trying to give us; stuff like how to be safe in the city and how to cook your own food. The sessions are not quite my cup of tea, if you know what I mean! Not all of it was bad though; there were some valuable bits of information. I found out that I can work up to 20 hours a week and that a 70% mark is equivalent to an A grade. The biggest problem with orientation was that for every five bits of information you were given, only one bit was useful. Besides some minor differences, the school and living accommodations are very similar to mine back home. I felt like I was a fresher doing orientation all over again.
The people we have met are just brilliant. We were surprised at how many Americans there are attending Queen’s this year. I would say one out of three people I have met (at the school) are American. The second most represented country in my opinion is Germany. The German students are so friendly and love trying to communicate with people from other countries. There are a bunch of Swedish people here too; not a country I would think of having a ton of people from. And then the rest of the world is covered in various forms. The most interesting countries I have run in to are Mozambique, Ghana, Rwanda (living in Mississippi full time though), and Syria. They are some of the most interesting people to talk to though because from what I understand, their home institution is nothing at all like Queen’s. The Irish kids move in today and tomorrow, so soon enough, us internationals will not be seeing each other nearly as often.
I like it here. I like it here a lot. I am starting to make this city my home.