A letter from UNO's Haley Ferguson:
March 1, 2015
Hello from Northern Ireland!
I am currently beginning the sixth week of my studies here at Ulster University in Coleraine, and time is absolutely flying by. In the month or so that I’ve been here, I’ve already learned so much both academically and generally, I’ve met so many amazing people and have had so many great experiences. I’ve gotten a feel for the way of life here in Northern Ireland (although there is still so much to learn), I’ve gotten to travel throughout Ireland a bit already, and have so much more planned! One thing I definitely have not gotten used to yet, however, is having cars come at me from the left side of the road! I may or may not come home remembering how to drive.
The education system is quite a bit different here. First of all, there are only three years of study rather than four. So, although I am in classes with mostly final year students, I have been in school longer than all of them, which is a little strange! Also, there are many more nontraditional, or older than college-aged, students at home than there are here. I have seen maybe two or three people in my classes in total that are nontraditional, which I find interesting. Another thing that is different about the system here is that much more time is expected to be spent outside of class, so I've spent a much shorter amount of time actually in class. Although my classes are worth the same weight as they would be at home, I’m only spending about eight hours a week actually in classes. However, they expect students to be spending about three hours per class per week doing actual independent study which is included in the course, and then much more studying on top of that.
Another big adjustment I am trying to make is living in a very small town! The campus that I’m on is pretty removed from town, so to get into town, we have to either take the train or bus, a taxi, or prepare ourselves for a forty-five minute walk! It has been great to get adjusted to using a public transportation system since at home, I am so accustomed to just jumping in my car to get to wherever I need to go. Although most people here do have cars, most university students do not.
So far, I have been trying to get acclimated to my classes, so the only trips my five American roommates and I have gone on are day trips to other parts of Northern Ireland and a weekend trip to Dublin. Both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are such beautiful places, and there is so much to see and so much varying geography within a relatively small country! About 15 minutes away from campus, we have a places called the Giant’s Causeway, which is honestly the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. We have already take a couple of trips there! Next weekend we are headed to London, and about three weeks after that, during Easter break, I am going to Belgium and Germany, and then Spain and Portugal for a week! It is wonderful that countries are so close together here since at home, traveling across the country would be further than any trip I’ll be making here.
This experience has already been life-changing for me. Adapting to living in any new place is hard, but I’m so thankful that Northern Ireland is where I have been selected to go. In a short month, I have already met amazing friends that I know will last a lifetime and seen places I never would have had the chance to see. I am definitely still adjusting to the way the education system works here, but I am figuring it out! I am so happy to have been given this opportunity and I cannot wait to see how much more I will learn in the next three months in this beautiful place!