Welcome Week for international students and this week for freshmen (fresher’s week!) has been jam packed full of activities. There has been an epic amount of events ranging from pub crawls (literally every night this week. Not even kidding) to free dinners, club nights to movies and more. I’ve tried to stick to the post graduate events as it’s nice to be around people my age, but it seems like most people are taking advantage of the ‘go out and get crazy’ lifestyle! If you’re a fan of going to bed early, the first few weeks of life as a student in Ireland probably aren’t for you…
It’s super interesting to me that freshmen can drink here, as the drinking age is 18 in Ireland. You’ll see freshmen returning to student housing (we’re all in one location, although with different building blocks) carrying buckets of alcohol and they’re up chanting and singing till all hours of the morning. What a difference from undergrad in the States! The nightlife is certainly one way to make friends, and it’s working for a lot of people.
I attended a movie called ‘Pride’ with my friend **** this week at the Queen’s University Theater. Tickets are cheaper for students which is great, and the movie was even better! Snuggled down in my red velvety chair with my snacks I watched the film, which was centered on the miner’s strikes in Wales and the LGBT movement of the mid 1980s. The film is based on a true story and has inspired a stage play as well, and many of the miners who were on strike as well as members of the LGBT movement are still alive. **** and I laughed, nearly cried, and thoroughly enjoyed the discussion after the movie where the scriptwriter of the play version and a prominent Northern Irish LGBT activist fielded questions from the audience. Along with two people who knew the main character (in real life) there was a few former miners who had been on strike in the 1980s, one of which had transitioned into a woman after the events. Regardless of your stance on gay and workers’ rights, that shit is cool to me!
So, check out the movie ‘Pride’ if you get the chance, as well as ‘Goodbye Lenin’ because I love that one a lot.
There was a city wide event last week called Culture Night. Artists, musicians, and more crowded the streets for performances, food, and more. This was really the first chance I had to wander around downtown, and boy was it fun! The vibe was great and people were drinking, dancing, exploring, and enjoying their city to the max.
We saw the inside of St. Anne’s Cathedral, the Belfast Roller Girls doing a demonstration, people breathing fire, a drum group on stilts, and more inexplicable things. I love it!
I also got the chance to go on a Belfast City tour with a few other students. We ran through the different sections of the city including the Cathedral Quarter, the majority Protestant/Catholic neighborhoods, saw the beautiful Parliament building (of which I only managed a terrible picture out the bus window), and the Titanic Quarter where the Titanic was built.
Belfast is surrounded by green hills which I can’t wait to explore! Until I get the chance to leave the city proper I’m going to have a great time wandering throughout the city. There is a great Titanic museum (which I’ll be visiting Monday for a psychology conference), the indoor studios where they are filming Game of Thrones (I signed up to be an extra!), and so much more.
What I found the most fascinating about the tour was the streets we drove through in the Catholic/Protestant areas. In each neighborhood there are murals depicting the people who died during the Troubles (the Northern Irish name for the religious conflicts of the 1980s-1990s), memorials to the fighters, and other indications of which side they are on. On the Protestant side you’ll find UK flags (as they predominantly want to remain part of the United Kingdom) as well as Israeli flags, as they align themselves with that side of the Arab-Israeli conflict; on the Catholic side you’ll find Palestinian flags and Irish flags, as they predominantly wish to be part of the Republic of Ireland.
Confusing? Slightly. But there it is.
We also drove along the wall that separated the neighborhoods which is now lined with murals and signatures from people, famous and not, from all around the world. The day we drove by, the 21st of September, was also the International Day of Peace which I thought was interesting. I seem to have an attraction to places where they’ve felt the need to build walls to keep people apart, and I don’t see that ending anytime soon!
I’ll explore some of these places more in the months to come, that’s for sure.
Another interesting area of town is called the Holy Lands- streets named after major areas in the Middle East, as you can probably guess. This once charming neighborhood is now slightly ghetto, filled with cheap student housing and a party that never ends. Earlier this week a few cars were set alight by drunk individuals who were partying a wee bit too hard… who does that?! I think I’ll do my explorations of the Holy Lands in the daytime….
Northern Ireland tip #1: DON’T order an Irish car bomb at a bar here. Just don’t. However, feel free to dance your heart out to authentic and wonderful Irish music at a local bar near you. I love it!
Here are a few pictures of the Botanic Gardens on campus- so colorful!