A Once in a LIfetime Experience: Culture, Adventure, and New Understanding Past Review

By (PSYCHOLOGY., Austin College) - abroad from 09/18/2013 to 12/21/2013 with

IFSA: Belfast - Teacher Education at Stranmillis University College

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
While being abroad I learned a lot about myself and who I really am. By being able to work in a classroom with students once a week I was able to see what it was like to be a real classroom teacher. I loved getting to compare the educational system set up in Northern Ireland and the one in America. Just from my experiences at the primary school, I've learned things that I couldn't of learned anywhere else. I learned a lot about living with people and how to work with others you don't very know well.

Review Photos

IFSA-Butler: Belfast - Teacher Education at Stranmillis University College Photo IFSA-Butler: Belfast - Teacher Education at Stranmillis University College Photo IFSA-Butler: Belfast - Teacher Education at Stranmillis University College Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? None

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The educational system is interesting here, leaving all the work at the end. It makes the first part of the semester seem insanely easy, but at the end you have a bunch of assignments that are due all at the same time that are worth most of your course grade.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Helpful, tried their best to answer our questions.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I loved where we were able to live. I lived in a flat with six other Americans. We each had our own rooms with a desk, full sized bed, chair, mirror, dresser, and our own bathrooms with a shower, toilet, and sink. There also was a flat kitchen in our hallway. The kitchen was great, with a sink, fridge, freezer, oven, stove top, dining room table, 8 chairs, and tons of cabinet space. One of the nicest parts of the kitchen was that there were some dishes and cooking utensils already in the cupboard for us to use so we didn't have to pay for it. Also, once or twice a week a lady would come through our kitchen and clean everything, as well as come into our rooms and give us new bed sheets and empty our our personal trashcans, even cleaning our bathrooms and giving us all toilet paper. It was a pretty great situation overall.

* Food:

During this program I was provided with breakfast and dinner by the on campus cafeteria, The Chatz. While it definitely wasn't the best food you have ever tasted it wasn't bad at all. I am not a picky eater at all, so I was fine the entire semester. I do wish I could've gotten seconds on things. You can only go through the queue once and you are limited to how much you take.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Belfast is such a student city when it comes down to it. Just filled with college students. It's easy to have a good time. The city also puts on countless festivals in the fall so it was wonderful to see the history there. The Christmas Market is wonderful. Everything about Belfast is charming and friendly, just like the people.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I thankfully never had to deal with healthcare in Belfast, and was able to stay fairly healthy the entire semester. If something did happen though I knew I would be in good hands.

* Safety:

I felt so safe in Belfast all the time. Like I said, pretty much everyone is nice. You just need to be smart, and apply any rule at home that you would need here too. I have never heard of anyone being pick pocketed in Belfast during my time here. Cab drivers are usually great, you have to pay attention though because sometimes (very rarely) if they hear your American accent they'll assume you don't know where you are going so they take you the long way to raise your tab. I have walked countless places by myself and felt completely safe. Obviously at night you would want to walk with someone else and not by yourself, but that is just common sense and something I would do in any city.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Always have money tucked away in your room just in case. Always have enough money for cab fare hidden in your purse just in case you need to get a cab home by yourself. Think before you buy something you "need," you might not actually need it. If you want to drink while you are abroad, spend money in liqueur stores for your drinks, not at the bars. Bars are usually overpriced. I would recommend making a rough outline of a budget plan for your semester. It can be flexible, but it is something I wish I would have done.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? No

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Getting to work in an Irish classroom and getting to know those students
  • The planned weekends set up by IFSA that took us to Dublin and on an Adventure Weekend
* What could be improved?
  • Letting students know the set up program weekends farther in advance
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I had known ways to get and take care of money while abroad and looked for more recommendations on getting a bank account abroad. I wish I had better understood the weather in Belfast instead of assuming, I expected it to be much much colder than it actually is.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

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The Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.