First weeks in Northern Ireland

by Bleen Sharma

Bound for Belfast

My journey to the United Kingdom didn’t start off as smoothly as I had imagined. Before I had booked my flight, I experienced some technical difficulties with my visa application, causing me to miss my orientation week, and as a result miss out on some vital information, which I will discuss later. However, for some reason I was not stressed. Maybe it was due to the excitement of living in the UK, or maybe that fact I was finally able to start law school, I was not worried. It was also reassuring to know, that if I had any questions, I could turn to my advisor at Across the Pond, and she would be able to assist my or direct me to someone who could.

Main campus, QUB
First day on campus at Queen’s University Belfast, taking in the main campus building.

Once my visa had arrived, I booked my flight right away. Before I knew it I was on a plane, and had embarked on my journey to the UK, specifically Belfast. After one connecting flight and waiting in several lines, or queues as they are referred to in the UK, I had arrived in Belfast. The border officer was nothing but kind and extremely helpful. She thoroughly went over the aspects of my student visa, which I had already known but appreciated nonetheless, and informed me what would happen if I did not pick up my biometric residence permit (BRP); a very important piece of identification in the UK. Once I had promised her I would pick it up within the time period, she gave me the stamp of approval, literally, and I was on my way to start this new chapter of my life.

Belfast City Hall
Belfast City Hall on a beautiful September day

Where do I go?

As I mentioned earlier, I had missed the international orientation at Queen’s University in Belfast; but since I had emailed international admissions before my arrival, they were able to guide me through what I needed to complete.

Main campus, QUB
Excited and eager student, ready to start school in such a beautiful city

After I had recovered from jet lag, which took me an entire day and night, I set out to explore my new home, but most importantly complete the immigration check for the school. The first step was finding the building. I decided to stop by the international students office to ask for help, and see if there was anything else I needed to complete. They two individuals at the reception were very helpful and informative. The most important piece of information I took away was the Queen’s University App that showed me all the events that Queen’s was hosting, as well as a map of where all the buildings were. An extra benefit; I got a free tote bag!

Once I casually made my way to the building where the immigration check was happening, I found signs everywhere directing me where to go. The process was simple and efficient. At each step, student volunteers were eager to help and guide me through the process to ensure everything was completed correctly. Further, I was able to pick up my BRP here, and receive my student card for which my picture was taken right then and there. All in all, I was very impressed with the system that the University had in place to complete the immigration check, and on top of that, the patience that the staff members and student volunteers had to help international students.

Main campus, QUB
Walking along the pavement to reach Queen’s University Belfast

Endless Possibilities

Overall my first few days were quite eventful. I was able to complete the important and required immigration paperwork, but also walk around the campus and familiarise myself with all the different areas of it. I must say I am quite comfortable exploring and wandering on my own, which allowed the first few days to be enjoyable, even though I was alone. If you are not comfortable being alone, I would highly recommend the orientation weeks, in order for you to meet new people, and have someone to explore with. One of my favourite things is discovering something new a daily basis. Whether it is a new fun bar, or a new quaint street, the discoveries are endless. You too, could be on this journey. The first step is to reach out to Across the Pond, and contact an advisor today.

Palm House at the Botanic Gardens
Exploring the Palm House at the Botanic Gardens, beside the main campus