Walking with flat mate, Maggie, to the store after E-Hoops session.
By Joslyn Barton
Walking with flat mate, Maggie, to the store after E-Hoops session.
By Joslyn Barton
Flat mates talking about our times while here.
By Joslyn Barton
Before coming to Northern Ireland I wasn’t sure what it would be like here. I knew that there was a separation between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; however, I wasn’t sure how that effected the culture and the people. I found that the people of Northern Ireland are friendly and welcoming, happy to answer any questions. Especially to Americans they seem very interested in the reason for why I’m here and where I am from. Most call me Dorthy or some reference to The Wizard of Oz.
They have a nice sense of style, always dressed to impress. One thing that I quickly noticed was that going to class and even to the store girls would do their makeup really nice, hair is done well and everyone is always in nice clothes. I have learned to adjust my sense of style and spent more time getting ready in the morning. Also with the drinking age being younger people go out younger and even go out to the bar or club drinking underage. To me that is such a crazy idea to wrap my head around because when I was in high school I wasn’t concerned with going to the club and drinking, I was excited about what new movie was coming out on Redbox for that week. Having the younger age and the fact that drinking is such a part of the Irish culture in general, I had to adjust the way I thought about why people drink and come to understand that it is part of it; knowing that not everyone here drinks but it is a part of them.
The point of Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland, it all spurs from the separation of religion and people that are loyal to the UK and those who are loyal to Ireland. About 30 years ago, in Belfast actually, there was “The Troubles” this was a huge fight that went on between the Protestants and the Catholics over Ireland being its own country and having independence from England. It ended in the 90’s a peace wall was built and they have made huge leaps forward proving their resilience. The program that I volunteer with takes groups of people from different areas of Belfast and helps to promote cross community integration. These people that I work with are 15-23 years old and most of them claim a religion and are aware of what happened before they were born yet they aren’t bothered by it, they don’t hate the other religion and start fights with them like their parents would have. I have talked with them about this a lot because being from America where religion is a choice and for some parts of the country it effects the way of life but not enough to bomb or fight with another area like it was here. We talk about how our views are different because of our back ground but we look to the future with the same hope in mind.
I found it easy to relate to people here because our cultures are so similar. We talk about sports, soccer mostly or for them football, because I grew up playing it and here you either love soccer or rugby. I have learned a lot about rugby; yet, I think it will be just like American football to me because I know when they score but other than that I’m lost. Family dynamics here are the same as at home so talking with people here about growing up its easily relatable. However, the divorce rate here is not near as high as it in the States, explaining to people that my family is a combined family and a lot of my friends have combined families too isn’t as heard of here.
With our cultures being really similar we have a lot of the same core values about what is good and bad. Within the family dynamics and religion people are more traditional with it being two parents and children, the gender of the parents isn’t as much discussed here as it is in America. Religion does influence them yet it doesn’t entirely control how them. Economically, they are a part of the United Kingdom, they use the Sterling Pound, which is stronger than the dollar. However, Northern Ireland has no elected head officials running the country, they stepped down in early March and it has been “up in the air” since. To an American that seems unreal, yet for this small country they are taking their time finding someone to fill the positions. I think the education system here is great, they encourage the gap year and once in university they have a placement year where it is expected you go out to a job in the field of study and work in, like a longer term internship. The schooling here I found was more practical learning and what we learned we had to apply to an end of the year project. It has helped me to learn a different side of Marketing and how to properly apply it to something I’ll be doing in the real world. The history here dates much further back than our government in America and they have such an interesting culture, whether it be who was here to settle it first or the Celtic language. Their castles and religion even before Protestants or Catholics settling the area. Everyone here is proud of that part of their history whether they claim to be either of the two main religions, they are unique and they are Irish.
“Been around the world, don’t speak the language”
Luckily for me Marketing- and English- is a language that nearly everyone can speak.
I am a marketing student currently studying Marketing at Ulster University in Northern Ireland. Born and raised between Kansas and Kentucky I experienced different ways of life within our own country. Always wanting to see more, and getting a taste of it starting the summer before my senior year in high school with a couple different trips out of the country. First was an EF tour trip to Costa Rica with some peers and for a science credit in school; the other was a leisure trip to visit my family in France, while there we traveled a bit around the country. Returning home at the end of the summer I knew I was one of those you hear that “got bit by the travel bug.” Five years later I was able to travel again outside of the country, I went to Kenya where I worked at a children’s home. That trip opened my eyes more than my two previous ones had, it might have been maturity or it could have been I saw more than the tour buses and vacation spots show you. Shortly after that I decided to go back to school for something that I could make a difference with; I feel I can do that in my own way with marketing. One of my goals with completing college is to study abroad, so here I am achieving one of my biggest goals.
Like I had said before the trips I had done while in high school drove me to want to explore more. My aunt that I had gone and visited on the trip to France is one of my main influencers as well, she had studied abroad while she was in school at KU. She ended up falling in love with a man and the culture, after her graduation she moved to France and they started their family. Granted I am not planning on moving back to Northern Ireland after school, I do want the same kind of fun and adventures as she has shared with me. I found that taking advantage of the study abroad program would be my best way to explore more, and see the things that I had saved in a Pinterest folder.
One of the most asked questions I get while talking with a local is “Why here? / Why Belfast?” I have came to just say, it just happened that way. Which granted it did, but that is the easiest possible way to put it, because there were literally thousands of options. I have learned to break my process down to a couple easy steps of how I chose Belfast, Northern Ireland. First was I explore my program options, there are so many organizations that are for students wanting to study abroad, so finding my perfect fit was key. I went with ISEP exchange, which was fairly easy and painless process, all the information that the school needed they needed also. I pay the same fees as I would if I were to be living on campus and attending school at ESU, and was given a food stipend as well. Second step was to find an English-speaking country, which I narrowed down to going to Australia, South Africa, or the UK or Ireland. The next step was I wanted somewhere that would be easy to travel or have friends and family come to visit me. Australia and South Africa were dropped out of the running then, leaving the UK and Ireland. The last step in deciding was, the school needed a great Marketing program that ISEP exchange offered. I only applied to two schools, my number one pick being Ulster, and then was accepted!
There is so much to look forward to when studying abroad, I was read so many blogs, listened to dozens of podcasts, and talked with students that had studied abroad or students that were at ESU studying abroad. Still with all this feedback I was not sure of how my experience would be. I know that I wanted to have that ideal “study abroad experience,” I wanted to travel on the weekends exploring different areas around me or different countries. I wanted to meet people from all over the world and hear their stories and what their thoughts on current events and life was. While in school I wanted to learn a different approach on Marketing and how to apply it differently. I also wanted to do great thinks while studying abroad that would look great on my resume, whether it be presenting a new idea or volunteering for an organization.
Overall, not knowing what to expect was one of my biggest fears. Not knowing what to do or if I was studying the material right or understanding everything the same as everyone else was my biggest fears. I was used to the way we learn things in America and I had heard it was a different here as to it was more self-taught. Which I was not sure if I was self-teaching myself correctly on material I never knew before. I wasn’t sure if I were going to fail terribly on the projects and the one exam I would have all semester. Something else that I was unsure on was money; not knowing how much to bring with me to last six months. Being able to live on a budget while trying to get the most of this once in a life time experience.
The challenges I have faced and how I figured out how to make the best of them seem pretty insignificant but have been some curve balls. Not packing enough was my main thing, I brought a medium sized luggage and a smaller carryon bag full of clothes. This seems like a lot, however my sweaters, jackets, and shoes took up a lot of that space. I was going off of blogs and what Pinterest said I would need for Ireland. I wish I would have brought more tops that were more versatile and what I could wear while traveling. I did do a lot of shopping the first month for things that I could wear under my sweaters. Another challenge was getting around, using public transportation or taxis when wanting to go somewhere further than my feet can handle taking me. having a car is such a large part of our lives in America, most people are driving by the time are 17, some here go until after college to get their license. Using public transportation like a bus or train is a great way to get around, the only drawback is its time consuming and they run on time tables. Taking a taxi is a lot quicker of a service yet it cost sometimes over four times as much. Both taxi and the bus services you need cash for the trip; trains are able to take cards. This moves me on to my final challenge, which involves money. Foreign transaction fees, ATM charges, and the exchange rate all effect how long my money was going to last me. Taking a larger amount of cash out at a time is easy and less fees are involved. A lot of places here only accept cash so having it on hand is necessary. As well as having the physical cash in hand helps me to budget better because I see it being spent as opposed to a swipe of a card.