Velvet green hills slope gently, contrasting with grey stone cliffs and the rolling Irish Sea. Steeped in ancient wild lore and modern-day strife, beautiful and untamed, Northern Ireland is often seen as a land divided. The tiny subsection of the island of Ireland is, in fact, a part of the UK, with street signs posted in miles, the British Pound and, we can only assume, English Breakfast for tea instead of Irish Breakfast.
However, these small distinctions were symbols of a huge rift. Violence rocked the nation for decades. Factions sprung up, splitting the Nationalists from the Unionists and the Catholics from the Protestants. The fighting was known as The Troubles and lasted into the late-1990s.
Today, Northern Ireland is calm, but the marks of its difficult past are visible everywhere you look. Murals depicting the region's political and religious divisions are constant, haunting reminders of a nation once torn apart at its seams.
Study abroad students in Northern Ireland have the unique opportunity to view the healing of the Irish people, as well as the splendor and wealth of the region’s landscapes and culture.
Once a total no-go area, Belfast was recently awarded as the safest city in the UK. The proud birthplace of the Titanic, despite its unfortunate end, Belfast is focused on looking on the bright side.
Recently, the city has made tremendous efforts to attract the right kind of attention. The city exudes an air of determined hopefulness, with new bars, restaurants, clubs and shops opening all the time. However, it’s the murals painted during the Troubles that are truly spectacular. These chilling postcards of the era, honoring the dead and declaring allegiances, paint a clear and fascinating picture of the city’s history.
Queen's University Belfast is the major institution with about 25,000 students and courses giving in over 300 subject areas. The University of Ulster has a campus for Art and Design in the city center, and also has a campus outside Belfast, perfect for students who want to be in a more relaxed, suburban environment
Derry, also known as “Londonderry” is the second largest city in Northern Ireland. The town is the only remaining completely intact walled city in Ireland. The city is extremely pretty, with elegant architecture everywhere. It’s also a student town, with lots of clothes shops and boutiques, pubs, bars and clubs to cater to the youthful demographic. Emphasis on the pubs- which are a main draw for travelers. Derry's traditional Irish and folk music scene are well established as well. Derry is also home to a branch of the University of Ulster, the lovely Magee College campus.
How to Choose a Program
Northern Ireland offers everything a student needs! Here's some helpful hint for choosing a program:
- Academic Life: Universities in Northern Ireland tend to be more Irish than British. School holidays in Northern Ireland are considerably different from those of Great Britain, and are more similar to those in the Republic of Ireland. Academic programs are offered in nearly every subject, however students interested in Peace and Conflict studies will find the history of controversy in Northern Ireland particularly fascinating.
- Language: Although there is a growing resurgence to teach Irish (the traditional language of Ireland) there are very few native speakers. University classes are all conducted in English. The thick Northern accent may be difficult, even for native English speakers, but International students will ease into it after quickly, we promise!
- Housing: Students studying abroad in Northern Ireland have their pick of on-campus housing, such as dormitories or student villages, or independent living.It is hard to say which living situation is better - be sure to find a program whose housing arrangements make you feel the most comfortable. If you’re interested in nesting into your own apartment, contact your program for more information on renting in Northern Ireland.
Social Life and Student Culture:
The number one, can’t miss, utterly spectacular site in Northern Ireland is the Giant’s Causeway. The site is made up 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, often forming an incredible honeycomb pattern (the result of an ancient volcanic eruption). Legend holds that the Causeway is the result of a rivalry between two ancient Giants. It’s one of the few places in the world where you can see this insane natural phenomenon, and certainly one of the more magnificent examples.
If you’re spending any time in Ireland, you’ll be visiting a pub or five. Drinking plays a role in Irish culture, there’s no way around it. However, you’ll find socializing over a pint is emphasized rather than inebriation. Bushmills whiskey is from Northern Ireland, so make sure to make a toast with this local fave.
Scholarships: Northern Ireland
Because the chances of finding a leprechaun's pot of gold are slim, here are some resources to help pay for your study abroad!
- Participating Colleges and Universities may send three students to Northern Ireland through the Irish American Scholars program
- More Study Abroad Grants and Scholarships