Meet Emma Paul, a Politics major studying at Queen's University Belfast!
Student Spotlight: Emma Paul, ‘17
US university: Oberlin College & Conservatory
Study abroad program: Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, fall 2015
BA Politics Queen’s University Belfast, class of 2017
MA Conflict Transformation and Social Justice at Queen’s University Belfast, class of 2018
Why did you choose the UK?
I chose the UK primarily because it was important to me to have an opportunity to integrate. I knew that, while there might be some cultural differences, speaking English meant I wouldn’t be too far outside my comfort zone when connecting with my peers. And I knew that if I followed my fellow American students to the popular study abroad destinations I would end up in an American student pod, and not get to push my boundaries.
Why did you choose this program?
I came to Queen’s University Belfast through CIEE’s Culture, Conflict, and Society program. As a politics student, I felt it was important to immerse myself in a political context so different than my own. Additionally, I was impressed with the way diversity is so valued at Queen’s, and I knew that I would be exposed to many new points of view.
What was your favorite class?
My favorite class was ‘Asylum and Migration,’ taught by Dr Heather Johnson. It was a brilliant integration of theory and breaking news, and an excellent example of the way universities can connect with the wider world and successfully combine curriculum with current events.
What’s your best memory from your time abroad?
There’s so much to choose from, especially because I extended my time abroad. I first came to Queen’s just to do one semester, decided to transfer to the university, and am now a graduate student here. Some of the best moments were when I realized I was navigating the city with more ease, that I could understand the accent, or use the currency without a second thought. Those small victories felt significant after those first few months of feeling a bit like an outsider.
What was the greatest challenge you encountered during your time abroad?
I definitely have had moments of homesickness. Even though I love Belfast, sometimes you just want the comforts of home. I especially miss American grocery stores, and have found myself confounded when I couldn’t find black beans, pie crusts, or tinned pumpkin in Tesco.
Describe your housing situation:
Currently, I live in a rented house just ten minutes from the campus. Previously, I lived in university accommodation just five minutes from campus and fifteen minutes from the city centre. There, I shared a kitchen with five other students, but had my own room. Now that I’m in my own place, I definitely miss having cleaners.
What advice would you give other students who are thinking about studying abroad in the UK?
Think outside the box! London is a wonderful city, but you have so much more opportunity to get to know a community when it’s on an approachable scale, and people tend to be more open when you aren’t one of the many, many tourists they’ve encountered. Plus, your money will go much further in a smaller city like Belfast.
Fact about the UK that you think people would be surprised to learn:
You can always, always get chips no matter the type of restaurant.
What do you think you gained from studying abroad?
Considering that I am now approaching two and a half years in Belfast, studying abroad has absolutely shaped my life in a permanent way – but you don’t have to move to a country for your study abroad experience to be significant. Being abroad has taught me how to approach the world through the lens of another culture and that the USA is not as much the center of global attention as we like to think. Being in Belfast and at Queen’s has challenged me, made me uncomfortable, and has resulted in me having the confidence to navigate new and different situations.