Semester in Belfast: First 72 hours

While the traveling was tedious and my motion sickness threatened to get the best of me, I am incredibly excited to be at Queen’s University Belfast for a semester abroad through Minnesota State University’s Study Abroad and Away program. During my four and a half months here, I will take various English courses for my creative writing program at MSU and gain countless experiences outside the classroom. 

As someone who spent most of her 21 years of life in the comfortable, familiar region of the Midwest, saying goodbye to everything I know and hopping on an international journey to Belfast, Northern Ireland, was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Prior to last Saturday morning, I’d only used my shiny new passport for a quick trip up to Canada, and a plane ride longer than four hours was only a concept for me. 

Most things are new to me here thus far– the accents, the walkable urban environment, the weather. I acclimate to different regions easily, and the 41 F in Belfast feels just as frigid as the subzero temperatures I left behind last week. QUB is a much larger campus than back home at MSU, and I already find myself missing our tunnel systems and skyways. 

While my fellow Mavericks in Mankato started class Monday, I will not begin until next week. Students at QUB only take three classes called modules and it takes three years to receive a degree. While other students from the U.S. studying here this semester are taking classes with professors from their home university, I will be immersed in this learning environment. 

Outside of the classroom and in my room, I am in the “quiet living” area of the main student living for QUB. This means that, unlike other international students, I am living with full-time students who are from Northern Ireland. QUB is home to over 3,000 international students, which includes full time, study abroad or Erasmus students from Europe. 

Because I only have classes a few days a week, I’m looking forward to using that extra time to make the most of my time in Europe and travel. I received the Gilman Scholarship for this semester, and this will allow me to do more than I might have without it. 

I am beyond grateful to have this opportunity and I can’t wait to share it with you over the next few months. Whether you are a family member of mine, a friend, or a classmate, I hope I can encourage you to travel abroad whether for fun or class. 

Interested in studying abroad or away through MSU? Contact the Center for Global Engagement at located on the ground floor of Morris, or reach out to myself with questions about the Gilman Federal Scholarship for studying abroad.

Header photo: Queen’s University Belfast is one of the oldest universities in the United Kingdom, founded in 1845. (Courtesy photo of Alexandra Tostrud)

Write to Alexandra Tostrud at

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.