The Venture of a Lifetime…Was it Worth it?
By: Mariam Saleh
After finishing high school in Kuwait, I decided to pursue my university degree in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It felt unreal. I wasn’t sure if I had the courage within me to start a new life without my family and friends, but I still decided to go. Living in the Middle East all my life, I wasn't sure how to adapt to life in Belfast. The first thing that shocked me when I arrived at Belfast City Airport was the ACCENT. In Northern Ireland, locals have a very distinct and strong accent. It took me a couple months for my ears to get used to the accent and the different slang terms like “yous and “wee bit”. I can't imagine surviving the first couple of months in Northern Ireland if it wasn't for the nice and helpful people I met there. Getting my residency papers done, registering with the university, and settling in wouldn’t have been possible without the help that I got from strangers in the streets, bus drivers, and google maps of course!
Going on night outs is the only way most university students hang out. This was a challenge for me as it was hard to socialize with students, especially locals outside of university campus. I wasn’t able to go out with a lot of people since I am a Muslim and I don’t drink alcohol.
In my second year of university,I was able to get a part-time job in a pharmacy. Here, I got deeper interactions with the locals and better understood their culture. My colleagues at work were patient enough to bear with me getting used to their names being pronounced in a totally different way to how they are spelt! Also, different names from Q-tips being ”cotton buds” and “bubbles” being hair ties ( I still struggle by the way). Having this part-time job is one of the best experiences I had while in Belfast.
To feel more like at home, I decided to join the Muslim community in my college campus.Here, I made friends that were my support system.They made me feel like family. If I was ever in trouble, I knew I would have someone to call and they are always willing to come and help. I will forever be thankful for my three university years spent with them.
I am grateful that I didn't back out three years ago when I was nervous and afraid to change my whole lifestyle in a foreign country. For those of you who are in my position when I was in high school, don't be afraid to go through with it. You will definitely become independent and grow as a person. See yous later!
Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland
McKeever’s Chemist, Belfast
Lagan River, Belfast