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Life in Belfast as an International Student: Tips for Settling in

Posted 19/10/2020
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Moving to a new city is always exciting, but it brings many challenges. This is especially true when you move to a new city to study. No matter your age or background, life in Belfast has something for everyone.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of top tips for new international students to make the most of their time here. 

So whether you’re considering a move, or you’ve already been here for months, check out our advice for settling in and experiencing everything Belfast has to offer.

Let’s jump right in!

Choose the Right Student Accommodation in Belfast

Belfast is one of the most affordable cities in the UK or Ireland. Of course, this is important, since international students are often on a tight budget. However, there is a lot more to choosing accommodation than just the price.

Finding somewhere to live in a new city can be incredibly difficult. For one thing, you’re unlikely to have a good grasp of the local market, including what’s a good location, or how much you should expect to pay.

Luckily, you have a few good options as an international student in Belfast.

International House Belfast’s Accommodation Options

International House Belfast offers a number of accommodation options for our students. These are all in ideal locations for student life, and include utilities and other facilities in a single payment.

Specifically, International House offers the following accommodation options:

  • Half-board accommodation with a host family,
  • Accommodation in student halls,
  • City centre apartments.

This makes adjusting to life in Belfast that bit easier, no matter your budget.

Life in Belfast: Get out and Explore

Belfast has a number of distinctive neighbourhoods and districts to explore. The majority of these are easily accessible on foot or by public transport. Alternatively, Belfast Bikes are a cheap and fun way to explore the city.

To get an expert insight into Belfast and its history, you have a number of options for guided tours. These include walking tours of the city centre, open-top bus tours, or private black taxi excursions around historical sites around the city.

Life in Belfast: Black taxi tours are a great way to get to know the city.

Black taxi tours are an increasingly popular way to get to know Belfast.

Transport Advice

Like other aspects of life in Belfast, public transport is cheaper than many other cities in the UK and Ireland. Essentially, there are three main ways of getting around the city using public transport:

  • Buses,
  • Trains,
  • The Glider.

All are provided by Translink NI. Trains cross the city from North to South, while the Glider runs from East to West. Buses generally run along arterial routes in and out of the city centre.

Buses and Gliders share tickets, while separate tickets are needed to use the trains. Many international students are eligible for ⅓ off public transport using the Y-Link card. Discounts can also be accessed using the M-Link app.

Seek Support from International House Belfast

Life as an international student can be daunting. Occasionally, everyone needs a helping hand. Whether this means solving a bureaucratic problem, or simply having someone to talk to, there are many support options available to you.

What Support is Available for International Students in Belfast?

One of the scariest things about settling in to life in Belfast is meeting new friends. In fact, it’s common to feel overwhelmed by the thought of living in a city where you don’t know anyone.

To help with this, International House Belfast provides a busy calendar of social activities. These include tours, day trips and weekend excursions, where you can get to know your fellow students and practise your English along the way.

International House also provides advice and support to all of our students, to help with the practical side of adjusting to life in Belfast.

 

Studying in Belfast as an international student.

International House Belfast provides help and advice for all of our students.

Life in Belfast: Get to Grips with Northern Irish Slang

For English learners, one of the most exciting parts of life in Belfast is picking up new vocabulary. Due to its unique geography and history, Northern Ireland is home to a range of interesting phrases and idioms.

However, the flip side of this is that non-native English speakers can sometimes be confused when talking to locals. You’re almost definitely going to encounter this in some form when you first move to Belfast.

With that in mind, here are a couple of pieces of Belfast slang you should watch out for:

  • Cheers – You might be familiar with the word cheers, as it’s used as a toast in many English speaking countries. In Northern Ireland, it’s also commonly used to say thanks.
  • Wee – When used literally, this means ‘small’. More often though, people from Belfast just add it into sentences to sound friendlier.
  • Craic – Craic can mean many things. If someone asks you ‘what’s the craic?’ or ‘any craic?’, this means something like ‘what’s up?’. Craic is also often used to mean fun or banter.

As with learning any language, your best bet when you encounter unfamiliar slang is to simply ask what it means.

Join International Meet-Ups in Belfast

Belfast has a thriving community of international residents. Since many of these aren’t students, it’s a good idea to look for international meetups. This is a great way to make friends and find people in the same situation as you.

For example, the Dock Cafe in the Titanic Quarter hosts a free weekly meetup for foreigners in Belfast. Since many locals attend, this is also a great way to gain some English-speaking practice in a supportive environment.

Another great option is to seek out a language exchange. Many locals would love to learn a foreign language, but struggle to find the time to practice. They’d be happy to help you practise your English in exchange for helping them with your native language.