OMG. YOU MADE IT. YOU GOT INTO QUEEN’S! Or maybe you’re already studying at Queen’s and you’re just reading this for the craic – either way, this crash course on surviving life at QUB is #relevant.
As a recent graduate, I have endured the ups and downs of QUB life, and now I am willing to pass on all the essential information you will need to know in your time as a student here to maximise your experience. I’ll be covering everything from cheap grub to skippable classes – you’re going to want to bookmark this one for later.
Studying and Going to Class
The McClay library is your holy studying sanctuary. It was my second home – I lived here, and sometimes I even slept here. The entire building tends to stay open 24 hours during exam periods, and the ground floor is almost always open until at least 2am.
HOWEVER, be warned that during the day its extremely busy. If you have a pile of deadlines coming up, the chances are that so does everybody else. Come here super early during essay and exam periods, like 9am/10am, or else you probably won’t get a seat (and walking up and down three flights of stairs isn’t fun when you have an assignment due in less than 24 hours). Download the McClay Library App on your smartphone to see current seat availability (or check online).
Regarding classes: GO TO THEM. But it’s also not the end of the world if you miss some.
If you do your research early on and find out what areas of your modules interest you the most, you might be able to get away with only going to the classes relevant to what you want to write your essays and assignments on. You should also spend the first few weeks finding out how your lecturers teach – if they simply read off of their lecture slides, and then upload said lecture slides to Queen’s Online, is it really worth your while attending? In busy periods, I sometimes found it more productive to go to the library and study than attend to lectures.
You should always try and go to your tutorials, though. Sometimes your attendance can make up a good portion of your final grade, and they’re really your only chance to ask lecturers and tutors questions about things you may not understand. You’re paying a lot of money to come here, so use the support offered to you!
You may have gotten into Elm’s Village relatively easily, but you’ll need to buddy up with your current flatmates to find private accommodation next year. FEAR NOT, because Belfast happens to be one of the most affordable places in the UK to rent a house/apartment. In my experience, you’ll pay somewhere between £160 and £350 a month, depending on how many people you live with and the quality of the place you’re renting. Belfast is a small city, so most of the main locations for student renting are within walking distance of the university.
The most well known area is the Holylands, and while it isn’t the cleanest or the most peaceful place to be in, its lively, fun for students and just about everyone who goes to QUB ends up living here at some point. Even if you don’t live here, you’ll almost definitely come here on St. Patrick’s Day and witness an alcohol-fuelled apocalypse.
Note: Splitting gas, electric and wifi bills between housemates can be a nightmare, so BE PREPARED FOR ARGUMENTS. Someone will refuse to cough up money for utilities, you’ll fall out about it, and then you’ll run into them 2 years later at a supermarket and have to make awkward small talk. Don’t worry though, it happens to everyone.
And as a rule of thumb: the more people you live with, the higher the chances that at least one of the bedrooms in your new flat will be the size of a small box. Flip a coin for the bigger rooms – fair is fair, and if you still end up stuck with the small one, don’t be an ass about it.
There is no shortage of places to go for food in Belfast. There are hundreds of venues around Botanic, Stranmillis, Dublin Road and Lisburn Road, which are all close to Queen’s. Here were some of my favourite locals, based on both their quality and affordability:
1. Maggie Mays
Starting off with QUB’s most well known local, Maggie’s is every student’s hangover haven. The entire menu is designed to tell you which foods are best to cure your head-splitting regret. The food isn’t exactly 5 star cuisine, but the portions are massive, the milkshakes are insanely delicious, and you’re getting good value for your money. Just remember that they don’t accept card payment. Run across the road and go to the famous Ulster Bank that gives out £5 notes before you eat.
2. Build A Burger
Build A Burger is found on Botanic. It’s pretty much self explanatory – think Subway, but with burgers, and more creative ingredients. The owners have a new type of meat to try on their special burger menu every month, ranging from Wild Boar to Kangaroo. And if you’re feeling particularly disgusting, you can also get gummy bears or nutella spread in your bun. But hey, no one’s judging (everyone is), you do you (you’re gross).
3. Four Star Pizza
Nothing beats a big Dominoes when you’re absolutely steaming, except that Dominoes is insanely expensive, and even with its two-for-Tuesdays deal, you still end up paying an arm and a leg for something you’ll probably be too drunk to appreciate anyway. Four Star Pizza on the Lisburn Road is a more affordable alternative, and its pizzas still taste awesome.
4. Speakeasy, Student’s Union
Head upstairs in the Student’s Union to find the Speakeasy. The food here is classic pub grub – burgers, wraps, goujons. You can enjoy it all over a game of pool, or a couple of quiet pints, and you’re just a short walk away from home. Their kitchens close at 5′ o clock though, so get here early in the day if you want a bite to eat.
5. The Abacus
Craving Chinese? No worries, The Abacus on Eglantine Avenue (just a short walks away from the David Keir and Computer Science Buildings) does the best Chinese takeaway food in all the lands, and it’s completely affordable! Check out their Honey Chilli Chicken, it will become a staple of your university diet.
Other more well known chains like Boojum, Subway and Apache can be found nearby. Chip Co. and Pizza Co. do big portions for relatively inexpensive prices, and then for more exotic cuisine there’s places like Sakura (for all your sushi cravings) and Bao (a NYC and Thai fusion restaurant). Vegans might want to head to Falafel on Botanic, while meat lovers should check out The Sphinx on Stranmillis, which does the the best kebabs in Northern Ireland. And all of these places are right beside QUB, yay!
The great thing about going out in Belfast is that you can walk home from the club. Belfast is so small that everything is within walking distance. I’m not a huge fan of nightclubs, but here’s all the info I could pull on where to go on student nights out:
Probably one of the first clubs you’ll go to at Queen’s, and you’ll go here non-stop for about two years until you can’t listen to ‘Stacey’s Mom’ ever again without thinking of chocolate tequila or giant balloons that hit you in the face at incredibly inconvenient times. Club nights include: Scratch Mondays, Circus on Tuesdays, Sketchy on Thursdays and Shit Disco on Fridays. Locations vary between Limelight 1, 2, Katy’s Bar, Roof Bar, or any combination of those places, depending on the night. You can also come here for gigs throughout the year – keep an eye out on their website for updates. Drinks are relatively inexpensive, and the music ranges from 80s floor-fillers and 2000s pop throwbacks to old-school punk and rock anthems.
Open from 5pm Monday-Saturday, Alibi features a classy bourbon-stacked bar with fancy decor. It promises top of the range alcohol – if you can fork out the cash to pay for it. It’s club nights are Monday, Friday and Saturday, and while entry to the club and drinks prices can be extortionate, it’s atmosphere delivers for anyone into the Marbella and Ibiza music scene. Note that it’s a bit cheaper on Monday nights (£3 entry and drinks from £1.50), and half price cocktails on Friday evenings might be worth your attention as well. There are no seats on club nights without VIP, though. Ladies should come prepared with an extra pair of flat shoes.
Previously Villa, it’s been recently renamed as Lux. Wednesday tends to be one of their biggest nights, marketed as Fat Wednesdays. On Fridays and Saturdays the club stays open to 3am. Music ranges from pop anthems and house music to hip hop and grime (check their Facebook page for more information). Drinks promotions aren’t bad either – £2.50 on spirits with mixers most nights. The queues for the club are its biggest downfall, but they’re worth enduring for the cosy downstairs bar and late opening hours.
4. Student’s Union: Speakeasy, Mandela Hall and Bar Sub/Bunatee
Good Friday in the SU’s Speakeasy is one of the best student nights in Belfast. It’s cheap, you’ll always know somebody there, and the cheesy pop music appeals to pretty much everyone. It’s free entry, 3 for £5 on selected drinks and double vodka redbulls are going for £5 too. Speakeasy Saturdays is another popular club night – it features similar drinks promotions and music playlists, though the songs played are more request-friendly. There’s also drinks promotions in the daytime during football matches – keep updated here.
Mandela Hall hosts a whole range of club nights, shows and gigs, check its website and Facebook for regular updates. Techno fans might already know about Shine, which is hosted across several different venues on a rotational basis. You can find out here when it will return to Mandela Hall. Mandela is a popular venue for Freshers, Refreshers and foam or UV parties, and it regularly holds 3 for £5 drinks promotions across its events.
Check out the Bunatee and Bar Sub on the bottom floor of the Student’s Union for other events, such as Air Punch (Pop and Power Ballads) and Meltdown (Rock and Metal). Air Punch is held on the last Friday of every month, and Meltdown tends to fall on a fortnightly basis, always on Saturday. There is cheap entry and similar drinks promotions as those of other events held in the SU.
Located on the Dublin Road, this is a club not to be missed for all the techno lovers of Belfast. There’s a small outside smoking area and a single, open-space floor in the main club. It’s biggest nights are Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Entry is between £3 and £5 depending on the night, and it holds £2.50 offers for certain beers or single shots with mixers. This is also one of the few clubs in Belfast to stay open until 3am!
Other places to check out: The Filthy Quarter may not be the cheapest night out, but it is popular among students for its close proximity to the university, fashionable decor and variety of different bars (including Filthy McNastys, The Secret Garden, The Gypsy Lounge and Filthy Chic). Union Street’s Kremlin is Belfast’s first gay bar and it’s super cheap (especially on Sundays, where entry is free all night)! Playing cheesy pop music until 3.00am and hosting a variety of floors and rooms to explore, it’s definitely a venue worth partying in.
If You’re Struggling
While university definitely has its highs, it can also have its lows. If stress and anxiety is affecting your mental health and wellbeing, remember that there are many support services available to you.
Your personal tutor is assigned to you by the university to help you in times of need – feel free to talk to them in confidence, because they’re paid to help you get yourself back on your feet again. You can also apply for student counselling, either by phone (Queen’s students can access a counsellor 24 hours a day, 7 days per week on 0808 800 0016) or by email at email@example.com to book a private 50 minute session.
Alternatively, if you want someone to talk to anonymously over the phone, QUB Nightline is available 24 hours a day on 02890 975453.
You can contact your Student’s Union Welfare Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or get in touch with any of the other Student Officers who represent your views and campaign for your rights. Find out all of their details on the SU page.
The LGBT+ Society creates a safe space for the LGBT community and all of it’s allies – you can get in touch with them at email@example.com.
And the Student Guidance Centre between Ulster Bank and Elmwood Hall provides a range of student support services, including wellbeing assistance, academic and careers advice, and disability services. You can read more about their workshops and one-to-one guidance procedures here.
From your first lecture to your graduation day, I wish you the very best of luck at Queen’s!