Preparing for my biggest adventure yet—a semester abroad

How I’m planning for my exchange in Northern Ireland

Breaking down the planning process of exchange.
It’s been a dream of mine since high school to study abroad.
Now, I’m preparing to go on exchange at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland. While this is a really exciting time for me and many others who will be going on exchange in the winter, it is also quite stressful—and feeling lost and confused seems to be the norm.
Everyone I’ve spoken to who has gone on exchange with Queen’s has given me the same feedback: exchange is an incredible opportunity that should be taken advantage of, if you have the privilege to do so.
I know I’m going to have a wonderful time and I’m grateful to have this experience, but preparing to move across the ocean alone for several months has proven to be overwhelming.
To prepare for exchange, I’ve been researching courses to take at my host university. This has been exciting since I’ll be able to take courses that are unavailable at Queen’s, such as ‘The Archeology of Historic Ireland.”
I’ve also been browsing accommodation options since I hope to live in residence. 
Most host universities will guarantee you a spot in residence, which seems to be the best option if you want to meet other students. The local transportation in Belfast is also very accessible, as with most cities in Europe, and there are many options for travelling by train or bus.
My favourite research to do is for sightseeing options in Belfast and Northern Ireland, but I’ve also been creating a packing list, booking flights, and finding someone to sublet my room in Kingston. 
The list is extensive, and I still have more to do to be fully prepared. 
Once I arrive in my host country, I will also have to think about cell phone and banking, since the currency  is different. On top of all this work is the added complicating layer of COVID-19.
Although vaccinations are helping in keeping people safe, rising case numbers are worrisome for students hoping to leave for exchange in January. 
If rising case numbers don’t affect our ability to leave, I’m worried about travel restrictions and whether restrictions on campus will make it difficult to make friends. I’m also hoping we aren’t forced to come home early like some were in 2020.
Since they are out of my control, I try not to think about these concerns too much. Instead, I’m focusing on the things I can do to prepare for exchange, as well as making sure I enjoy the final part of this semester at Queen’s. 
Although I realize I’m very lucky to be stressing over something like going on exchange, it’s still important to take care of myself. 
Talking to others who are going through the same process is really comforting, and I’m looking forward to living on my own in a new country and pushing myself out of my comfort zone. 
I think that exchange will give me the chance to become more sure of myself and my abilities, and doing so in a setting as beautiful as Northern Ireland is going to be incredible.

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.