A Research Internship in Belfast

A Research Internship in Belfast

On Thursday the 21st of June my adventure began: An eight-week long research internship in Belfast! For the first weekend my mum accompanied me and so we flew to Dublin together. From there we took the train up to Belfast, which is actually a very relaxed way of reaching Belfast as the train trip only takes two hours and for students it costs just 15 pounds. Plus, you get to have a look at Ireland’s beautiful landscape while traveling. When I arrived, Belfast presented itself in the best light with around 23°C, blue sky and the sun shone all day. I couldn’t help but liking this beautiful city instantly.

The city centre is not huge, but it has a lot of stores to go shopping. Also, the shopping centre Victoria’s Square is quite impressive with the glass dome covering it.

By strolling through the city you can see a lot of pretty buildings, squares and cafés. Also, the atmosphere in the Centre is quite vibrant and there are lots of people walking on the streets. One more highlight in the Centre is the Saint George’s Market. It is located in a big market hall and it’s open through Friday to Sunday. On each day the products at the market differ a little bit. For example, on Saturdays the focus is more on craft when you can buy pottery, glass, handmade crafts, photography, etc. But regardless of the day you can always buy fresh local food on the market like vegetables, fruit, meat, cheese, fish and pastries. Moreover, there are food stands that offer continental food and specialties that you can enjoy right away.

Another area where I have spent a lot of my time is Queen’s Quarter. The name stems from the Queen’s University which is located there. It is a very youthful part of the town, most of the residents being students. As you can imagine there are a lot of pubs, bars and cafés around. The atmosphere is really easy-going and down to earth which I appreciated a lot. In addition, the botanic garden is located next to the university. It is a beautiful park with a rose garden, palm house and lots of grass to lay on. If you visit Belfast one day you shouldn’t miss Queen’s Quarter, even if it’s only for seeing the impressive old university building. 

This was as well the area where I lived. After some Airbnb in the beginning, I moved to Elm’s Village. Elm’s Village is a dormitory for students of Queen’s University but also offers accommodation during the summer break for people who visit Belfast and work at the University. It has different locations and luckily, I got a room in the location which is right across from the University and right next to Botanic Gardens and Botanic Avenue. I had my own private room here but had to share the kitchen and the bathroom with other people from the hall, which was a new experience for me. The most important thing for me is that it was clean and quiet during the night. Also, I got to meet the other residents in the kitchen and chat with them. Some of them became friends of mine. With my room I was pretty satisfied. The room was big, clean, had a desk, a big cupboard and a window, a sink and a mirror.

Since the university was just across the street from my flat I didn’t have a long walk to my internship place. On the first day my professor there welcomed me very friendly and took her time to show me around the faculty and explain how everything works there. She proposed some topics and projects on which I could work, and I chose one about the concept of extended contact. So, pretty much what I did was conducting my own research. This included a literature review and identifying gaps in the existing literature, designing a study (study design, questionnaire measures, research protocol, ethics application, power-analysis), setting up and running the study online, data analysis and developing a new questionnaire. I could work on whatever interests me. This is especially important in the research because you need to be passionate and curious about the topics that you work on in order to become a good researcher. I really enjoyed working on my own and so freely because I could do what I like and enjoy. In addition, whenever I had a question or got to a point where I needed feedback from a professional researcher, I could e-mail my professor and she would either directly give me feedback or set a meeting the next day.  

Now turning to another important part of my life in Belfast: free-time and social life. I have met lots of people there and spent pretty much every day with them. Most of them were also foreigners like me so I got the chance to improve my Spanish and French. But I have also met some local people which was nice because they could show and tell me a lot about Belfast and Northern Ireland. As I worked alone during my internship, I met my friends either in the dormitory or on social media. As one can imagine I went to quite some bars and restaurants and got less sleep than I usually do in my hometown. But it was totally worth it! I love engaging with people from different countries, cultures and mindsets and I have learned so many new things.

The way I see it, the best part of the town for going out is the Cathedral Quarter. There you can find lots of pubs and restaurants right next to each other, all in an area of just a few blocks. During the evenings the atmosphere there is amazing. Crowds of people are out on the streets in front of pubs, drinking beer and being loudly sociable and there is always some live music playing somewhere. If you pass by those streets you can’t resist joining the merrymaking! In general, the Irish pubs in Belfast are always fun. Most of the nights there is live music and you will be always warmly welcomed.

During the rest of my free-time I did lots of sports. I became a member at Queen’s sports which is the University’s gym. As I am a student, I got a discount on the prices. They offer lots of different sport classes and courses and I enjoy trying out new things. For example, I started going to the kettleball, core and cycling classes which I really enjoyed. Another amazing thing about the gym is that they also have a pool and a sauna to use. Nothing more relaxing than going to the sauna after a hard workout!

If all of this isn’t already good enough, then (Northern) Ireland has as well beautiful nature, an interesting history and cool cities to offer. I went on a road trip around the coastline, to Giant’s causeway, to (London)Derry, to Dublin, went on hikes in the mountains and to small fishing villages. (Northern) Ireland is an inspiring country which can’t be described but must be experienced. To me, doing an internship in Belfast was the perfect way of doing so. Moreover, the research work at the university helped me a lot in improving my skills and prepared me for writing my master thesis. Also, I got an inside in how the work as a researcher at the university looks like and can use this valuable experience for choosing my career path. I would definitely recommend this kind of internship only to people that are very interested in conducting research and already have the knowledge and skills for it.

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Author: Kimberly Holtz
Masters in Work Organizational and Personnel Psychology at University of Valencia
Coordinator Study & Travel Abroad of EFPSA (European Federation of Psychology Students’ Associations)
www.efpsa.org | email: sta@efpsa.org 

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