I was exhausted by the time I reached Belfast, Northern Ireland, my final destination after my connection in London. Food, shower, even a place to just sit were the only things on my mind, rather than trying to find my residence via cab. Travel from George Best Belfast City Airport to Queen’s University would have been rather difficult had I not have opted in to the school transport service. I know that this is not available in every University, but Queen’s had students meet me just beyond baggage claim with a bus ready to take me to my new home, and I felt so fortunate to be greeted with smiling faces and cheery accents. (If your school has this service, try to take advantage of it!) While waiting for the shuttle to fill with students from other flights, there was a bit of time to socialize with the other international students, all of us sharing our worries and having some of the student volunteers already starting to answer our questions and queries. This was also very helpful because I really felt less alone knowing other people had questions and concerns.
The bus ride was short, but the check-in line was quite long. I knew it was supposed to be a full day, but I had no idea just how long I would be shuffled from building to building with no idea where I was and the slow realization that not only had I traveled across the world alone, slept very little, and still didn’t know anyone besides the two girls I had chatted with at the airport, I was also in a different country with no idea where anything was. Luckily, the housing staff was incredibly nice and supportive. (Maybe it is because after doing their job for two years at DU I could appreciate all the work they were putting in helping students check in to their on campus housing spots.) I bought my bedding pack and kitchen pack, so I was glad I had come with cash already exchanged to Pounds. Banks and airports usually offer this service, and I came with about 100 Pounds pre-exchanged. And then, I met my RA, Mary. She was all smiles, helping me carry my bags to a shuttle that took me to my apartment style housing complex. Mary helped me take my things to my room, showed me my keys, and told me where to get free dinner. Feeling so overwhelmed, she was exactly what the doctor ordered, coming just short of pushing me to the places I needed to go.
After setting up my internet and calling home, I headed back to the Tree House, the building where I had checked in. I had told the girls I met I would meet them back there to find dinner. What I hadn’t realized was just how far away I was from my original starting point. Not only was I far away, after a bit of wandering, I realized I had no idea where I was going. Scared, tired, hungry, exhausted, and lost I started to panic. Getting a hold of myself, I realized most of the students walking around the main street where I was flustering were also probably international students, and so I walked up to one of the first girls I saw and asked if she knew where the Tree House was. She kindly directed me and I now had adrenaline rush from my previous moment of terror. Feeling more awake, I walked to find my new friends. Fortunately, they had waited for me, but I arrived too late to get the free food. We had, however, received food vouchers for the grocery store, and so the three of us put our vouchers together and purchased bread, soup, and cheese for dinner and some fruit and yogurt for the next morning’s breakfast. With the foresight to get the next day’s meals, we saved time and money! Heading to one of the girls kitchen’s we ate hot soup and fresh baguettes while continuing to get to know each other.
Not wanting to walk back alone, especially after being so turned around only hours ago and it being much darker, I returned to the area in which I had checked in, hoping a shuttle was still running. Unfortunately, the buses had been shut down, but another member of the housing staff offered to just walk me home. He was an RA and a native to Belfast, so not only did I get an escort, but I got a bit of a tour on the way back as well. I usually hate asking for directions or help, but I learned quickly that my first day abroad (as well as the week to come) would include me getting over my hesitance to ask for help. So don’t be afraid to not know things, to ask for help, and to use your resources!