Study Abroad in Northern Ireland

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A Guide to Studying Abroad in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is an excellent place to study abroad, especially for students who are interested in English, history, and theater. Due to significant political issues which occurred fairly recently, studying in Northern Ireland presents a unique opportunity to study topics such as conflict resolution, peace studies, and social justice as well. Students who choose to study in Northern Ireland will be able to explore the political and social history of the nation from an alternative perspective, rather than from the more frequented nations of the United Kingdom.


Belfast is by far the most popular city for studying abroad in Northern Ireland. This metropolis offers everything study abroad students look for, including a developed downtown, easy and interconnected public transportation, and spot on the top 10 list of safest cities in the United Kingdom. In recent years Belfast has undergone a bit of a transformation, so throughout the city, on fences, office buildings, walls, and signs, students will notice incredible murals depicting the political and social instability of the recent past. The bright colors give vibrancy to neighborhoods with mostly bland colored buildings. The range of topics illustrated and artist’s work in the murals of Belfast are worthy of being viewed as if they are part of a museum.

Most students who study abroad in Belfast attend Queen’s University Belfast, and many study abroad programs offer international students the opportunity to attend the university. It has a beautiful campus with historic buildings and lots of green space. Queen’s University Belfast also offers over 300 areas of study. The University of Ulster also has a campus near to the city of Belfast, and is a university which focuses on the fields of art and design. 

The second most popular location for study abroad in Northern Ireland is the city of Derry, which is Northern Ireland’s second largest city as well. Also called Londonderry, Derry is a student-friendly city that offers excellent options for nightlife, shopping, pubs, and restaurants. The main university in Derry is the Magee campus of the University of Ulster.

Outside of Belfast and Derry, there are fewer study abroad programs available in Northern Ireland, and those that are tend to attract a smaller number of students because they are more specialized. One such city is Armagh, a breathtakingly quaint town known as “the city of saints and scholars," it is the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland.

Subjects & Courses

Top subjects to study in Northern Ireland are history, English literature, music, peace studies, and theater. There are also several opportunities for students to study the field of engineering, and complete various science courses.

Since Northern Ireland is an English-speaking country, most study abroad participants will be able to take full advantage of the academic offerings of all the top schools in the country, without a great deal of language issues (thought the accent may take a bit of getting used to). 

The academic expectations and culture in Northern Ireland are closer to those of the Republic of Ireland rather than England. Students will find the structure of courses to be more independent than in the United States. Most students take between three and five modules, and each module tends to be structured like large lecture courses.

Compared to your home campus, there may be fewer assignments, but each assignment will account for a larger portion of the final grade; for example, two papers could be worth 35 percent each and a final test worth 30 percent. While at first it may seem nice to have fewer things to turn in and less assignments to worry about, this also means that you need to keep on top of the material and be positive you will do well on exams. While professors may seem more distant than in the U.S., students shouldn’t hesitate to approach them after class to ask questions.

Scholarships & Costs

Northern Ireland is one of the most affordable places in the United Kingdom, and this is especially true for the cities of Belfast and Derry. In terms of average costs, in Belfast you can expect to pay about $40 for a shirt at a department store, $1.75 for a soda, $4.50 for a latte, and $40 for a basic dinner for two in a pub. In smaller cities or rural areas prices are usually slightly cheaper.

Tuition for your study abroad program in Northern Ireland will depend on if you choose to go through a study abroad organization or enroll directly at a university. One semester for tuition and other services through a study abroad provider costs between $13,000 and $15,000. Full year programs cost about $21,000. Oftentimes, study abroad programs will include housing costs in tuition prices. For direct enroll programs students can expect to pay on average $9,000 for one-semester and $15,000 for a full year program. Programs through study abroad providers often include additional excursions, activities, and support compared to direct enrollment programs, so students should be sure to research both options.

There are several scholarships available for study abroad in Northern Ireland. Students should be sure to check with their program provider for program specific scholarships as well as with their home university for funding assistance.

Accommodation & Visas

Accommodation in university student housing costs about $2,700 for one semester and $5,400 for the academic year, for students who are doing direct enroll programs in Northern Ireland. But for students who choose to study in Northern Ireland through study abroad companies will often find the cost of housing is included in overall program fees. Regardless of the program type, be sure to check what is included before committing to the program.

Students can choose from living in student dorms or more apartment-style buildings, or can also live in an apartment independently or with other students. Depending on the university, on-campus housing could be an excellent way to meet other international students. Home stays are not a typical option for housing during study abroad in Northern Ireland.

Many students wonder if they need a visa to study abroad in Northern Ireland, and iIf you are planning to study abroad for a semester and do not plan to try to work during your time abroad, you will not need a visa. If you are going to study in Northern Ireland for the entire academic year or would like clearance to work in the UK, you will need to obtain a visa. You should work directly with the organization or university who is running your program to obtain any necessary documents and ask any questions about the visa process.

Benefits & Challenges

Northern Ireland offers many interesting perspectives that may be harder to find in other parts of the UK or even its neighbor just to the south. The culture and society of the country are a bit more subtly complex than the immediately ultra-welcoming folks in the Republic of Ireland. Visitors may have to work a little harder to build relationships and connections with their classmates and neighbors, but if you put in the effort it will be well worth it.

Studying abroad in Northern Ireland will expose students to some breathtaking natural landscapes, with all of the bright green rolling hills one would imagine from a place nicknamed “the Emerald Isle.” The famous Giant’s Causeway is a fascinating geological formation of basalt columns of varying height, which extends out into the sea and looks like the set of a movie. 

The history of Northern Ireland, with challenges and conflict that lasted until only a few decades ago, provides an interesting viewpoint for study abroad students. Many of the people students will meet will still remember the events and have strong opinions about them. For students interested in peace studies, conflict resolution, or even psychology, history, and political science, studying abroad in Northern Ireland offers an ideal location to observe the complexities of a country with a violent past. 

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A Guide To
Studying Abroad in Northern Ireland


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