Irish Eyes

The Speakeasy in Belfast is the Student Union Bar of QUB, a popular drinking site for Belfast’s student populous, Belfast Live

By Matthew Cullen – Ireland Columnist

In this pilot piece, and since it is Fresher’s Week, I think it is fitting to look at a more recent and almost unorthodox addition to Irish culture: student culture. With it being Fresher’s Week this week, a lot of young students, myself included, are coming back up to Belfast to socialise, party, drink, and have as good a time as possible given the circumstances. Yes, this may only be in the North of Ireland, but I have seen students from Galway, Cork, and Dublin travel up to Belfast to get a slice of the action from Fresher’s Week. It shows the influence we have on the rest of the students from Ireland to bring them up here and show them a good time. It’s pretty significant considering young people are travelling from quite literally all across the Island to celebrate a week of students experiencing the nightlife of Belfast, making new friends, and new memories that can last a lifetime. From my experience of Freshers, it gave me a way to make new friends up here in Belfast and it gave me the confidence to talk to new people. It also first introduced me to blacking out on a stairwell and being woken up at 8am by someone going to class; but that just comes with the territory. It can be a time of young people regardless of background, for the most part, coming together on the street or in some random person’s house and singing your heart out to ABBA arm in arm. Something like that, young people coming together and celebrating life in general, is undeniably apart of us and our culture as young people. 

Student culture isn’t all about partying and getting drunk however. It’s also a completely new experience for most people who are moving up to Belfast; living up in the city, being somewhat independent, and having your own responsibilities are all new to the first years moving up. It’s a chance to spread your wings a little more and get some freedom from your family, which can be exciting but also daunting. I would like to think that student culture is a celebration for the young people of Ireland and being in the time of our lives where we are getting the most enjoyment out of our young lives before moving on to greater things in the adult world. 

The Speakeasy, Lisburn Road, Belfast (September 2018)
The temporary Students Union pending redevelopment of the University Road premises, Albert Bridge

You wouldn’t think the student life and student culture would be apart of Irish culture, but it is in the same way that the college life and frat parties are apart of American Culture. It is something we can identify with and get behind together and all round just celebrate us. Sometimes it can be an escape from home where you can come up, get away from the problems with family, and see your friends to chill out or help take your mind off things. I know for a fact I come up to see my mates, enjoy myself, and get away from any stress or pressure I am getting from my family back home. It’s a chance to learn new things from your course, to the different societies both Queens and Ulster University offer, to experiencing new things in Ireland that you might not have known about before. It is also a chance for people coming to the island of Ireland for the first time to learn about our history, our heritage, and our culture from their Irish peers. I always love informing people either from here or abroad about Irish history and culture, but that could just be me being a little too into history. 

All in all, the culture that students bring to Ireland is just as important and significant as our history, our sports, our music or our folklore and it should be celebrated as such.

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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