The University of Glasgow is one of the oldest and gorgeous campuses in the world in my opinion. The main building looks like a real castle with its famous cloisters. It also is one of the best universities in the world. Being an urban campus, it took some getting use to crossing all the streets and not being ran over by cars. Their grading scale is very unique which reflects on their educational values. They take a much more independent learning style. Before I came here, I thought that my learning was pretty independent since I read the textbook and study my notes outside of class without the professor’s prompting. Here, the education is very much hands off for the professor. Besides the lectures, the professors give a list of suggested readings for the students and it is up to the student and his or her interest to find the books and articles and learn about those topics. Also, very few classes give out homework. Besides my Gaelic class, all my other classes grades were determined by one to three essays and that was it. For my Year 1 music class, my entire grade was based on two essays. The grading scale I feel like is very subjective. Each letter grade is broken up into bands. So there is A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, B1 , B2 and so on. For some reason only the letter grade A has five bands while the rest of the letters only have 3. Also, the grading system isn’t based on percentages. It isn’t like my home university where all the points are added up and divided by the maximum points to get the final percentage and a letter grade is given based on the percentage. (I’m going to finish this later)
It is currently really late on my last day in Scotland. I can’t believe that a whole semester has gone by so quickly. Two years ago, if someone told me if I would be studying abroad in college, I would have thought they were crazy. Now, it has been one of the most eye-opening experiences in my life. I got to meet so many people from different backgrounds through my flatmates, the international friends I met at university, and talking to the locals. I learned that even though two countries may speak the same language, there is still definitely a culture shock living in another country. Even then, there is still a slight language barrier. While two countries have the same word in their languages, their meaning may be very different. One of flatmates told me the story where she tried to compliment someone on their pants, but the word ‘pants’ in British English refers to undergarments. One of my most favorite memories from this study abroad is having all my flatmates sitting in the kitchen area and we are all talking about the differences in our countries and sharing traditions. On Thanksgiving, all the Americans in my flat hosted a Thanksgiving dinner where we cooked a traditional meal (except we had chicken instead of turkey because we couldn’t find a turkey nor had the time to cook it) to give the other international students a taste of an American holiday. In turn, the Australians made us try Vegemite, which I found out that I like quite a lot. It was fantastic to be able to learn and experience a little bit of various cultures around the world. This study abroad has made me appreciate everything I have back in the US. It definitely was an interesting experience and sometimes a challenge navigating a different educational system and values. It definitely took some adjusting. I’m definitely going to miss all my flatmates, but not the 4 pm darkness. Bye Scotland! Hopefully, I will be able to visit again soon. (I’m probably going to do some massive editing on this post when I’m more awake and don’t have a plane to catch in a few hours)
With how my final exams schedule turned out, I was finished with all of my exams during the first week of the two week exam session. Luckily, I got to go to Belfast in Northern Ireland for the weekend. A classmate and I took a bus to the coast of Scotland where we took a ferry boat to Belfast. The ferry boat was one of those boats where the vehicles could drive onto the boat and the rest of the ferry was more like a cruise boat with a restaurant, arcade, and a cinema. Belfast a beautiful coastal industrial town renowned for its shipbuilding. I learned that the Titanic was actually build in Belfast right behind the Titanic Museum. The museum was very informational and interactive. It even had a small ride like those in Disney World! I was shocked to learn that shipbuilders had to climb over 30 feet each day for over a year, but there was only 8 deaths. One of the nicest things about Belfast was that there were guide posts every few blocks to help point pedestrians to all the main attractions. We took a Black Taxi ride where the driver took us to a Protestant neighborhood and a Catholic neighborhood and told us about the history of the feud that led to a lot of bloodshed. It was really cool to be able to visit both Ireland and Northern Ireland and see both perspectives of the story.
I had the fortune to be able to visit Ireland with some of my flatmates. We completed our own modified version of the Ring of Kerry, a popular car route that circles around Ireland. We rented a car and was able to drive around Ireland in four days. The first stop on our trip was Dublin. Unfortunately, since I had class that day, I had to take a later flight to Dublin and missed out on truly being able to explore Dublin. I was able to visit Trinity College, whose library contains the Book of Kells. Walking around the gorgeous campus, I was reminded of my senior year in high school, visiting all the different college campuses around the US. Speaking of college, it is interesting that in the US the words ‘college’ and ‘university’ are interchangeable, both meaning higher education after high school. In the UK, ‘college’ is an intermediate school after high school where students study for their entrance exams for university.
Next, we drove to the Wicklow Mountains where we had a fantastic hike in a gorgeous park. In between the mountains, there was a crystal blue lake where we took many group photos. As we drove away from the park, all of a sudden the trees just disappeared. All we could see were rows and rows of tree stumps. It was devastating to see deforestation ruining a nature’s beauty. Afterwards, we drove to a place called the Magic Road where supposedly when the car is in neutral, it will be able to drive up a hill naturally. There was a brief moment where our car indeed did this phenomenon, we were unable to replicate it. However, the most memorable part was drive along the road in the night and seeing these glowing eyes staring back at us in the dark. As we slowly approached, it turns out it was actually sheep. We laughed so hard out of relief.
Our next big destination was the Cliffs of Moher. These cliffs were a breathtaking view. People are able to walk along the edge of the cliffs for miles. There was a barrier built with a sign that highly suggested that people stay behind the barrier, but many people ignored that and walked on the outside side of the barrier. Since it rained that morning, the ground became muddy and very slippery. It was somber to see a memorial built next to the cliffs in honor of those who lost their lives at the Cliffs of Moher. We remained there watching the sun set. It was definitely a great bonding experience.
One of our last stops was to Sean’s bar, supposedly the oldest bar in Ireland dating back to 900 AD. That was the place where I first tried Guinness beer, Maybe I’m just not used to drinking beer, but I found it to be very bitter. Overall, my trip to Ireland was one of the best trips I went on. I saw beautiful scenery, learned more about the country, but most importantly I got to experience it with my flatmates.
Since the semester is coming to an end, which means that my time in Scotland is ending as well, I decided it is a good time to talk about all the trips around Scotland I’ve taken. At the beginning of the semester, I took a trip around the Highlands. We stopped briefly at Loch Lomond. On that day, the water was so clear and calm, the water was like a mirror, creating a perfect reflection of the mountains and trees that surround the lake. I learned that Loch Lomond lies on the Highland Boundary Fault which is a physical mark that discerns the boundaries of the Highlands and the Lowlands. The Highlands is geographically marked by high mountainous terrains. We also stopped at Loch Ness, trying to see if we were lucky enough to get a glimpse of Nessie. The Highlands is a gorgeous place. It is great for a road trip with winding roads through mountainsides and valleys. With having a sheep population of twice the human population in Scotland, the sides of the roads were scattered with roaming sheep. I’m impressed that the sheep are able to survive and navigate the steep and rocky mountainside terrain. It is a very peaceful place with houses scattered far apart, tucked away in the valleys. I was even able to see some Highland cows, or Highland coos are they are called in Scotland.
Unlike the black and white regular cows that we typically see, the Highland coos have shaggy brown coats with long horns (insert photo). The people who live in the Highlands seem to have a very peaceful life living in the quiet mountains and tending to their sheep. On the way back, we were able to stop at a Eilean Donan Castle. As I toured the castle, I learned about the rich and long history this castle had. It was built in the 13th century and was the site of many feuding Highland clans. This castle stood standing until it was destroyed during the Jacobite Rebellion. In 1919, Lt. Col. John MacRae-Gilstrap decided to restore his family’s castle. The castle is situated on a little island where three lochs intersect. A bridge was built for easier access to the castle. Based on its location, this castle was very picturesque even though it was gloomy and raining when I visited it.
A few weeks later, I had the fortunate opportunities to travel to the Isle of Skye. It is a gorgeous island near the very north west corner of Scotland. People claim that during the winter months, it is possible to see the Northern Lights from there. Before the bridge between mainland Scotland and the Isle of Skye was built, the only way to get to the Isle of Skye was by ferry. If the weather was rough, people would have to wait at the harbor until the storm passes. Thankfully it only rained heavily during our travels to the Isle of Skye and not during our visit of the island. The island is gorgeous. We got to visit a beautiful bridge and stream and even got to see a rainbow created by a waterfall coming out of the side of a cliff. One of the most arduous parts of the trip was a hiking trip to the top of a viewpoint that allowed us to see most of the island and a part of the ocean. I had one of the best fish and chips meals at a seaside town called Portree. That place is one of the most beautiful and untouched by society places I have ever been to.
Even though the UK is an English-speaking country, there are still a lot of differences between the United Kingdom and the United States. Here are some of the most obvious ones:
- No stop signs: That is right. I have not seen a single red octagonal shape with big white letters stamped across it during the almost two months I have been here. There are a lot of roundabouts and interesting 4 way intersections that I can not even begin to describe. The most alarming aspect about not having stop signs at intersections is when I’m crossing the street at 8 in the morning walking to class and I see out of my peripheral vision this car zooming towards me. In the U.S., most cars will begin to slow down several hundred feet ahead of the stop sign in order to prevent a sudden stop. But, in the UK, I have these fear of uncertainty if they will actually stop in time or if they will stop at all since there is no big red sign reminding them. The most awkward thing is playing the who is going to go first game with the car. With no certainty that the car will stop and let the pedestrian cross or continue to turn, I often find myself putting one foot into the street then often retracting until there is a sure sign from the car.
- Interesting crosswalks: At large intersections, there is a median in the middle of the road for pedestrians. But unlike most medians in the US, there are fences along the median that creates an almost Z-shaped path for the pedestrians. When crossing, pedestrians are supposed to cross one lane and then wait at the median and then cross the other lane. Pedestrians are only give the green light to cross one lane at a time while the other lane is still allowing cars to turn into.
- Computer keyboards: Who knew that there were different types of English keyboards? When I walked into the university library to go print something, I needed to access my email account to retrieve the document. The first time I tried log in, it said I typed in the wrong username and/or password. I retyped the password again and still it said I was wrong. Finally, I looked at my username and I noticed that the @ sign was wrong. Finally, I realized that the @ symbol isn’t on the usual key on the number 2 key.
- Separate hot and cold water taps: Getting warm water in the UK is near impossible. The hot water and cold water comes out of two separate taps and there is no way to adjust the temperature of the water. At least in my building, the hot water is scathing hot. In order to get warm water, I have to keep alternating between the hot and cold water tap. One of my flatmates said that she has to plug up the drain in the sink and run both taps in order to get warm water to wash her face. Whenever I need to wash my hands, I have to either pick the freezing water or the scathing water. I have never been more grateful for one faucet with adjustable water temperature in the U.S.
Living in Scotland has definitely been interesting adjusting with the small changes. I find it fascinating the similarities and differences between the United States and the UK.
So, it has been almost a month since I have arrived at Scotland. As the plane was descending into Glasgow, the most beautiful landscape appeared out of the tiny airplane window. There were mountains covered in lush green trees with crystal blue lochs in the valley. Fun fact: there is only one lake in Scotland, but there are over 31,000 lochs. An immediate difference that I noticed is the language. Yes, American and Scottish people both speak English with different accents, but I did not realize just how different Glaswegian (the Scots dialect that is spoken in Glasgow). The first time a native Glaswegian spoke to me, I truly could not understand a word he was speaking. It sounded like a completely different language. When they speak, they drop so many letters in the words and use so much slang to the point where I just stand there and nod pretending I understand the conversation. Even now, I can only understand a few words that they are speaking and most of the meaning is lost to me. Hopefully by the end of the semester, I will be able to understand Glaswegian better.
I’m currently living in a 12 person flat in student accommodations. At least in the U.S., the word “flat” is considered the same thing as an “apartment”. And when most people hear the word “apartment”, they image a housing accommodation with a few bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, and living space at minimum. When I first arrived at my flat after a long airplane flight, I was shocked to discover that the “flat” was simply a typical dorm with an additional kitchen. There is a long hallway with 12 single bedrooms and then a kitchen in the middle. Unfortunately, due to being “fire hazard”, we are unable to put in additional furniture. There is a good mix of international students in our flat: 3 from Australia, 1 from New Zealand, 1 from Quebec, Canada, 1 from Azerbaijan, and the rest from the U.S.
Uni has been an interesting experience. The first week was a hectic adventure trying to get classes approved and finding classes. Unlike in the U.S. where classes are at a set time and location usually either on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule or a Tuesday, Thursday schedule, at the University of Glasgow, class times and location change on a daily and weekly basis. For example, my Gaelic class meets in a museum one day and then in the medical school another day. And for other classes, we may meet in the mornings on some days, but on other days we meet in the afternoons. I had the hardest time finding classes that didn’t have time conflicts with each other. This is most likely due to the fact that there isn’t really a general education requirement here and non-exchange students typically only take courses for their major. There is a greater emphasis on self-learning here than in the U.S. Back at my home university, there would typically be homework due daily or weekly, but at Glasgow for most of my classes there is just two term papers due and a long list of “suggested reading” to do on our own time.
On March 10. 2018, OU’s TUW hosted a Cultural Show at the Union in order to showcase various countries and cultures that their members originate from. For this year, the theme was Borderless and there was an emphasis on while each culture is unique, we have much more in common that unites us than divides us. There were all sorts of performances from a fashion show, dancing, singing, stand up comedy, and even a short telenovela skit. My favorite act was a song called Moltiva sung by Martina. Apparently the song is extremely popular in Europe and even won the Eurovision, an European singing contest. The student was such a good singer and the song really moved me that I even looked it up on Youtube after the event. The most unique act was the skit by Norma and Karina. It was a short skit in a form of a spanish telenovela but was relevant to OU. Besides the occasional sound issue, the skit was very well executed. I wonder how long it took them to write the script and practice it. Overall, it was a very wonderful event and I definitely look forward to next year.
On April 20th, the OU Arab Student Association hosted an Arabic Fashion Show in order to celebrate their culture as well as to educate the public that while we typically view the Arab world as one entity, there are many diverse cultures within the Arab World. It was a night of great fun and food. It was interesting to see all the different types of clothes that different Arab countries have. I learned that what we consider the “typical” Arab outfit, it is actually clothes from one country and some other Arab countries wear vastly different clothes. Besides the fashion show, there was singing and dancing. While I couldn’t understand the words being sung to the song, it was very enjoyable and there was such a great energy in the room when everyone else in the room would sing the chorus together. At the end, the performers started to perform a very popular group dance and soon everyone joined in. It was a lot of fun and a great way to get a better glimpse of what Arab culture really is.
Recently, I, and the I am sure most of the rest of the world, were shocked to learn that North Korea and South Korea are willing to sit down together and discuss peace talks. Definitely experts in this area could claim that they saw it coming, but I was genuinely shocked to hear the news about this. I feel like that we have created this image of North Korea being a ruthless dictatorship that won’t bend to anyone else and their willingness to eventually end the Korean War was very out of left field. This past few weeks marks a historical event where it was the first time a North Korean leader ever step foot in South Korea. That action, to me, represents a lot; the North Koreans are willing to be reasonable even to step foot into their enemy’s sovereign soil. One of the most important points in the meeting was to have a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. The fact that North Korea was willing to dismantle its nuclear program was shocking to me since I remember not even a few years ago when the America and the American public was worried about North Korea’s nuclear program becoming advanced enough to bomb other countries. This is such a historical and unique event that I can only watch and hope that events will unfold in the correct decision and maybe one day the two Korean countries might become unified again or at least be peaceful toward one another. The biggest question I have had is what caused North Korea to extend this temporary olive branch and will it be successful?