Samantha S., UK-Scotland, University of Glasgow (English)

First gen student who had never been and had always dreamed of going to the UK/Europe and can now call it a home away from home! 

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ACADEMICS

  1. What types of classes did you take abroad and how did they compare to UCSB?

I’m an English major so I took a lot of literature courses that counted towards my major. I took Scottish, English, and Comparative Lit and loved it because they covered texts I would have never been able to read while at UCSB. I also decided to take a Scottish history and culture course because I wanted to learn more about the country I was going to be living in for the next year. The UK doesn’t do multiple choice type exams and they don’t have midterms so I enjoyed it because I was able to take my time while reading my books and really understand what was going on. Unlike UCSB, the professors are called lecturers and they change every week, depending on what text you’re looking at. I didn’t mind too much because every one of them was super friendly and more than willing to help you during their office hours.

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  1. What was your favorite class abroad?

My favorite course was Scottish Literature 1A and 1B! The lecturers were all so nice and eager to talk to the students and I loved reading in Scots! We read Peter Pan and we were lectured on it for about a week and a half and it was just so interesting to learn more about it as a Scottish play. We also read a modernized play about Mary Queen of Scots and it was just so much fun to read because of the accents in the play. A few times we even had the authors come in and explain why they wrote their works. It also doesn’t hurt that every book sounds better with a Scottish accent!

HOST INSTITUTION

  1. How would you describe your host institution?

MAGICAL! It is like a picture out of Harry Potter! You’ll want to take pictures everytime you walk through it, I know I did. Everyone is so friendly and ready to help you. The university is in the heart of the West End where you’ll find nice restaurants and pubs, and only a 15-20 minute walk from the city center.

  1. Are there student clubs/organizations that UC students can join?

All the clubs are open to everyone! Everyone is super friendly and welcoming so you won’t have problem fitting it! There are a lot of clubs that you won’t find at UCSB that Glasgow has on lock. There are also two Unions that I HIGHLY recommend joining–becoming a member is free, all you need is a Glasgow student ID!

HOUSING

  1. Describe your housing situation.

I lived in university housing while abroad. There are a few options for Glasgow, but I lived in Student Apartments, which are the closest to campus–literally less than a minute away! I loved my housing because it was only me and two other girls. Both were international students, one French and one New Zealander, and now they’re some of my best friends.

We lived in the heart of the West End so there was always something to see and do. Compared to SB/IV, I paid a little less than what you would usually pay anywhere on DP for a massive room! You won’t find a single or triple as huge as the Student Apartment double I lived in anywhere in IV for that price. All the university housing comes furnished so you don’t have to worry about that. All housing options are self-catered, so you will be cooking for yourself, but Student Apartment is already equipped with pans and the like. Other options in Glasgow, like Kelvinhaugh and Cairncross, are great too and you’ll meet other international students, but are about a 15-minute walk (don’t let that discourage you, you walk through a BEAUTIFUL park).

FOOD

  1. Where did you eat most of your meals?

I usually cooked in my flat to save money but my friends and I would go out once a week so that we could experience their food. For a list of all my favorites and recommendations check out Question 11!

  1. How much was an average meal? Do you have any budgeting tips for future students?

If you don’t make a UK bank account, I definitely recommend taking out a lot of money at a time (because you might get charged every time you withdrawal) and only carrying £30-£40. The average meal was anywhere between £10-£15 ($13-$19) but that’s because my friends and I always went to restaurants, there are definitely cheap eats around the city!

  1. Would it be difficult for vegetarians/vegans and others with strict dietary restrictions to find meals?

Not at all, Glasgow is a very vegetarian/vegan-friendly city! 

  1. Describe your most memorable dining experience abroad.

My most memorable dining experience would have to be a brunch session I put on in my flat. I invited all my friends and we watched a movie, talked, and sang. It was so much fun and it made realize how much I love hosting!

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  1. What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back?

You most definitely have to check out Bread Meats Bread, Paesano, Toni’s Pizzeria, Offshore, and S’mug, and if you’re missing American breakfast, Tribeca is the place for you! S’mug is a small cafe that has these fogs, which are a type of tea latte, and they are so good and I miss them so much! Offshore is another cafe and their chai lattes are to die for (all of their drinks are amazing, actually). While there are Starbucks, Costa is 10 times better and have these amazing millionaire shortbreads that I highly recommend. Paesano and Toni’s are great (and cheap) pizza places! You’ll definitely become addicted! Bread Meats Bread offers these insane burgers but they are so good! 10/10 RECOMMEND.

You have to try haggis at least once while you are there! It is one of their national dishes and it’s honestly so good!

HOST CITY

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  1. Describe your host city.

Glasgow is the biggest city in Scotland but it is so easy to get around! Everyone is super friendly and welcoming. It isn’t as touristic as Edinburgh but there is the occasional crowd of tourists. Glasgow is a very modern, urban city with so much to do so you’ll never be bored. 

  1. Was it easy to get around?

Everything in Glasgow is within walking distance when the weather permits. There is a very easy subway to navigate that takes you throughout Glasgow and all its boroughs. It’s one simple circle so you’ll never get lost! There are a ton of busses, too, but if you’re trying to go outside city limits. Scots Rail will take you where you need to go and can be cheaper than taking the subway. Ubers are around as well!

  1. Did you feel safe in your host city? Do you have any safety tips for future students?

Glasgow was recently voted the friendliest place in the world and they definitely live up to it! I never had a problem with any Scottish person and I never felt unsafe. Because it isn’t as touristic as Edinburgh, pickpockets aren’t as big a problem like other places in Europe. I didn’t feel unsafe in Edinburgh either, to be honest. I felt safer in Scotland than I do in the US. I was once walking home alone at night and I saw a guy approach me but he was only asking if I was okay to walk home and if I knew where I was going. He was genuinely concerned and I didn’t feel one bit threatened. Scottish people are so nice, I love all of them and miss them so much.

  1. What were some interesting/fun things that you did in your host city?

The museums are amazing (and free!) so I loved strolling through them. Kelvingrove Museum, right behind the Uni, is a great place to people watch and study! My friends and I also went to the little book shops throughout the city. I love Kelvingrove Park, it’s massive with great views of the uni. I also loved going to Sauchiehall and Buchanan to window shop! The Glasgow Green is another park where you can stroll along the river or sit and relax. The Necropolis and Glasgow Cathedral and massively impressive, so I definitely recommend checking those out. The Necropolis is also really cool when the sun is setting because you have a really nice sunset view of the city.

HOST CULTURE

  1. Describe any cultural differences you experienced while abroad.

There is a big cultural difference when it comes to drinking. Pub culture is very relaxed and family friendly. People are drinking to have a nice, casual time and not to blackout. Obviously, there are exceptions, but even then Scottish people know how to handle themselves more than Americans, so please know your limits. Americans are also super loud, especially when they get drunk, so make sure you observe your surrounding and note how everyone else is acting.

  1. How did you handle culture shock?

I didn’t really experience culture shock. There are obviously some differences in the culture, but I didn’t feel a big difference. I embraced and immersed myself in Scottish culture very easily. I know all experiences differ, but I don’t think you’ll have a hard time handling Scotland.

  1. What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?

My favorite aspect was how proud they were to be Scottish. They all love Robert Burns so much that they named him the national poet of Scotland. Every year on his birthday they hold a Burns Night where they read some of his poems and eat haggis, neeps and tatties. It could be an excuse to drink, but the Scottish are just so proud of everyone Scottish no matter what they do. They are a very accepting and friendly people and I wish the whole world was like them. Scotland also has these adorable Highland cows or with the local accent the “Heilan Coos”, which I became overly obsessed with (so much so that I ended up getting a great tattoo of one). 

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TRAVEL

  1. Tell us your favorite travel story from your time abroad.

Isle of Skye!! I was able to visit and it’s an absolutely magical place. The island is up North and it is one of the most beautiful places in the world (it’s been voted, not just a personal opinion). My friends and I climbed the Old Man of Storr (it’s where Harry Styles filmed his Sign of the Times music video) and just sat on top of the mountain for a few minutes. I played Sign of the Times and it was just so serene and peaceful that I wanted to cry because I couldn’t believe I was living and experiencing this beautiful moment. After being in Scotland for 7 or 8 months, that was when it hit me that I was in a completely different country living my life to the fullest. So please, if you travel anywhere in the UK, make sure Isle of Skye is on that list.

**York is also a very beautiful city that I recommend you check out! It is so Harry Potter-esque!

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REFLECTION

  1. What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal?

Making friends! I am a very shy person so I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to make friends, but I promise you that all the international students are thinking the same thing and that you’re not alone. I found that making friends in a foreign country was easier than making them at SB just because you are all on the same boat. I have friends all throughout the US, Europe, Australia and New Zealand now! So, I promise, if I can do it, you can do it too!

  1. What was your biggest challenge abroad?

I don’t think I had any challenges while abroad. It was something I’ve wanted to do since before starting college and at the time I was applying I was getting sick of Santa Barbara so I was ready to go somewhere new. I know people are worried about homesickness, and while everyone’s experience is different, I think you are too excited about plans that are coming up to be sad, and if you do get homesick the UC Center is always there for you and so are your friends. Everyone’s doing about the same thing so they all know the feelings that might arise while abroad. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone!

  1. How have you changed as a result of your time abroad?

I have definitely matured and grown as a person as a result of going abroad. I am not afraid of voicing my opinion and doing my own thing, even if that means I do certain things by myself. I don’t drink as often as I did before I left, and it’s definitely for the better because I would much rather have a few pints and a nice, long, fun conversation than going to a party and binge drinking. I was my own person living my life to the fullest and if I were to choose again, I would 100% choose Scotland all over again. I also started looking into grad school abroad because I loved my time abroad so much and am looking forward to studying in the UK again.

  1. What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?

Don’t be afraid! It is going to be the best semester/year of your life! You will get to meet people from all over the world and they’re going to become some of your best friends. I know applying and figuring everything out after you get accepted is going to seem like a lot but I promise you, it is completely worth it! You’ll get to see and do things you never thought possible! (Like the bridge below: that is the Harry Potter bridge!)

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