Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Scotland: Glasgow

The University Tower from the Kelvingrove Park
Libby McIntosh '12

What is your major? 
I was a Political Science Major and I participated in the Scotland General Culture Program.  

 Why did you decide to study abroad?
 I decided to study abroad for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to experience what life was like in a foreign university and be able to really immerse myself in another culture for a long period of time. Second, I was interested in studying British Politics and in particular the new Scottish government. And finally, I wanted to participate in one of the group programs so that I would have a support group of other LC students during my time abroad. 

 Why did you choose Scotland?
I chose the Scotland program because it was one of the programs that had one location for the whole semester (with the exception of the fabulous Highlands excursion) and would give me the opportunity to really get to know the city I was living in and the surrounding area. Second, this program is great because it is not geared toward any specific major. I took two classes with the LC group and then got to pick two classes from the University at large. Because I was interested in more specific Scottish Government classes I chose to apply to take upper division classes in politics. Other people in my group really branched out taking everything from Introduction Celtic Civilization (essentially ancient British History) to art classes to Scottish Literature. The great thing about this program is that you can choose practically any class that interests you at the University. I also chose the Glasgow program because it would provide the opportunity to take weekend trips around the rest of the UK and to the rest of Europe with ease. Most classes only meet once or twice a week and many people are able to make their schedules so they didn’t have class on a Friday or a Monday and thus were able to travel without missing classes.

What was your living situation like?
We lived in Postgraduate housing—essentially five person apartments where each person had their own bedroom/small bathroom and we shared a kitchen area. The location was pretty ideal, we were a couple of blocks away from the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Park, 15 minutes from campus and a short walk or subway/bus ride to the city centre, bus or train station. You don’t necessarily live with other LC students so it gives you the opportunity to meet mostly other international students as most Scottish students live at home or commute. As for eating--you are given a stipend to purchase food; you either have to cook or eat out (or a combination of the two). There is a Tesco grocery store close to the flats and Glasgow is famous for its Indian food and other cuisine that is all within walking distance, so you won’t go hungry. 
Edinburgh in the snow.
Highlights/challenges of the program 
There are so many highlights it is hard to pick just a few! But, the trip to the Highlands before classes started was hands down the best part of the program. Eddie, the guide tells amazing stories and you have the opportunity to delve into the Highlands past—mythical and historical—by visiting castles, museums, and hiking around the Highlands. Our group also attended a lot of Scottish plays and I would highly recommend getting out to see some theatre, especially a Pantomime at Christmas time—a truly British tradition that is not to be missed.
One of the challenges was managing money and keeping myself on track with school while enjoying what Glasgow has to offer. There is so much to see and do and classes are structured different than at LC. If you take lower division courses they will be larger and usually have discussion sections with graduate students. If you take the upper division courses they are usually smaller seminars. However, for most of the classes (at least the ones those in my group took) there are usually only one or two assignments for the whole semester making time management a little bit more difficult. If you keep yourself on top of those big assignments there isn’t too much to worry about. 

Advice you wish you had been given before going on your program 
My biggest piece of advice to future participants is to bring waterproof pants and boots to the Highlands! It rained every day we were there and no one had waterproof clothing (except for jackets) and it was very wet and your clothes don’t dry very fast. Also remember that Glasgow is a big international city and has lots of shopping so don’t worry too much about not bringing everything you might need because you can always pick things up in the city centre. It is a good idea to look up and get directions to the grocery store/ university/underground station before you arrive because setting up the internet was a little tricky so it is easier to already have that info for when you first arrive. Okay, one last bit of advice concerning travel while you are here. Easyjet and Ryanair are the two most popular low cost air carriers. But be warned, Ryanair is notorious for being difficult to deal with if you have problems and they charge for absolutely everything. Easyjet is maybe a little more expensive (but still cheap, I got round-trip airfare from Glasgow to Gatwick for 40£ about the same as the train, and faster) but has much better customer service and usually more options for flight times and flies into the more urban airports. Just be very aware of the airlines' restrictions before you book a plane ticket so you aren’t annoyed when you get to the airport! 

Additional comments?   
I had a really wonderful time in Glasgow and was able to learn a lot from my classes as well as have time to travel the UK and explore Glasgow. Don’t be afraid to sign up for upper division seminars. They are often only one day a week and offer smaller class sizes like we are used to at LC. Also, don’t be afraid to head to some off-the-beaten-track places. I had as many memorable moments and experiences in small towns like Perth and Carlisle as I did in London and Edinburgh. 

If you have any questions for Libby, you can find her on the Ask An Alum Moodle page by clicking this link.

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