Georgia - University of Glasgow

B Psychological Science
Semester 2, 2018
In all of Europe, Glasgow has the biggest heart.

Academic experience

I cannot express how much being away in Glasgow gave me the most wonderful opportunity to undertake elective courses that may never have been a part of my current home degree, and also allowed for credit progression in my degree as a plus. Overseas I took one course in biology, one in astrophysics, and one in second year psychology – all of which proved to be more intensive and detailed than I could imagine. Overcoming the first hurdle of attending five lectures a week per subject was a challenge in itself, but being so generously offered accommodation close to campus and having so much student support on hand truly helped me manage through the moments where classes felt too much. On a more positive note, having close knit laboratory sessions and group assessment (although often dreaded by students far and wide) allowed me the chance to meet people with similar interests in our subjects and for the university itself. From something as basic as a shared lab time and table I found some of my most trusted friends in academic inclination, and created contacts that will last me a lifetime. Specifically regarding the academic system, I found that although the course load was slightly more intensive, it allowed for a fantastic amount of academic development and learning from an entirely new perspective. More than anything I adored my biology classes, and found that stepping into Glasgow’s perspective on the subject allowed for a more well-rounded view of the study as a whole. One pit fall was unfortunately the registration and enrolment process, which relied on a lot of self-sufficient approval from course coordinators and a tender amount of stress as the first week of classes grew nearer. However again, student services were more than happy to assist, and all in all the process went along smoothly for me.

Personal experience

In embarking upon my exchange semester, I had already left Brisbane with the intention of exploring and making the most of my limited time overseas, no matter the cost or the timing. Some personal experiences that were an absolute highlight to me were the opportunities I took to travel to Edinburgh, Amsterdam, and London, and although the extra travel definitely proved costly, I would not change those moments for anything at all. From dining in a Michelin Star restaurant by Edinburgh castle, discovering the wonders of the Van Gogh museum and Amsterdam at night, to trying and failing to understand the London Underground, I engaged in memories that I will truly cherish for a lifetime. In addition to my appreciation for travel and a “see it to believe it” mentality, I gained the skills I need to grow both as an academic and as a person. By being forced to make friends in a brand new situation, keep myself healthy and be entirely responsible for my own life, I can found a sense of clarity and direction for my future that I hadn’t recognised prior. I believe that the exchange program helped me to develop my confidence in my future plan, and has given me the tools I need to pursue it wholeheartedly.

Accommodation

Being new to living in Glasgow and going to a university I had barely visited previously, I decided that on-campus accommodation was ideal; and at the remarkably low rent and proximity to campus, it seemed like a no brainer to me. I stayed in the Student Apartments on Hillhead St, an approximately three minute walk to the university library, with nine other flatmates from all over the world. I personally did not have a roommate, but made fast friends with some of my now closest confidants in room number two, and found happy friendships with everyone else hustling to and from the kitchen every evening. Living with others in the same situation as yourself is the most recommended piece of advice I can give – from the moment we all arrived, our entire flat was inseparable. We had dinners together, went on nights out together, and spent as much time together with books studying as we did enjoying weekends off with the ten other students in the flat above ours (we met them all rather quickly also). Although it was unavoidable that something would need repairs at some point given the space of time we were living together, the university’s apartment support services were second to none, sending In plumbers and painters as promptly as they could. Overall, living on-campus was perhaps one of the best decisions I made with my exchange semester.

Costs

I left for Glasgow with a comfortable $11,000+ in my account, and came back with just under $1,000 remaining – but a boat load of experiences to account for the money spent. Accounting for expenses like rent, food, entertainment and transport, I believe that $10,000 was plenty to tide me over for the four months spent overseas. I can even proudly say that I didn’t always have to buy the home brand groceries, I could buy the good Uncle Bens rice without a worry! The one thing that you may need to seriously budget for and think about when planning is any additional travel that you wish to undertake. Taking time in Edinburgh, Amsterdam and London were the main money drains I experienced, but with a little more planning than I invested you could explore even further without needing to worry about living off of plain bread for weeks.

Challenge

The greatest challenge I experienced in travelling to my childhood country was by far the final few weeks of the holidays before my inevitable flight back to Australia on New Years Day. As the days grew closer and closer to the 1st of January, my flatmates (most being exchange students themselves) slowly began to pack up their things and, with a teary goodbye and a smile, head back to their own home countries, leaving their once lively rooms and kitchen cupboards eerily empty. In my final seven days it was just me in the flat, and although it saddened me to miss the friendships I had made with my flatmates, I did still have the warm company of my partner to keep my eager to finish off my travels on a positive note. I remember taking one last walk around the main streets and hidden corners of the city a few days before my flight, truly taking in the absolute majesty of Glasgow before I had to depart. And although it can seem more tangible to say a challenge was saying goodbye to the people you’ve grown to love, I can honestly say that a major task I had to overcome was saying goodbye to the city itself. I felt as though I had grown immensely in my time spent in Glasgow, and leaving felt like leaving a piece of my history behind. But, after flying back to Australia and seeing all the friendly faces and places I had forgotten I missed, and with a little time, I overcame my heartache, and am now no longer experiencing the reverse culture shock and homesickness I intensely felt.

Professional Development

Perhaps one of the most obvious skills I developed during my experience was the growth of my social confidence and intrapersonal capabilities. Before studying abroad, I was fairly comfortable in my everyday routine and would often shy away from uncharted experiences, but moving to Glasgow for four months forced me to step out of my comfort zone and rely completely on myself. After reflection, I can honestly say that having the opportunity to be entirely independent has worked wonders for my confidence around new people, my academic abilities, and even in my ability to complete simple tasks like laundry and grocery shopping. I feel that developing a prominent social assurance will allow me to become more proactive in my professional and personal lives, and definitely less likely to shy from unsure social situations. Further, being under an entirely different level of scrutiny in my essay writing and final examinations has allowed me to develop my writing skills and academic know-how beyond what I expected. Although the markers are hard at the University of Glasgow, they provided helpful and constructive feedback that I will carry onto my future professional world – be it in university or as part of my career.

Highlight

A highlight for me was definitely the opportunity to engage in my studies in such a fantastic, visually awe-inspiring university with so much history and class. I adored going to lectures in the gorgeous main building, taking every opportunity to admire the architecture and the view overlooking the river. I also am far more a winter-bug than a summer, and so I definitely loved the colder weather and chance to finally bring out the warm coats and hot coffee every day. On the note of coffee, I took it upon myself to explore as many coffee shops in Glasgow as I possibly could, dragging my friends along with me to a new cute café at least twice a week. As an avid coffee drinker, this was such a highlight for me for three reasons; one, it gave me the chance to explore the city in a unique way and take my friends along with me. Two, I did manage to find the best coffee in Glasgow and proceeded to drink there frequently. Three, I got to drink delicious coffee every single day! Take advantage of being so central to a major city, it does not disappoint.

Top tips

I feel like my testimonial speaks for itself, however if I had to give one specific piece of advice, it would be this; take every opportunity that comes for you, do not lose focus of your study despite the many distractions, and if you fall in love do not shy away because of the time limit to your stay. It is so important also to make sure that you meet as many Glaswegians as you possibly can – it can be easy to only engage with other exchange students given your accommodation set up, but try your best. Finally, it’s really not as cold as you think it is. Do not use the weather as an excuse to stay in your dormitory; throw on a coat and walk down the street for coffee, the street art in the central area, utilise every second of your time there no matter what. The exchange program is a once in a lifetime experience, take advantage of it while you can.