Gabrielle - University of Glasgow

B Science (Biomedical)
Semester 2, 2016

Academic Experience

While on exchange at the University of Glasgow, I studied five courses in order to make up the 60 credit full-time study requirement. These courses were:

  • BIOL2012: Forensic Bioscience 2 (10 credits);
  • BIOL2013: Human Form & Function 2 (10 credits);
  • BIOL2023: Functional Anatomy for International Pre-Medical Students (20 credits);
  • BIOL2036: Physiology & Neuroscience 2 (half-course) (10 credits); and
  • HIST1022: Introduction to Scottish Culture (10 credits).

Of these courses, I would most strongly recommend Functional Anatomy and Intro to Scottish Culture. Functional Anatomy in particular was a challenging course, with three 3-hour practicals per week (compared to my other classes' 2 hours-worth of lectures per week and single 3-hour practical during the semester), however the small cohort (25 students in my semester), and focus on practical application and learning through experience in this course made it well worth taking. The fact that the spotter tests for each unit and the final exam were all completely multiple choice also didn't hurt!

The lower number of contact hours in the other courses which I took presented a different challenge, in that you are expected to put a larger focus on self-study, but this was balanced by the smaller amount of content covered per week than in UQ courses, due to having only two lectures, rather than three. I would definitely not recommend missing lectures if not absolutely necessary, as none of mine were recorded. Another recommendation I have is to enrol in your chosen courses as soon as you receive the email informing you that enrolments are open – I ended up having to reshuffle my subject choices because I missed out on places in some courses.

Personal Experience

My time in Glasgow gave me an experience that combined Glaswegian accents, Scottish food, European cultures and new friends made from all around the world! I was convinced to join the Athletics Club at the beginning of the semester and did not regret it, thanks to the hilarious and very welcoming group of students who became some of my best friends while I was in Scotland. The different nationalities of the students with whom I shared accommodation also made for an amazing semester, which included celebrating Thanksgiving with American exchange students, baking Christmas treats with a friend from the Czech Republic, and laughing over each other's attempts to speak English, French, Italian and German with my own flatmates.

During the semester, the ease of travelling throughout the UK and Europe meant that I visited places such as the Isle of Skye, Paris, and even Mallorca on weekends, and often caught a bus over to Edinburgh to spend a day or two. I am now much more confident in my ability to efficiently travel with carry-on luggage only, navigate unfamiliar public transport systems, and nap on any and all forms of transport!

Accommodation 

I stayed in a Student Apartments flat during the semester, which I would highly recommend. It was well worth the cost to be within a few minutes' stroll of the library, gym and main university campus. From my self-catered flat on Gibson St, which I shared with six other students from all around Europe, I had access within minutes to my classes, the Hillhead subway station, popular student areas, and several supermarkets, including Tesco, Iceland, Coop, and even Waitrose and Marks & Spencer, for the luxury grocery-shopper!

Budget

Glasgow is a particularly easy city to live in as a student, but there are a few expenses which I would try to steer clear of. Public transport is not cheap, and most student areas are within walking distance of the university. If you don't feel up to long walks on cold, wet, windy days, Glasgow's small, circular subway line is likely the simplest and most affordable transport option. Food is not expensive if you shop at the cheaper supermarkets, although eating out or buying fast food can be quite costly, as can some forms of entertainment (e.g. movie tickets). On a positive note, it is much easier to eat healthily when a Domino's medium pizza costs more than a week's worth of fruit and vegetables!

Travelling around the UK and Europe was an amazing experience, but not a cheap one, and I would highly recommend doing some research into different travel options before setting out. Buses are usually cheaper than trains (which are very expensive in the UK, especially), and budget airlines are your friends (as long as you are prepared for the possibility of the occasional delayed flight). In terms of accommodation, Airbnb in particular was very useful when I was travelling as part of a group.

Professional Development & Employability

One of the most important skills I gained during to my semester abroad was the confidence to meet new people, make new friends, and embrace new experiences. I think that this semester, more than any of my previous semesters at university, was the one which taught me to explore beyond my comfort zone, and take changes in my personal and academic environment in stride. I am now actively planning my next study-related trip abroad, while being entirely open to the possibility of working overseas following my graduation.

Highlights 

It is impossible to pick a single highlight of my exchange, but several of the front runners include the Scotland-vs-Australia rugby match which I attended in Edinburgh, along with a number of other Brisbane students, and the long weekend which I spent in an Airbnb on the Isle of Skye with five other exchange students, when we were lucky enough to witness some of Scotland's most glorious scenery under clear blue skies. The seven weeks of travelling I did before the beginning of semester was also an incomparable experience, complete with Venetian gelato, Bavarian mountain-climbing, pickpockets in Paris and the inconceivably impressive Cliffs of Insanity.

Top Tips

  • Wait until you have arrived in your accommodation before you begin to purchase items such as crockery. I found that there were so many spare pots and plates left in my flat by previous students that I didn't need to purchase any kitchen utensils at all.
  • A subway card will make navigating Glasgow much easier, and more affordable, as it caps your travel expenses at 2.70 GBP per day, meaning that you won't be charged after the first two subway trips you make on that day.
  • If you plan on travelling in the UK, purchase a National Express Young Person's Coach Card for 10 pounds, and always check buses as alternatives to expensive train trips. In addition, look on National Express for cheaper bus fares than, for example, Citylink (in fact, you will sometimes end up being seated on the Citylink bus anyway, especially for the trips between Glasgow and Edinburgh). Consider taking longer bus trips over trains if they will mean significant savings.
  • Be open to travel destinations you hadn't considered before; cheap flights can pop up to the most interesting locations.
  • Have a backpack, duffel bag or small suitcase at hand, and make short trips with carry-on luggage only; often, the cost of a suitcase on Ryanair or Easyjet flights will be the same or higher than the cost of the ticket itself.
  • Join a club or society! This is an often-repeated piece of advice, but it is well worth the effort and can help you break out of the "exchange bubble" and make the most of your time abroad.
  • Finally, go to a ceilidh (and not just the Welcome ceilidh for international students). There are very few experiences more entertaining than flying wildly around a room with a group of Scottish students whose dress code is semi-formal, kilts recommended.