By now most of you know that I went to graduate school in Scotland. And while I had my fair share of issues, I had a pretty darn amazing time anyway. It’s still hard to imagine that this time 2 years ago, I was moving into the flat I was going to spend the next 10 months…
To give you a little more background (just in case you managed to not hear about it yet!), I graduated from Louisiana State University in May of 2015. At the point of walking across stage at graduation, my life was still up in the air. I had only heard a “yes” back from 1 on the 7 graduate schools I applied to, and was still waiting on one more school – the University of Dundee in Scotland. I FINALLY heard back from them right before my boyfriend (now fiance) left for our 2-week long European backpacking trip. Which was such a relief because we planned a few days in Dundee. How freaking awkward would that have been if I didn’t get in?!
[RELATED] – Europe Backpacking Trip : Our 2 Week Itinerary
Anyway. Fast forward to the end of August – I finally got my student visa approved and sent back to me, tickets were booked, new flat found and signed for, and I was packed and ready to go. The day before I left my dad even surprised me with a cake that said “Have fun in Scotland. Learn something.” Thanks Dad.
Thankfully my mom traveled to Scotland with me to help me move, which was a really good excuse for her to travel abroad. She was such a help with getting everything together, and we had such a blast exploring Dundee and Edinburgh right before she left. She even got to meet most of the girls that were in my program, which was pretty entertaining.
After my mom took off, I had a serious case of culture shock and homesickness. But once classes actually started it was easier to ignore the feeling of homesickness and I slowly got used everything. But after a while of being there and certainly by the end of it, I definitely realized a few things about Scotland and the UK. Some things I definitely miss, but others not so much.
[RELATED] – My Graduate School Experience
1) Clothes Dryers
It never even occurred to me that clothing dryers were not a thing. Our washing machine was in our kitchen (which is normal for them) and was big enough to wash maybe 3 solid days worth of clothing. Which then had to be air dried. IN SCOTLAND. Where it is literally raining 97% of the year, that has no sunshine throughout the months of October – April, and never got above 80 F once while I was there. My clothes literally took a day and a half to dry (with the radiator on), and I constantly smelled musty and damp.
I was literally so happy to use my giant washer and dryer when I got back home. I vowed I would never complain about my household appliances ever again.
2) Travel + transportation
Unlike here in Baton Rouge and most other places in the US (with the exception to crazy-major cities), you could literally walk everywhere for everything. The main part of town was a 15 min walk, there were a handful of grocery stores within 10, and school was only 5 min away. And if it was too far away to walk, there were super-reliable buses and always on-time trains to get you anywhere you needed to go. It was amazing! I honestly miss not having to drive everywhere and having such reliable public transport.
And while getting to the UK from the US is a bit pricey, once you’re here it is SO cheap and easy to travel around. Also unlike the US, people in the UK have a pretty great amount of vacation/holiday time. During that 2-week long European backpacking trip I mentioned earlier, my fiance and I ended up chatting with a couple on the train, and they mentioned they get a whole month paid vacation!
So the UK gets a lot of crap for having crappy food. And while that is partially true, some of it is pretty darn good too. Their Indian food is delicious (or so says my older roommate because I hate Indian food!), but generally their food is just simple. They use minimal seasonings and instead rely on the food itself to provide flavor.
In terms of junk food – they also have some pretty strict food regulations, so most preservatives and colors aren’t in anything. Which is pretty cool if you ask me, but some things like Skittles and Starbursts just weren’t the same. Irn Bru (bright orange soda that tastes like an orange creamsicle) has a cult following in Scotland that I will never understand. Real fish and chips are one of the things I miss most. We actually had a fish and chip shop right across the street from our flat that I frequented a little too often, and I definitely miss my paper-wrapped package of crispy-fried haddock and chips sprinkled with salt and vinegar. Speaking of chips….chips = chunky fries, fries = skinny shoestring fries, crisps = potato chips.
And before you ask, yes I tried haggis. It was surprisingly not terrible, but I would rather just eat a cheeseburger or something instead. Or fish and chips.
4) Words + accents
Obviously the chip/crisp/fry thing from above, but random things like a jumper = sweater, pants = your underwear, queue = line, and flat = apartment. Things like soured cream instead of sour cream. Cilantro was called coriander, which made for a fun shopping trip when I wanted to make salsa.
Spellings of certain things were different as well. There were a bunch of added o’s (esp. in anatomical terms) and s’s instead of z’s. Pronunciations were different too. Thankfully our professors were pretty lenient when it came to American vs British spellings in papers, which was definitely a lifesaver.
When I got back home, I actually got asked a lot about Scottish accents and if I could understand everyone, which I thought was weird. But yes. I could easily understand everyone, except for cab drivers. I remember one cab ride, and I could not for the life of me understand what the driver was saying. And we apparently had a whole conversation, but only caught the words “wife” and “holiday” a few times.
5) College aka Uni
University is quite a bit different than back at home. Considering the student body and the overall campus was a fraction of the size of LSU, I wouldn’t imagine it had what it did. There were a ridiculous amount of student organizations and clubs. But the biggest shock for me was that the student union was home to not one, but two clubs (like actual serving-drinks-DJ-playing clubs) in addition to two bars. And all for students. Which is slightly more understandable when you realize that the drinking ago is 18, which means almost everyone attending is of age. But still.
The academic side of it was also really strange for me. The grading scale was much different and professors were very tough in their grading. Instead of the A,B,C, etc. scale I was used to, there was A1, A2, B 1-3, C 1-3, D 1-3, MF (marginal fail), and F (actual fail). So while anything about a 50% was technically passing, getting that 80 or higher for an upper B or A was pretty tough. But I passed, so clearly it isn’t all that bad!
And obviously I learned all about forensic anthropology and human anatomy for my degree, and made a few good friends along the way! While all of these things were different, they really weren’t all that different from what I was used to, which I think was my biggest surprise. I almost expected it to be like a completely different world, but it was pretty much the same normal stuff as back home. Just with a lot more rain, crazier accents, and more hills!
Have any questions about my time in Scotland? have you been abroad for a long period of time and have some things to share?
Comment below or email me at email@example.com!