Classes are finally underway at the University of Glasgow. We had a late start compared to Vassar, which was kind of nice because summer lasted longer, but it was also stressful. I had a hard time making my timetable work out, for various reasons, and for about a week I was really concerned that I wouldn’t be able to find enough classes. But it ended up working out, and I was enrolled in all the classes that I wanted, amazingly enough.
One of the more interesting aspects of my semester so far is being able to experience what it’s like in a big European university. It’s really disconcerting for a person who is so used to a small liberal arts college to take a class in a huge lecture hall that is actually filled with people! If you’re in a humanities class, then the discussion time is provided by weekly tutorials, which means that you share your thoughts on the reading for one hour a week as opposed to every class. In general, there is usually less class time, which means more free time to do your homework (or just consider doing it). And as a result, it is really on you to do the readings, since you can probably get by with doing very little work. Similarly, there aren’t many weekly assignments, the vast majority of the grade is the final paper or exam. How much work you do on a regular basis is entirely up to you.
Another thing that I’ve noticed is that there are a lot more international students at the University of Glasgow than there are at Vassar. At Vassar, I met quite a few international students coming for their full degree, but I met maybe two students doing the equivalent of a study abroad there. Here, I’ve clearly met many people studying abroad since I’m one of them, but even the Scottish people that I talk to have mentioned other friends from previous years who studied abroad in Glasgow. And there seem to be more international full degree students as well, probably because it’s so easy to travel between European countries. It forces you to realize the limits of spending all four years at Vassar while people in other countries are being exposed to so many different cultures!
In addition to classes starting, clubs are also now up and running. Everything is entirely student run, the sports, dance groups, music groups, everything. Which is a pretty big change for someone like me who is used to taking classes with the dance department or playing in ensembles with the music department. It is surprising to realize that the conductor of the wind band is also in your music class, and pretty cool that the students here take so much initiative. But it also means that there are fewer resources available since they are all being run by broke students.
That brings me to the other big difference between societies in Glasgow and in Poughkeepsie. Here if you want to join clubs, you have to pay club dues for most of them. That means that you give the club some money (usually around 5-10 pounds, but it depends on the club) and you can participate in their events. Which I guess is one way of ensuring that I don’t overcommit myself to everything. But I also find it kind of limiting since there are so many interesting clubs here, but the fact that I have to pay for them turns me away. It’s more similar to real life membership fees, I suppose.
As far as travelling goes, I have taken a few days trips around Scotland so far. Loch Ness in particular was amazing! I expected it to be full of tourists all looking for Nessie, but it was just a gorgeous lake in general. It’s also located up in the highlands, so you pass by all of these beautiful views on the way there.
And then there’s the highlight of the highlands: the highland cows. I’ve pet a few, and they are very fuzzy, although you do need to watch for the horns. How they see out of all that hair is a mystery to me.
I’ve also managed to take a day trip to Edinburgh, which is super easy from Glasgow. Edinburgh, like all other towns I’ve visited in this country, is incredibly cute and picturesque. The Princes St. Gardens are a lovely place for a walk, as well as the Old Town a little ways off. There are also tons of free museums like the National Gallery or the National Museum. The Edinburgh castle is also there, but you have to pay to get in. Edinburgh is where J.K. Rowling lived, so there are several more Harry Potter places you can visit there if you’re interested in that sort of thing.
So that’s it from me for now, by my next post I’ll hopefully have visited England a little, and maybe other towns farther north in Scotland. Who knows? It’s an adventure!