Glasgow, according to the travel guides is the best shopping centre after London and the biggest city in Scotland. Besides, Scotland is famous for his bagpipes, whiskey, highland cows, kilts and mountains. However during my study at the Glasgow University this year, as one of the members of IRUN, I found out that Glasgow is far more than the tourist guides tells you. But let us first start with introducing myself; I’m Tim Riswick, an History student from the Radboud University Nijmegen, 21 years old and went to Glasgow to study Scottish History, Economic and Social History, and Classics.
The official reason of going abroad is of course to study! So let’s start with that. When I arrived there was an orientation, were I got some general information about the courses, the university, life in Glasgow and most important how to deal with Scots. The Glasgow University was founded in 1451 and is one of the most impressive university buildings I have ever seen, maybe also because it looks like if it came straight out one of the Harry-Potter movies. However the lectures are not so magical and are just the same as our lectures in Nijmegen, except they only take 50 minutes. The teaching during seminars was different than the tutorials in Nijmegen. Instead of question-answer it was more one big discussion about the materials. Therefore it was very important that you came prepared to the seminars. Also the grades are not only decided on how well you do during your exam, but usually an essay will define your final grade as well. The exams are also somewhat different than I was used to. In most exams you can choose some questions you want to answer. Thereby limiting the studying to the subjects that you find interesting because you don’t need to study all of the material. It was quite easy to approach the staff of the courses, they were always happy to answer any question. Especially one of the teachers helped me very well with searching for some sources for my Bachelor thesis. All facilities are located at the same campus, and thus easy to access. Especially the library, which is open from 7:45 am until 2:00 am. All together the study level is pretty much the same as I was used to. But I heard from some other students that they found the Honours courses easier than they are in Nijmegen. However I couldn’t take any Honour courses because of the agreements between my university and the university of Glasgow so I can not say anything about that from my own experience.
Nevertheless going abroad is not all about studying, it is also a way to discover a country and meet other nationalities. Around 10% of the students at Glasgow University are foreign and most of them are members of the International Society. The International Society has a very wide range of activities, like salsa class, pub nights, language coffee, movie nights and most important weekend trips. They organize trips to the most beautiful and ‘must have seen’ places in Scotland, like Isle of Skye, Stirling, St Andrews and a Highland trip. The latter went to Loch Ness and Iverness. The journey was spectacular because of the scenery. The mountains and the stunning nature were beautiful to see, especially for someone from the Netherlands, who is not used to a view like that. However the Austrians were a little bit disappointed because it was: “just like home”. Which shows the differences between nationalities. Sadly enough we did not see the Loch Ness monster but the castle and the interaction with other international students made up for that. Next to those arranged outings, we also organized trips ourselves. In Glasgow they have a spring break during second semester of 3 weeks. In this break we walked with some of our Glasgow friends the West Highland Way. The group consisted of 10 people: 4 of Dutch origin, 2 Norwegians, 1 Swedish girl, 2 Hungarians and 1 German. If you like hiking this is the best way to do it. The West Highland Way links Milngavie, just outside Glasgow, to Fort William in the Highlands. Much of the Way follows ancient and historic routes of communication and makes use of Drove Roads, Military Roads and Disused Railway Tracks. The whole route will take you seven days, but we decided to walk the half of it and only walked for four days. The weather was quite good and we had a lot of fun while we were continually impressed by the Scottish nature. An other trip I made was in the North of England. We rented a car and drove to Dumfries, Carisle, The Roman Army Museum, Vindolanda, Newcastle and Berwick. More people I know did this and it is a easy way to get around and not too expensive. Most of your time however you will be in Glasgow, and also there are a lot of activities. Almost all the museums are free and if you want, you can party every evening in a different club. Strange, in our eyes, was that you cannot be outside with your drinks after 10 pm, and that the pubs already close around 0:00.
Actually it is too much to write everything down I did, and there are so many new impressions you get when studying abroad. I would say that it is an unique experience, one I certainly did not want to miss for the world and you can take my word for it: you will never be bored in Glasgow.