on Mar 02 2011, 06:13 EST.
So I'm writing this from my residence flat in Aberdeen and am still amazed at the sunshine pouring in on me. The one thing people kept telling me on coming to Scotland was how much it would be raining. Now, to be fair, there is usually some form of drizzle/rain at some point every day, often in the morning. But the last week has been sunny and 8-12 degrees every single day. Did I mention it's March 2?
Scotland is INCREDIBLE. I think the thing that amazes me the most is how quickly I settled in and felt comfortable here. Maybe this has something to do with the people I live with or the friends I've made so far, but I've found it remarkably easy to settle in. I hate to generalize on people, as I think every exchange student's experience will be different, but the warmth and welcome of the people living here has really blown me away.
TRAVEL! Ok, so probably my foremost concern coming here...how could I travel as much as possible? The one downside -- unlike some students here, my schedule goes right to Friday afternoon and starts again Monday morning, making weekend journeys tricky. But day trips from Aberdeen are super easy and can take you to some truly spectacular places! Our second weekend here we took the train up to Stonehaven, about a 15-20 minute train ride and a £5.80 return ticket if you go on the weekend. Stonehaven's a cute little coastal town, and it's big claim to fame is Dunnottar Castle, about a 20 minute walk from the town, along stunning cliffs and gorgeous green fields. The views from the castle are unrivalled, and the grounds are large and easy to explore.
This past weekend, we went to a ceilidh in town (they played a Canadian barn dance!!). Don't worry if you don't know the moves, the band will teach you the steps before each song. Even if you still don't get it, half the fun is in seeing how much you can mess it up! Saturday afternoon we ventured to the Aberdeen Farmer's Market where local vendors sell jewelry, food, and other assorted goods.
Favourite part of the last weekend, however, was a day trip to the town of St. Andrew's (famous for having the university of choice for Prince William). Word to the wise -- book train tickets in advance. Not really a price difference , but you get to reserve seats. In our case, this would have been handy, as there was a Scotland vs. Ireland rugby game on in Edinburgh Sunday afternoon and the train was PACKED. Meaning, we had to stand in the vestibule between two train cars for the entire hour and a half trip. An experience if nothing else! In any case, St. Andrew's was beautiful, I would definitely recommend it. A friend we made in Aberdeen lives in the region so they offered to play tour guide for the day - if you go, hit up the ruins of the cathedral, the castle, the University grounds, and the CUPCAKE SHOP. You'll know it when you see it. The town's not big, so just take your time and explore.
Alright, post is getting long so I'll cut it off here. Cheerio for now!
on Jan 10 2011, 13:01 EST.
Well it's now a mere 14 days til I take off for the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom so I figured it was probably about time to start posting.
I'm a third year Arts and Sciences student with minors in Political Science and Mathematical Sciences, but in Aberdeen I'll just be doing Political Science (or as they call it, Politics and International Relations). I've been really lucky in that I have quite a few electives left at Guelph at this point so I've been able to be pretty flexible with my course selection at Aberdeen.
For anybody reading this thinking about heading off to the UK, there's a couple things you definitely want to think about before you go:
1. Getting a visa. Although you can get by on entry clearance if you're going to be there for under six months, the university and many others recommend getting the full Tier 4 Visa for General Students. This allows you to work a part time job and is also easier to get extended should you choose to stay on and travel or what not after school ends. It's fairly easy to get (check out the UK Border Services website for more info) with the only downside being that it's fairly pricey - $363, to be exact.
2. Banking. I'm in the process of figuring this one out but I think I'm going to open an account when I get there to make things easy. I have a friend from another university doing an exchange in Birmingham, England this year and she recommended getting traveler's cheques upon leaving Canada and then depositing them in a UK bank account. This way you don't get dinged crazy user access fees for using your debit card abroad!
3. Cellphone. This might just be me, but the prospect of going five months without having a phone makes me go a tiny bit crazy. My friend recommended getting a pay-as-you-go phone once I'm in the UK (apparently they're only 15 pounds or so from the get go) so I'm going to try and get on that one as well.
My biggest concern right now? Packing! Having acquired a significant amount of stuff over the Christmas break (darn you, Boxing day sales!!) I'm not looking forward to making tough choices about what to bring and what will fit. I also have a feeling getting things home from Scotland might be tricky, but I'll worry about that in July.