Coming home, reverse culture shock & moving on…

Well I’ve been back home for 3 months now. I’ve  had quite a lot to do since being back such as moving back into my old flat, looking for a flatmate, going through a year’s worth of mail, looking for part-time employment, catching up with friends and family and lastly starting my final year at Glasgow. I’m glad I’ve had all this to do as it means I’ve had less time to dwell on my amazing year in New Zealand which I miss so much!

At first I struggled in coming to terms with being back home and being away from all of my friends in Dunedin. Nothing really seemed to have changed in my absence which made me feel like I’d never been away at all and that my study abroad memories were some distant dream that I had once. However, now I have a focus (final year) and I’m excited about finishing my degree as I have a great project to work on under a supportive supervisor, and I also have great final year options to look forward to including a field trip to Egypt as part of the Tropical Marine Biology option to study coral reefs in the Red Sea.

I do think I’ve changed in subtle ways. I feel I’ve matured as a person yet and that I know myself a lot better than I did before (that sounds really weird when I’m typing it… it’s hard to explain…). I’ve been told I’m “glowing” (!) and feel a sense of inner calmness which is also difficult to decribe. I’ve also been exposed to so many new ideas and have been influenced a great deal by the many pioneering minds I’ve met. I now know for sure that my future lies in research. This is an amazing revelation to me – only 1 year ago I felt I had completely no idea what to do after my undergraduate degree and no direction in my life. Now I’m planning to go to Aberdeen to do an MSc in Applied Marine & Fisheries Ecology in 2011, and if that goes well, hopefully a PhD somewhere in the future (who knows where, perhaps Otago?!). Although my Study Abroad year is at an end – and this is going to sound REALLY cheesy, but oh well – it feels like this is only the beginning…



Deja Vu- Almost

Deja Vu – Almost

Returning to Glasgow is harder than I expected it to be, I must admit.  Having become used to home again over the summer (Nairn, in the Highlands), moving to Glasgow – although I love it – is still another upheaval, with a new set of things I have to get used to.  As I said before, at home, things are usually much the same.  But when you go back to Uni it’s more obvious that while you were away gallivanting across the world with your new friends, your old friends have spent time here without you, bonding, having fun and enjoying different experiences that you weren’t part of.  It’s a bittersweet feeling; having done so much, but also missed out on things here.  It’s also funny, as some of my friends feel like they’ve missed out by not going abroad, while I think there’s an unavoidable feeling you’ve got to expect yourself when you come back – that you’ve missed out.

Getting used to the academic style is also a challenge.  Sometimes I get confused between what I’ve learned at Glasgow and what I’ve learned at Queen’s, even how many courses I’m supposed to take and how often I have to submit assignments.  So I suppose you can feel a bit weird and out of place sometimes.  On the other hand, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by finding that some things I’ve done or learned in Canada are similar to what my classmates learned in 3rd year here.  It’s a pattern of weaving in and out of feeling alien to things and like I’ve always been part of things here, which I guess will take time to smooth out.

I suppose this is part of the whole Reverse Culture-Shock.  I sometimes picture where I’m going to find a computer in the library, get to it and realise I’m imagining the wrong library.  It’s like that weird thing when you wake up thinking you’re somewhere else, and it takes you a few seconds to remember where you are.  It seems silly to have to adjust into something you’ve been used to for 20 odd years, and I didn’t expect it, but it comes down to small things like the fashion, the hairstyles, the lifestyle, the humour, the names of painkillers, the number of courses you take per semester, the style of the lectures and tutorials, the shops, the character of the city which can throw you.  And although I miss things from Canada, it’s the little things I’m so grateful for here; like calling my course ‘Joint Honours’ instead of a ‘Medial’, having ‘New Look’ and, most importantly, BOOTS THE CHEMIST!!

Overall it’s like a double-edged sword.  It’s tough to settle-in, but you’ve just got to consider one question:

Was it worth it?

For me, there is no question:  Returning to Glasgow I can get used to.  But studying abroad was irreplaceable.

Highlights of the Semester

After Boston, I never really spoke about what I got up to in New York, but it was definitely a highlight of the semester. Travelling with my Dutch friend, Margot, we took the $15 megabus to NYC. We decided to go couchsurfing, which you’ve probably heard of, but never had the balls to do. I was the same, but Margot persuaded me and I’m so glad I did. Our host, Tak, a product designer from Brooklyn. And what a host he was- I can’t recommend couchsurfing any more, Tak was extremely generous and gave us so many tips. One of my personal favourites was the High Lines, an urban redevelopment. He also took us to some awesome restaurants, and his Uncle took us for some proper dim sum in Brooklyn Chinatown-we were literally the only Caucasians there, that’s when you know it’s the real deal.

We did all the touristy things too (but you’re just going to have see it for yourself one day): Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Museum of Modern Art, Grand Central….etc, etc…. All in all, a great experience!

Another highlight was Science Carnival, a weekend full of fun & alcohol debauchery. Teams of around 20 all compete to be prized the ultimate carnival team. Points are given for tasks, such as drinking games and scavenger hunts all around Montreal. Be warned it isn’t for the faint hearted, but if you’re up for it, you’ll love it.I’ve said it before, but join the McGill Snowboard Club! If it’s the only thing you do at McGill, this is it!

Being a rugby fan, I had to find somewhere to watch the 6 nations games, so when England played Scotland, I headed to the pub to watch the ensuing action. The game was actually quite boring, but I did meet the coach of the Montreal Irish, a local rugby club. So, Istarted playing rugby again, and when they found out I was only 19, they signed me up to play for the Quebec U20 team. We ended up at the Atlantic Championships in New Brunswick, where we played and beat Novia Scotia convincingly. Then, 2 days later we had the epic task of playing the reigning champs Newfoundland. A bunch of tanks basically, with lots of players pushing for u20 Canada selection. Anyway, we lost by 11 points, but not without letting everyone know that Quebec rugby has some talent. We were down by 4 points up until the dying seconds, when we went all out for victory. It was a great experience and genuinely felt honored to represent. I was lucky enough to be spotted by one of the u20 scouts, but alas I’m not Canadian….or so I thought! My dad had always said that my grandmother had lived in Canada when she was younger, but he didn’t know much about her history. After searching the 1911 census, we found that she was living in Hamilton, Ontario, aged 2. Pretty astonishing really! So this made me ponder the question, was she born in Canada? And if so, am I therefore Canadian in some way?… After my parents searching the house, they eventually found her birth certificate and the excitement was over. She was born in Dundee!

Montreal has so much going on over the summer that I desperately wanted to stay, but without getting a job I wouldn’t be able to. However, McGill has a career planning service (CaPS) with a job search, so I managed to get an amazing job. I worked as a Lab Researcher, in the WOW Lab. Basically, we developed fun experiments to get children interested in Science. Remember all the cool experiments you did in school, the rockets, the volcanoes, the chemical reactions? We brainstorm ideas like those and develop them, so that teachers can use our blueprints in order to teach their students. One of the most popular projects being the Maglev Train , but we also have simpler ones such as a really cool digestion model using an elbow length vet glove (representing the oesphagus), cookies with baking soda, and a large balloon (representing the stomach) filled with vinegar.

So even though the semester has finished I still have the whole summer (it was a long time ago since I wrote this) to look forward to. I’m heading back to the UK at the end of August just in time for the start of next year.

sad to be back……..:(

So i’m back in Glasgow and into my second week of my final year – scary stuff.

They say you get reverse culture shock but i was always a sceptic, it’s just coming home i though. I was however most definitely wrong. It’s weird, very weird. It’s not that everything changes, you still have your friends, your clubs, your classes, but the little things adjust. Like Sommerfield to Waitrose, Antipasti to i think it’s Sophie (i could very well be mistaken), just little things but they seem really odd. I knew things would change but it’s still a little weird that they have.

The biggest change for me is the work load. In Canada i have 5 classes a term, with about 4 hours contact time for each of them a week and millions of readings. I’m now down to a few hours a week and although i know things will heat up it’s a drastic change from other last year.

Having said all this though, it is lovely to be back. I have my friends, my family, the hills (up at home), cheaper booze and sad but true – the petite section in topshop. I have also brought a lot back with me, not only in terms of physical objects like clothes and presents but also in terms of my personality. I am far more adept at being myself in a room full of strangers and i have a great deal more of what my mum calls ‘get up and go’, the drive to actually do things during my uni career as opposed to just coasting along. The heavy workload and constant stream of social events has improved my time management immensely and basically i think i’m far more adept at dealing with the big bad world I’m going to be thrown into in about 8 or 9 months time.

I am also incredibly jealous of all those who have just jetted off to UBC and are currently enjoying Longboat day, club open house and all the other start of the year fun.

Also on a more practical note to everyone thinking of going, feel free to drop me an email if you have any questions about going out there from the perspective of someone who is back. I’m more than happy to help if i can.

hope to hear from you at some point


Back to uni (in Glasgow)

So it has been a long time since I last stepped into a lecture theatre in Glasgow (probably close to 18 months) and not a lot of things have changed. With my course in particular the subjects that I have to do in Scotland are 3rd year subjects so I have found myself back in class with very few of the faces of old. It hasn’t really been that much of a big change back to uni in Glasgow as nothing much has changed apart from the people I am now in class with. It so worked out that because I did such a busy year abroad I only have 5 subjects to this year including as dissertation so that has worked out fairly well for me. The department has been very helpful in keeping me up-to-date with dissertation submissions and advising so I’m not very far behind everyone else.

It has been weird coming home and adapting back into life in Scotland but now I’ve been home a few months it just seems as if I’ve never been away. I thoroughly enjoyed the majority of my time away and am so glad that I took part in the exchange program as it has changed my outlook on things for the better but that has now gone and reality has kicked in and now there is just one year left at uni and then the working world awaits which again offers new challenges and experiences.

Classes at the University of Glasgow

This entry marks my anniversary of being on a flight to LAX at exactly this time and date in 2009! It’s hard to imagine that it was only a year ago that I embarked on such an amazing adventure and journey! Although I can’t do a Janey (from My Family) and say “I’ve found myself!” 😉

It’s been just over 2 months since being back and I think I’ve finally got back into the routine of being back in the UK. It’s not been easy re-adjusting…but with the help of some of my best friend…it’s been easier! The most difficult bit has been getting used to having a room completely to myself…I know it sounds strange and a lot of people probably crave for their own rooms but after sharing a room with Nicola…I can’t help but feel completely isolated in my own space. Despite having a flatmate, I come back to the flat and there’s the irrevocable silence that I used to find comfort in before going to California…but I often catch myself thinking “wish Nicola was here for a good cup of tea”…it’s cute but weirdly needy…I can’t say I’ve ever been a dependent person, used to be very firm on being detached and as independent as possible…a bit like the bag-pack theory from “Up in the air” but…study abroad, Nicola and various other things have completely changed that and now I’m somewhere in the inbetween…

So as you can tell from the date, classes have started in full swing and fresher’s with their nervous faces can be seen exiting the huge lecture theatres in Joe Black…probably thinking to themselves…”fresher’s week was fun, but didn’t sign up for this much work”…or maybe that’s not what they think…but that’s what I remember thinking in my first year 😉 My first year really does seem like a long time ago and it’s quite disconcerting to think, I’m already in my final year…the inevitable question of “what’s after graduation?” has already started to eat at me…

But apart from that, I thought I’d fill all of you in on what it’s like to be back in lectures in Glasgow!

Well it’s obviously different from those in California…for one you have to battle through rain and wind to reach your lecture theatre 😉 and two – as a final year student you have the luxury of having smaller class sizes! With the variety of options on offer at least in the psychology department, it’s a good feeling to have this sense of choice and to attend lectures with a yearning to find out more about topics that fascinate me! One module in particular which is offered by Psychology but taught in the School of Philosophy, called ‘Consciousness’ has certainly grabbed my attention. The topic by nature is so far-reaching and our lecturer, Dr Stuart teaches it with an interdisciplinary twist that engages students from more or less any major. I think we’re very lucky to have someone who’s so passionate about the subject and further still, someone who’s so enthusiastic about the subject as a whole! It’s not like other years where lecturers maybe not be doing any research in the area  that they are teaching about and hence are just reading of pre-formatted scripts! Other options that I’m doing are very similar and overall it’s already starting to look like a year filled with exploration of the human condition! Although, the written work deadlines are slowly starting to eat at me 😉

We should also note that in my absence, the university restructured itself from being faculty based to college based. Not something that affects me that much, but I do have to remember to say the I’m in the College of Science and Engineering and I’m in the School of Psychology. So like the pps in UCSB, I get to say “I’m going to school”. It does take me back a few years when I say that…but it’s like saying “I attend the school of life”…sorry getting carried away with my own musings! Psychology as a department hasn’t changed that much with the obvious exception of increased usage of Centre of Cognitive Neuroimaging.

I suppose this is the point where I should wrap everything up as this is my last blog entry. Hopefully the blog in its entirety has documented all the highs/the lows/the weird and the wonders of my study abroad year. I don’t think I can give any advice to future study abroad students apart from saying “go for it and don’t look back!”. Admittedly, financial planning is required. So before you apply do take account of how much money you can pool together and do consult the international advisors, myself, fellow SASA writers on the site for a good estimate of all the costs involved. To be honest, after speaking to others who studied abroad, I’m convinced it’s not really about where you go, it’s more about who you meet and what you do as part of a group. Obviously where you are determines the range of activities and possibilities open to you, but by no means does it define you study abroad experience. So have a look at what you can afford, which places you’d be interested in going to and then just take the jump! I think we’re very fortunate to have links with so many institutions abroad and it’s really up to us as individuals to make the most of these opportunities!

My gratitude goes to all my friends abroad who welcomed me in California, friends at home who helped readjust, Linda, Ray, Frank, Nicola and my family for all their support throughout!

On that note, I hope you’ve enjoyed my musings and I look forward to hearing about your experiences from your year abroad!

Back to reality

Classes have begun at Glasgow again and summer can be deemed officially over. Sad times. It’s been almost 4 months since I returned to Glasgow from my exchange in Boston and since then the summer has flown by. I can’t say that I really experienced any ‘reverse culture shocks’, or at least not yet anyway. June flew by, catching up with friends and enjoying the sunshine whilst July and August were mostly filled with my summer internship. I wrote in my last post that I was seriously considering a trip back to Boston at the end of summer, and that’s exactly what I did. In late August I flew out to Boston for a 3 week visit to see many of the friends I made out there on exchange. I had an absolutely fantastic time, and managed to get a bit more travelling in. As well as Boston, I did the obligatory NYC trip and then spent a week in Cincinnati, Ohio and Nashville, Tennessee. The entire trip was incredible and getting to see people again so soon after leaving was great. I managed to spend all my money from the internship but I would do it again in a heartbeat. In some ways saying goodbye a second time was harder, as I don’t have any certain plans to visit again in the near future like I had when I left in May. I guess I always knew I was returning to Glasgow and that those 3 weeks were just a holiday, but sometimes you feel so comfortable in a place, or around people, that it begins to feel like home.

Since being back in Glasgow Freshers has finished and classes have begun. It’s strange coming back to lectures here as they are actually lectures, not highly interactive class discussions as they were at BC. I find myself wanting to speak up every time the lecturer asks a question and am mystified when I don’t see dozens of hands go up in the air. I suppose this counts as a small piece of reverse culture shock. The university system is changed somewhat now too, with colleges instead of departments and there have been refurbishments to the Hub and the Library which look really good! Otherwise I have managed to get back into the swing of things fairly easily and am ready to take on my final year at university. I have decided to take a gap year after I finish, hopefully to do some travelling and see people who I met at BC as well as picking up some more work experience before I start a full-time job the following August. I’m really looking forward to that year out as there are now just so many things I want to take on and achieve having studied abroad for a year. That’s one thing I’ve really taken away from the experience, apart from  a great group f close friends, is an increased desire and self-motivation to achieve and explore every experience and opportunity available to me.

I had an unbelievable year abroad and can’t recommend it enough to students considering a year abroad, and especially at BC. Main tips would be to research it early and speak to your advisers. Think carefully about where you want to go and why, what is it you want to get out of the experience? If you are clear in your mind over these questions then get your application up and running, you shouldn’t have too many problems. It really is a once in a lifetime so take the chance if you’re lucky enough to get it. It will be the best decision you ever make.