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!

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Coming back to Glasgow

Yes…from the last entry you can probably tell that I’m now back in the UK…whether that’s for better or worse depends on how well you know me 😉

I should warn you that before proceeding with reading this entry further…that I may start to complain/rave/rant about being back. So despite the warning, I hope some of you have the healthy sense of curiosity to ask, “why would you moan/rave/rant about being back home?”

I suppose we can call it “readjusting” or “reculturation”…but the fact of the matter remains that it only takes 9 months to fully acculturate somewhere else and even somewhere you’ve lived most of your life can seem somewhat alien…perhaps that’s overkill…but dramatics are required!

So let’s get the British etiquette out of the way…how in the name of Lord almighty do we put up with our weather??? I mean really…just in the time it takes me to write this, I bet it will have changed from the lovely sunshine to this austere coldness that makes you feel winter is approaching! I had also managed to forget how cold/windy/rainy Glasgow was! Just in my first week of being back in Glasgow, I managed to break my umbrella! I swear, someone in Glasgow Airport could make a lot of money of giving 5 minute lessons about weilding umbrellas…it’s a skill which is probably evolutionarily programmed into all you wegies…but for scousers like me (despite my posh accent) lessons would help! Right, weather rant over J

In my second week of being back, I ended up in Leeds for a friend’s birthday, which he wanted to celebrate with a pub-crawl…it had been just over a year since my last pub-crawl and I think it’s fair to say I had forgotten the basic advice of pacing oneself. It was a great night and I think that night grounded me back into the UK as I had spent the previous week complaining about lack of sunshine.

There’s also the tenatious issue of friends…I think it’s easy to assume that when you go away things back home won’t change too much…perhaps it’s being naïve…but I really didn’t expect that many changes in my friends. Change is by no means bad…in most of my friends, they were welcome changes but in some others there were surprising changes…so it’s something you have to deal with when you come back, whether you like it or not! I think if anything, by going abroad, you get to know your real friends much better and they’re ultimately the ones who make you feel at home! You guys/gals know who you are and hopefully you know how grateful I am J

Other than that, coming back is a bit like going abroad…had to go through the rigmarole of finding a place to stay, sorting out courses for this year and the usual finance issues that beseige students during the summer. I was lucky enough to get a job at the yellow duckmarine in Liverpool and that certianly paid off quite a few bills!

Overall, similar to my first week in California…shaky beginnings which will no doubt change to humble surroundings!!!

Finishing up in UCSB

It has been a while hasn’t it since I last made contact with you, my avid followers?! Having abandoned my promise of logging my last days in California, I’m typing now, wishing I had continued it. It’s been just over 2 months since I got back to the UK, and I cannot even begin to explain how weird it feels being back on the island I call “home”. But before I start about coming home, I think it’s best to reflect on my year abroad in it’s entirety.

My time in California had shaky beginnings as per the earlier blogs, but the year in all has been nothing but pure bliss. Since coming back, I realised I didn’t go for the study abroad experience with expectations as such. It was more about developing myself as someone who can adapt to whatever situation I find myself in. So if that counts as an expectation, then I think I’ve definitely ticked that particular box. Other than that, making some amazing friends along the way, experiencing the californian way of living, the traveling, the biking and the randomness that is so inexplicably part and parcel of studying abroad were additional extras that made the experience so much more unique and enjoyable.
After coming back and being asked by friends and family, what were the highs and lows…I usually respond “read the blog or see the pictures” 😉 and in honesty there are too many highs and too few lows to list. When you look back, it’s always easier to remember the highs of cali life and most of them involve a particular situation, or a wonderful place that I travelled to but at the same time some of the highs are just random events, shared memories or mundane day to day things that may not seem that interesting. Such events include my trips to San Francisco, Yosemite, Chicago but also events like watching my first meteor shower and then enjoying a good hot chocolate in the company of my best friends, or even while cycling along the coastal route and being lucky enough to spot dolphins jumping in and out of the pacific. There’s also the mundane things like enjoying a frozen yoghurt from Sweet Alley with my flatmate Nicola while having one of our weird and wonderful discussions that would probably be deemed inappropriate by others…I have to use a quote from Up! and those who have seen it will understand “It might sound boring, but I think boring stuff is the stuff I remember the most”. As for the lows, they don’t matter and I can’t say I can think of any that caused any particular grief.
The experience was just too special and I imagine it would be completely different if I ever did it again. The psychologist in me is trying to account for all the factors that would have to stay constant to make the experience similar, and as you can imagine there are too many factors. With hindsight, you’d think you could do things differently but we all know what happened in the Butterfly effect and those that are not familiar with the film, just consider chaos theory…i.e. small differences in the initial condition of a dynamical system may produce large variations in the long term behaviour of the system.

The experience as such is for everyone! I’m not a fan of using phrases like “developing a global perspective” as they are semantically ambiguous and yes yes…one of you are thinking of commenting “your face is semantically ambiguous” 😉 but joking aside, it’s difficult to explain what a global perspective is. But if global perspective means getting to know people from all over the world, living a different way of life, experiencing a different culture, learning to manage everything by yourself, adjusting to a different academic system and not complaining/talking about weather…then I can’t think of one person who wouldn’t benefit from participating in a year abroad! The sheer thrill in exploring a new place, discovering the nuances that make the culture and people so different, paying attention to cultural ambiguities like “jay-walking”, challenging yourself to do better in multiple choice exams  and even just not having to prepare for the conundrums of variable weather make the whole experience worth it!

So I’ll end by saying who knows what a study abroad experience will do for you…

Day 21, 20, 19

This is not going well at all!

Day 21

Started off with HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my brother and was followed by Extravaganza, an amazing music festival which was the highlight of today!!! Music from Super Smash Bros (not that good), Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (amazing band!), Chromio (crap!) and Drake (complete crap, although a girl flashed him, and she did have something to flash I guess!). I can’t really describe the atmosphere at this place. It felt like a mini-Glastonbury, although I haven’t been to Glastonbury but I think it would be similar just with a better list of bands! People smoking everything from cigarettes to weed, cramped in a small space with everyone pushing and shoving to get to the front and just generally trying to avoid people’s BO. First time I’ve done any of this, excluding the weed/cigarettes and it was good fun!!! Not one of those only in Cali moments, but certainly something everyone has to experience at least once! What’s more, I actually heard a band playing live knowing nothing about them and really liking them. Edward Sharpe and his group are legend!

I should just note that what I typed about day 22 is partially a lie as I ended up staying quite late with Josh at some random party with neon lights and things. Got quite tipsy and woke up the next morning with no hangover! Go me! For those of you who don’t know me, I can’t drink that much anyway and after the second round I’m usually out and tipsiness is usually not good! Anyway, after the sun stroke from Extravaganza and general tiredness I decided to hit the sack early on that night.

Day 20

Again, boring day with nothing special. It was work day and with a early start, I decided to make an attempt at typing up my critical review. Can’t say I got very far before distractions started, but not bad either. Had a clear idea of what to write about as well as the level of analysis needed. So spent most of the day doing that. Can’t say I noticed any nuances except everyone dressed for winter, just cause the weather had dropped by 5 degress…ridiculous…we brits know how it’s done 😉 I also caught up with my friend Amy after a long time for a frap at Starbucks! How atypically American! But we needed that catch up…we had grown sick of our ritualized 3 sentence conversation “Hi…How are you?” etc. at the library. So that was good…also a 2 mile run was a nice bonus to end the tiring day of intellectual activity.

Day 19

Again a boring day as there was lots of work to be done. Posted things for sale on Craigslist and attempted to plan packing of bags. I also consulted Virgin Atlantic on costs of a third bag. Basically planning ahead for my reluctant departure 😦

Spent more time studying and then built everything up to 9pm. Again 24! What an episode! But can’t be bothered typing about that…show’s getting too much publicity anyway! What I will go on about is how greatful I am to Michelle for giving me the book “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon. An amazing illustration of Aspergers. Agreed the emphasis did show too much meta-cognition that may not be as active in someone with Aspergers, but still a very good book with a lovely message. So thanks to Michelle for giving me the book for my birthday and a pat on my own back for finishing it despite all the other reading left 😀

Day 25, 24, 23, 22

I told you! It’s just not me to record every day…too many visual stimuli as well as too much work and fun to keep up with!

Day 25 has to get a mention as it was my flatmate’s birthday! Despite having an exam and various other things to do, we, as in me and our common friends had organised this surprise dinner for her. But as ever, she was late! But being the good friends that we are…we waited while she staggered for dinner with too much Sake and beer. Nora had made this amazingly healthy pizza while I had dreamt up the idea of cinna-bread pizza as a birthday cake! I decided to annoy her by buying candles that can’t be blown out easily! She kept blowing and they kept coming back to life…serves her right for being late 😉 If I had typed this up earlier, I guess I would say, I hope she enjoys the plan…but given the event has come and gone like most events and with the knowledge that she loved the whole evening, I was content with my ability to co-ordinate on some level 😀

The day did have a slightly sad bit of news, which has to be said for my own memory. My 6 month old second cousin passed away on 11th May. I had met her and played with her during my visit to Chicago and the news that I received while listening to some tripe about Border-line personality disorder,  was just inexplicably shocking. There is so much that one can say about the nature of life, that even philosophers haven’t quite come up with an eloquent way of verbalising the fragility of it. But I guess, that’s where the “rub” is. If there was an answer to the issue of the human condition, whether it be some kind of philosophical/religious/psychological/neurobiological explanation, life would be boring – don’t you think?

So day 25 was tough!

Day 24 may as well not count as I spent all of it revising and having finished revision treated myself to a the thai bistro place 😛 so doesn’t really count for much! I should just mention, the seemingly odd bits of Cali life – expressiveness of guys. Please don’t take this the wrong way and yes I realise I’m a guy myself, but Californian guys really do seem to be quite expressive about their “feelings”. I know how odd this sounds, but seriously when you hear a guy complaining about how harsh his girlfriend is and how annoying she is, without being drunk and quite literally bitching being her back…I couldn’t help but laugh! I mean, I can’t imagine any of my friend back in the UK talking that much and more importantly in the whiny tone…grrh!!!

Day 23 was the day of the midterm exam! Should I bore you with the details of midterm…I think not…but can I complain about how difficult it was…almost definitely! It wasn’t actually too bad, but some of the wording on MCQs was slightly ambiguous. But having finished the midterm, I decided to embark on a bike ride to Trader Joes! Just another Sainsbury-like place which is in fact much better than Albertsons! I splurged on good and quite cheap food like Mandarin chicken, noodles, maple and pecan cluster cereal etc. This blog could become very foody, so I risk suffering cognitive dissonance if I continue to talk about food. Point is, it sucks it took me that long to shop there! After that, I went over to Amanda’s place so that she could give me a hand with Photoshop. By God, she’s good! I was thoroughly impressed by the way she created the layers and made the perfect EAP photo that I’ll be sharing soon enough…just a few more corrections! I should point out this photoshop tutorial took just over 3 hrs and was followed by Nora’s delicious Rhubarb crumble as well as the movie “Amilie”. Somehow, Amilie reminded me of Harold Crick in “Stranger Than Fiction”…I would like to explain how but that could take ages and the it would probably be considered as a deviation from the aims of this blog. Then again a lot of what I’ve typed has deviated grossly! So let’s not add to more deviations!

Day 22 – Well today, typed this blog 😉 But had a nice morning with gym, biking and a few more healthy bits and bobs. Is it a phase? Do we like having on and off healthy periods?! One more quark of Cali life, you are certainly going to become more vain as you spend more and more time amongst the bliss of amazingly “fit” people here! It is the LA effect and a lot of people do suffer from Anorexia/Bulimia so be careful…but just thought I’d point out, that people may not be as perfect as they seem! Anyway, back to today…not a whole lot…went for our ritualized coffee hour, enjoyed catching up with Amir and various others (sorry others!) and came home for an early night as tomorrow’s EXTRAVAGANZA!

Day 26

Well Monday morning usually marks the beginning of a new week – generally when people’s minds fantasise about their upcoming day or even cling on to the final moments of their dreams during the morning rush…as for me, I just lay there in bed pondering on whether to wake up now or later. The beauty of having Mondays off is un-describable! Although I imagine, it’s only because I’m a student this is the case. I imagine, some of you are thinking “being a student and having Monday off does not equal less work”, and you maybe right….but doesn’t change the fact that I can wake up at 9am instead of the usual 7am 😀

Sorry…I’ll stop gloating about my mondays off, actually I’ll go one gloat further and say my mondays have been off for the past three quarters so beat that 😉

Right, back to today! Spent the morning revising for my Cultural Psychology mid-term exam that’s on Thursday. My last ever mid-term! As relieved as I am of having no more midterms, I have a feeling I’ll miss them once my final year starts. The idea of having an exam at the end of the year seems quite daunting to be honest! Anywho, the revision was followed by a seminar on Social Cognition and formalisation of intention in psycholinguistics. Yes sounds quite technical and unsurprisingly it was one of the most difficult seminars to follow. But simply put, Ray Jackendoff was examining intention amongst various other things in relation with philosophy and psychology. Quite an interesting lecture given my own interest in language. But some simplification would have been nice 🙂

Since then, more revision, packing some things to send to various people and let’s not forget birthday preparation for my wonderful flatmate 🙂 In case you’re reading this, I can’t/won’t expand! Also, one of the few things that’s been scheduled into my timetable has been the TV programme 24. They’re probably getting some more press for me saying that, but by God, it’s good! There is a chance that it appeals only to guys but I’m sure there are a bunch of gals who enjoy it. If I chose to apply the availability heuristic, my flatmate (gal) doesn’t find it at all engaging, therefore less gals find it entertaining?! How so hopelessly flawed is human rational?!

As for these routine nuances that you get used to, but I paid attention to…hmm…well it seems quite normal now, but I remember being surprised by people going surfing and managing to hoist the surfboard on their bike and literally biking to the beach with their surfboard in hand. It makes complete sense, but it’s one of those vivid moments that will strike you only the first time you see it…after that it’ll seem common-place. I suppose the first time you see it, the thought will be “I want to do that”, possibly followed by “Wouldn’t see that in Glasgow (and possible not even UK)”.

Day 27

Hmm…gosh it’s quite difficult to write an entry for everyday. Especially today, when I knew there wouldn’t be much to say as it was study/catchup/revise day. No randomness, not a lot of fun…just studying. But anywho, good time to clarify certain things, entries everyday are not because I’m counting down! Trust me when I say, I would love to stay for a month or two longer doing a research/internship thing here, but due to issues well beyond my control I can’t 😦

So an entry everyday is with the intent of remembering the little moments/nuances of California that you take for granted, or habituate to or simply don’t notice. This is the point where you guys are like…so…what seemingly obvious thing did you notice today! Well given the time, that I’m typing this, I’m actually still in the library (like 9:30pm) and one of the things that you’d never see in the Glasgow Library, or let’s be pedantic…one of things I’ve never noticed is everyone coming to study in pyjamas. I wouldn’t say I’m against it, but I’m certainly a supporter of domain specific habits. So if I did study with pyjamas I would imagine, I would be likely to sleep…but…each to their own 🙂

Otherwise, I could bore you with all the pdf files I’ve read and point out quite a few cultural disparities…but I’m not that mean 😉 However this cover of the Snow Patrol song “Chocolate” certainly captured the summer mood today in the library, or maybe it was just me seeking inspiration for my critical review!