hello again Scotland

Although sometimes I still miss US it’s soooo good to be back in Glasgow ! It’s been almost a month since I came here so I already got used to it again. I’m too busy right now to ponder over my past year much… I just found the flat (I was staying at my friends place for a while). A good advice for everyone returning to Scotland – start looking for an apartment as soon as possible, don’t leave it till September. I have the impression that there are much more students here than before and finding a place very close to the uni seems almost impossible.

Regarding the classes… I find studying in US more stressful. Here, we don’t have that much pressure upon us, such as midterm exams, homeworks, ect. It’s bit difficult not to procrastinate as there are not as many deadlines. But, on the other hand, I’m a very lazy person, so you maybe won’t have problems with adjusting back to educational system in Glasgow.

If you have any doubts about UIUC, just send me an email or drop by to study abroad fair –  i’ll be there to answer all your questions!



Home: Dark mornings and Broken Brollies

If I absolutely had to sum up why I value my exchange experience into 3 over-generalised and over-simplified, insubstantial main reasons for studying abroad which can never express the fun had while away and the variety and depth of what one gains from going, I’d have to say……

1) Getting to know a new place – culture, politics, food, people, literature, food, music, language, food – EVERYTHING.
2) Getting to make new friends from new places – amongst them, amazing people who are as curious and enthusiastic as yourself.
3) Gaining an understanding of the global perspective of your academic subject – AND YOUR LIFE.

And if there were 3 things I was forced to perhaps suggest you be aware of while away but which by no means should cause you to even consider not going on exchange, I’d have to say…..

1) You might think you don’t fancy any of the things mentioned in the three points above. (By the way, if so, you’re wrong! Just do it, you’ll see.)
2) Your normal academic career path (carefully and systematically constructed by your department at Glasgow) will be interrupted. This might cause a slight disadvantage due to the lack of a coherent framework of learning that your peers have experienced; but equally, or more so, you’ll have a different perspective on your subject than the rest of your year and you’ll have taken courses that none of them even know exist! You’ll also be experienced in dealing with being on a slightly different plane of thought from your classmates because you did it while abroad anyway!
3) No, sorry there are only two.

To be frank, the hardest part of the experience is coming home! Answering that question they always ask ‘How was it?’ (how on earth are you supposed to sum up and entire year of living and learning into the appropriately sized sound bite that people seem to expect?); reading the miserable, fear-mongering newspapers idiosyncratic of our dear Great Britain; noticing, through a new lens and with a touch of sadness, the segregation of ethnic communities (self imposed or otherwise); reluctantly handing over that hard-earned tenner, which would feed you for a week elsewhere, for a mere forty minute train journey; stepping out into the nipping scottish wind and rain in the dark at only 4pm with the same thought shivering through you from your core – ‘I could be sprawled on a beach drinking a beer that cost me 40p.’.

In conclusion:

Overall, I would say that my year in Hong Kong met my expectations. That is, as expected, I learned and experienced things beyond what I could have imagined! Studying abroad is everything it promises to be. No matter what you experience, it is new and exciting. It broadens your horizons, it improves your confidence, your understanding of yourself in your position on this globe, your awareness of the extent of variation in modes of life that exist on this globe, your understanding of others, and your lust for exploring all those things further. Out of necessity you will unknowingly jump hurdles that in retrospect seem too high for the little, lesser you that embarked upon such a brave endeavour. And the you which has emerged will look back in awe and with pride, now secure in the knowledge that any hurdle ‘too high’ can be vaulted with ease…… too verbose?
Ok, you’re gona huv a bloody gid time wi aw yer new pals oan the beach an in pubs n that n maybe see some histry or art or sumthin n aw. Culture, ken. Whit ye sayin yid rathur stay in Glesgeh in this god-awfu’ weathur wi’ freezin toes n ears n yer brolly gettin knocked aboot tae the point o’ breakin ivry secont day? Eh?


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 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHtAwQXVsuk , 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.