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An Introduction to Glasgow: from the Perspective of an Exchange Student

The Glasgow semester has already ended, so it is time to take stock.

Arrival

This was not the first time I have studied in an English-speaking country, but … my knowledge of the English language actually did not prepare me well for my life in Glasgow. From the very first minute of being in Scotland, I realised I could hardly understand the local accent. As an exchange student, my four months in Scotland were a struggle to complete even the most mundane task. The first incident occurred shortly after landing…

Having landed at Glasgow Airport, I got off the plane, grabbed my luggage and breezed through the customs. So far, so good; Andrey: 1, Glasgow Airport: 0. GLOCAL, here I come! Next was boarding the bus – my first challenge. I remember how I tried to explain to the bus driver that I was going to Glasgow and that I had already bought a ticket from the ticket machine outside the arrival gates. This was surprisingly difficult! What I did not realise was that I had in fact bought a train ticket for twice the cost of the normal bus fare, and tried with that ticket use a bus.

For what felt like over ten minutes, the bus driver, a friendly local man with really thick Glaswegian accent, tried to explain to me, a foreigner, that with this ticket I could not go by bus and I had to go to the train. He tried to explain, but without success. Two IELTS certificates and years of studying English were completely useless when communicating with the inhabitants of this cold, but quite friendly country. In the end, the driver simply stopped trying to explain my error to me and, from the goodness of his heart, allowed me to get onto the bus. This was the first time I had experienced Scottish hospitality, and made me realize that the locals were quite pleasant, even though they are very difficult to understand. A few months later, I learned the truth that most Scots speak Scotts, a mixture of English and Gaelic.

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Weather

In Scotland, the weather is beautiful. It is cold and windy here, and it is rare that clouds linger for long overhead, so it was often quite clear and sunny. Cold and clear, the weather is perfect for the mind to work.  This was the perfect complement to the University of Glasgow itself, which will forever remain in my memory as one of the best.

Back home I studied in one of the biggest universities in Russia, where nearly 25 000students study. It is an old university with a rich history, but, unfortunately, the equipment, materials, and buildings are very old, and a lot of money is required for maintenance and renovation. The situation in the University of Glasgow was absolutely different – despite hosting the same number of students all the facilities were fully equipped. New high speed computers, stylish modern buildings,  huge, up-to-date laboratories. In the main building (Gilbert Scott building) built in 1451, (the same age as Christopher Columbus!), there were hundreds of computers, CCTV camera and other equipment. This great sense of history is combined with modern technologies, will stick with me forever.

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Classes

Despite  being familiar with most of the topics on the course, I really liked the approach to teaching, which is completely different ot my experience in Russia. Each lesson is, first of all, a discussion between students and teachers. The teachers constantly asked questions to the audience and everyone had the right to answer and express their opinions. This approach is extremely unusual for me, but I can honestly say that it makes you keep in tune and constantly follow the lesson. If you start to look at your phone a bit – that’s it, you instantly fall out of the general flow of the conversation. It also creates some an environment where students can assert, challenge and share their opinions with the class and their teacher, which is important for the development of everyone, so I sometimes forced myself to respond in public in a foreign language. As for my classmates, I will admit not all of them liked me, some seemed frankly chattier, but some were very successful and provoked deep conversations. I loved my economics classmates.

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Prices

I can also say that in Scotland, and particularly in Glasgow, everything is expensive compared to Russia. I rented a tiny room in a student residence at a price at which in Moscow, the most expensive city in Russia, I could live in my own 2-room apartment near the metro station. Food was twice as expensive, but for the locals it seemed like a normal price. There is such an economic indicator, the poorer the person, the higher the percentage of income spent on food, in Eastern Europe this figure is 30-35%, while in the United Kingdom people spend only 7-8%. However, for prices in the United Kingdom, Scotland is actually quite cheap, and Glasgow a paradise when compared to London!

Those words are just the drops in a big ocean of my thoughts about Glasgow…

Written by Andrey

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