Studying Abroad in Scotland – Scotland is a great location to study abroad; the country boasts high caliber universities, rich history, thriving nightlife, and dramatic natural landscapes.
And while it may not seem like the most exotic destination, if you are departing from America, there are many things you may learn studying abroad in Scotland, and this article has made available the important things you need to know to study abroad in Scotland.
1. You Have Loads of Options
Many people think of Scotland and only Edinburgh comes to mind. In fact, Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen, and St. Andrews are all great options for studying in Scotland. Each city has a unique vibe: Edinburgh is grand and historic, Glasgow is arty and edgy, Dundee is scenic and up-and-coming, Aberdeen is industrial and prosperous, and St Andrews is small, rural, and prestigious.
Even within each city, institutions vary: my alma mater, the University of Glasgow, is very different from the University of Strathclyde, Caledonian University, or the Glasgow School of Art, all within a couple of miles of each other. Have a good look at all the options throughout Scotland before making your choice, so you can find the one that best fits your interests.
2. You Need to Get Out of the Cities
The best part is that you don’t have to travel very far: in some cases, only an hours’ drive from any major city is enough to get you in the heart of the Scottish wilderness.
Wild camping is free and legal throughout the country, and it’s an opportunity you should absolutely not miss out on. Hiking ranges from quick lochside (lakeside) trails to iconic multi-day walks such as the West Highland Way or the John Muir Way.
You can also dedicate yourself to the art of “Munro-bagging”, i.e: climbing as many of Scotland’s Munros (mountains over 3,000 ft) as possible.
3. Enjoy Scotland’s Nightlife Responsibly
The Scottish are famed for their love of nightlife, and Scotland has some of the best pubs in the world. However, moderation is not always on the agenda, especially at university. Studying abroad may be the first time you’re able to drink legally, and it’s important to learn your limits and stick to them.
My best advice is to have fun, but not to try to keep up with any locals you might meet who are going a bit harder than you plan to.
4. There’s More to Scottish Food Than Haggis & Deep-fried Mars Bars
When you ask someone about Scottish foods, one of these two dishes will be mentioned to highlight the dire state of the country’s cuisine. And the truth is that both do have their part in Scottish culture.
Haggis is embedded in national tradition: Burns Night, an annual celebration of the poet Rabbie Burns, involves an elaborate ceremony of “Addressing The Haggis” with poetry and music.
It is also commonly found on burgers, pizzas, and breakfast sandwiches. As for deep fried Mars bars (Milky Way bars in the U.S.), they simply reflect the country’s insatiable drive to the batter and deep fry just about anything.
I will say that both haggis and deep-fried Mars bars are surprisingly tasty, and you should definitely try them.
5. Scottish People are the Undervalued Treasure of Scotland
You might think the countryside, castles, or culture are the most unforgettable parts of studying in Scotland, but you’ll be mistaken… it’s the Scottish people who really make Scotland and unforgettable place to live and study.
Scots are warm, welcoming, and exceptionally funny. As long as you have a good sense of humor, you’ll fit right in. Make an effort to meet and befriend locals at your university, or consider staying with a local family to immerse yourself fully.
6. Be Open to Discussions on Important Issues
Once you get to know a few Scots, you may find that there are some particular topics that always stir up discussion. One great example is soccer (call it football!): most cities have more than one soccer team and Scots are very passionate about their sports, so you’re sure to never be too far away from one debate or another.
Most Scottish people have strong opinions on some issues like this, and will probably enjoy sharing them with you — just avoid expressing a judgment until you know where they sit. Also, never, ever, call a Scottish person English
7. The Scottish University System Gives You a Lot of Freedom
In most cases, you are allowed to choose any combination of subjects and have control over the specific modules you take each term. This means you can do a joint degree in two completely separate subjects — I did Business and English Literature, an unusual combination that perfectly corresponded to what I wanted from my degree.
This freedom to tailor your degree to your exact interests and aspirations is one of the biggest advantages of the Scottish system compared to the English one.
8. Housing is Likely to be Big, Beautiful & Cold
Scottish cities, particularly Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen, are filled with Victorian tenement flats, which are popular with students. They are usually roomy and lovely but, as expected from old buildings, cold and creaky.
It’s part of the charm. Either prepare for high heating bills in the winter or stock up on blankets, sweaters, and warm socks. (Luckily Scotland has high-quality wool goods you can purchase which are up to the challenge of chilly Scottish winter weather.)
9. Prepare for the Weather
It rains a lot in Scotland, and it’s often windy. Locals learn to live with it — you will too. As a foreigner without the genetic makeup of a hardy highland dweller, it is wise to invest in a good-quality wind and rain-resistant coat.
On the other hand, everyone truly relishes warm sunny days in the summer, which makes them quite special. Nothing prepares you for the utter sense of joy and carelessness that takes over the country on one of these days — if you’re lucky, they will fall just after your exams.
10. Festivals Up the Wazoo
Another thing that will keep you enthralled while studying abroad in Scotland are all the festivals you have available right at your doorstep.
Edinburgh is the world’s leading festival city, so I’m going to pull something my mom would say and state, “I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ‘I’M BORED’ FROM ANYONE”! You’ll be able to choose from the International Festival, Film Festival, Jazz and Blues Festival, the Royal Military Tattoo, the Festival Fringe, and loads more events around the country.
One of my favorites was the infamous Edinburgh Christmas Market, with several strips of all different types of vendors, rides, mazes, and ice skating.
The most important reason to study in Scotland is by far the people. Scottish people are great, they can be a wee bit kooky, but that’s why I love them. At times they can come off somewhat cold, but it’s a coverup! They really do enjoy talking and having a good time once they get going.
Everyone I came into contact with while studying in Scotland was welcoming and always had so much to share with me. Even though the weather may not warm up too much, I promise you the people will!
Alright, you can not deny that a nice accent can make the heart instantly melt. There are so many differentiating cultures you will encounter while studying in Scotland. Even though Scottish may be a bit hard to understand since they have their own slang, it still sounds nice.
I definitely underestimated the thickness of the Scottish accent and how fast they speak at times, but you’ll get used to it (maybe); that’s half the fun of studying abroad in Scotland!
13. Main Resources
You heard right everybody, I did say sheep! I never realized my love for those fluffy little suckers until I made my way across the pond to study in Scotland. Wool is the main export of this beautiful country, so get ready to see them everywhere.
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