No more Scotland

So I’m not in Scotland anymore, it’s actually been 25 days since I came home. Of course, I only spent a bit more than half of those days in Norway, as I took off to Spain the 9th of June and stayed there for 10 days. That  is  why I haven’t written anything here in a while, as well as because I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue writing now that I’m not in Scotland anymore. I think I will, as I quite like writing and I have quite a lot of experiences form Scotland I want to write about. I just have to think of a new name for my blog. Because even though very few people (if any?) read what I write, I still have my pride and I want a fitting name. I also want to write about Spain and later about Hawaii when I go there later this summer. I could of course just keep a personal diary, but I’d like to share it, just in case anyone happens to be interested. I’ll probably be writing about travely stuff, going places and things like that, as I find that a lot more interesting than my daily life..but there’ll probably be the odd post about other things. Like books, books are awesome. Or so the plan is now anyway, it might change completely.

I miss Scotland, or to be specific, I miss the people there. I got used to living with some of my best friends, and having a bunch of other really good friends next door. It’s a large contrast to being here, where there are only 3 friends I still have contact with who live here, and during 15-16 days I’ve been home, 2 of them have been here for a whole of 3 days. Lonely? Not at all.

The last I “saw” of Scotland from the plane…clouds of course, as it rained that day (as usual)

On the positive side I got to see one of my friends from Scotland when I was in Spain last week, which was absolutely awesome! Skype calls also help, as well as facebook messages and such, but I still miss them a lot. Luckily I will see another friend in Hawaii and a French friend will come visit me in August, I’m really looking forward to both. But I still just want us all to go back to Scotland (or wherever really) for another year, not just my close friends, but also those who were a part of our extended friend group. I think I suffer from post-study-abroad-depression. I’m probably not the only one.

I miss you guys ♥

Two weeks until departure – the end of an adventure

Today it’s exactly two weeks until I board the plane home to Norway (although I won’t actually be home until the day after, thanks to the cheapest ticket leaving me stranded at the airport in Oslo overnight because it arrives so late). The end of a bit more than 9 months living in Scotland. Sure, I was home over Christmas, for a whole month actually, but that was ok, because I knew I would come back to Scotland afterwards. When I go home in two weeks, I will probably not be back here for a long time. Which will be very strange, as I’ve been traveling regularly to Scotland the past year and a half before I moved here, thanks to my now-ex boyfriend. No more funny Scottish accents for me.

Ok, so I will be going home to do things like this, so it’s not like it will be that bad

There are negative sides to Scotland, as everywhere, and there has certainly been things I haven’t liked while being here. Such as some things I’m not entirely happy about at my university here. Or the ridiculous obsession with ID here. Or the huge focus on alcohol and getting wasted all the time. Or the way all most a lot more girls than I’m used to seems to think they have to wear a ton of make-up, 15-20 cm high heels and really, really, really short dresses every time they go out. It’s kinda sad to see them (unsuccessfully) try to walk , especially late at night when they’re often pretty drunk wasted as well.  Or, of course, the weather. Although that isn’t as bad where I live as it’s rumored to be. It completely lives up to its reputation other places though.

Despite all that I’ve come to like Scotland and living here quite a lot. Ok, it’s partly because so many things is cheap for me, or at least cheaper than I’m used to. The scenery is pretty awesome as well, and I quite like Stirling, as it’s about the right size, not super close to any big place, but not that far away either, and how it’s surrounded with nature. Sort of anyway, like when I walked to the top of Dumyat. The real reason is the people though, both my wonderful flat mates and fantastic friends and the people here in general. Scottish people can seem sorta scary at times, not to mention hard to understand if you aren’t used to the accent, but they’re generally really nice. Some of it is probably the British politeness (which I think is a bit over the top sometimes, like saying sorry when someone bumps into you), which I’ve grown to like a lot more than I did originally. Of course, people most places are as nice, it’s just sometimes less visible. Like in Norway, were we can often seem rather cold, impolite and unfriendly for people who are not used to us. Or so I hear anyway.

My wonderful flatmates… Ok, not really, but I’ll miss seeing these guys as well.

What I will miss the most is my friends, in particular my amazing flat mates, who I’ve grown rather close to in the past 9 months. How can you not, when you live together for that long in a foreign country? I know I’m leaving soon, and the first of my flat mates is leaving in just two days, but I haven’t really realized it yet. Not on the emotional level, it’s just empty when I think of it. It’s like I assume she will only be gone for a few days before coming back. Of course I will be seeing them again, the first one in July when I go to Hawaii for 3 weeks, where she lives, but it will never be the same of us living together and studying in a foreign country. I’ll also miss the other friends I’ve made here, particularly the ones living in neighbouring flats, as some of them has become as close friends as my flat mates. I hope it won’t be too long until I see them again.

This past year (a year sounds cooler than 9 months) has been one of the best of my life

I’ll miss Scotland

University of Stirling – The Bad

This is the second of two posts about my experiences and opinions of studying at University of Stirling. Read about the positive sides here

The two main teaching buildings, and yes, they are pretty big, and so it takes time to get from one to the other. The small coloured dots by the leftmost one are cars.

There are two main teaching buildings, which are too far apart for getting quickly from one to the other. Add the fact that both buildings are large and relatively confusing, in particular one, let’s call it the C building, which has 4 floors, a number of corridors and rooms with little or no logic on naming said rooms and corridors, and you have a lot of people being late to classes all the time.  If you know your room number you can generally find the right floor, and after wandering about for a bit you will eventually find the right rooms, but even when you learn where the rooms you use are, you will still usually be late if you have a class right after/before in the other building. It’s more or less impossible to find a map of the buildings, showing where the different rooms are, which is rather stupid as it would be really helpful for every new student and during the exam time, as exams are often in rather random locations. But hey, it’s so much more fun to let the students wander around for ages being confused, right?

In general the library, and to some extent the university, seems like they’re trying to hard to be great. They try make it all seems a lot cooler than it really is. Like the library which was redecorated not long ago looks nice and seem great when it’s described, but it’s not as useful for daily use. Too few computers, few group rooms, generally a lot less space than needed for the number of students. Of course there are some great things about it, but it just seems like they’re trying too hard.  Especially the number of computers in the library is a problem for me. It’s always, always really busy during daytime, and it can easily take 20-30 minutes to find a free computer. Which is particularly annoying when you only want to use the computer for 10 minutes anyway, say to print something. Sure there are some computer labs as well, but it’s difficult to find out when they are used for classes and they are in pretty random locations, so if you don’t know they’re there, you’ll generally not know of them. And even if you do know, it’s difficult to know when they are used for classes or are closed for other reasons.

My lectures timetable for this semester. I also had practicals and tutorials which doesn’t show here. There is basically no explanation of how to understand the location of the classes, so you either have to figure it out by logic/trying and failing or have someone explain it to you.

I mentioned the confusing buildings right? Well, it doesn’t make it easier when the same classes are spread out in different rooms. Such as one subject I have this semester is 6 hours a week (3 lectures, 2 practicals, 1 tutorial), and I have those 6 classes in 6 different rooms. Sounds fun,doesn’t it?

The website is next to useless. Ok, not completely useless maybe, but not far from it. Sure there are lots of pretty pictures and boasting about what the university/students/people at the university has achieved lately, but really, hardly anyone cares. What most students or prospective students are interested in is things like timetables, map of buildings to know where to go, where to find the office of a particular department, exactly which classes you can take, how the grades convert if you’re an international student, and number of other purely practical questions, many which are difficult to find the answer to. But no, of course that’s not important to make it easy to find out these things…let’s just talk about our publications and other uninteresting things instead! This does seem to be a common affliction of university websites though, so it’s not just in Stirling. It also gets slightly better when you are enrolled in the university, as you then get access to a portal where it’s at least a bit easier to find what you are looking for.

This is more of a personal preference, but I don’t really like most of the classes I’ve had this year. Sure, most have interesting parts, but most also have really boring lecturers and even more boring assignments. Not to mention most of the assignments being absolutely useless, where it seems like there is more focus on quoting and referencing enough and in the right way than on the actual content.  Fortunately at least some of the assignments were actually useful, in the sense that I actually learned something from it. I’m actually looking forward to starting classes again back in Norway, as I know the majority of what I’ll be doing there is actually useful in some way, even though it might be boring at times.

 

Have you experienced the useless-university-homepage-syndrome? 

Walking to the top of Dumyat Hill

Stirling lies in the borderlands between the highlands and the lowlands of Scotland, so even though the actual city is mainly flat (with the exception of the castle hill), there are several hills nearby. One of the tallest ones being Dumyat, even though it’s not actually that tall, being just over 400 meters high. It’s rather close to both the Wallace Monument and the University of Stirling. I walked to the top of it with a  friend when it was grey, rainy and I had a cold. Great idea I say.

Cairn at the Dumyat Hill summit, with Stirling and Wallace monument in the background

We started nearby the golf course at the university, and found a trail there which seemed to go in the right direction. It did, sort of, with some extra steep parts (yay), and we eventually found the “main” trail. The part after that was easier, although there were a few more really steep parts, as well as the wind getting stronger the higher we got. I needed a lot of breaks to catch my breath, but eventually we reached the top, and the wind was insane! It was so strong (and cold) I felt like it would almost blow me away, and I’m not exactly a tiny person. And after sitting on the least windy side of the cairn marking the top for about 10 minutes, eating some food, I could no longer feel my fingers. Needless to say, the decent was a lot quicker, it being downhill and all, and us being rather frozen. All in all, it took about 2-3 hours, although I’m sure it could be done a lot quicker by someone more fit and less ill.

Somewhere on the way to the top of the hill...and no trees at all

The walk is actually really nice,  even with the really steep parts, and the view just gets better and better the higher up you get. When you reach the top, it’s fantastic, both towards Stirling and the surrounding area, but also the other way, with (seemingly) endless hills in the distance. When we went there, some of them were capped with snow, and it reminded me of mountains in Norway. Although in Norway there would be trees a lot higher up. Most of Dumyat, excepting the very beginning, has no trees, just grass and other small plants. And rabbits, there’s always rabbits.


Have you been on a hill or mountain? Did you enjoy it? 

University of Stirling – The Good

I’ve been studying at University of Stirling since September, and so I’ve some opinions of what I like or dislike about it. I decided to share what I think, this post about what I like, and another about what I dislike.  

All universities have a castle, right?

First of all, it’s in a really nice location, it’s central in Scotland and has pretty good train/bus connection, so it’s easy to get to most places. The campus is beautiful (except the buildings),  there is a lake, hills in the background, flowers and wildlife such as rabbits, squirrels, ducks, swans and other birds. It’s a really big contrast to many universities in the middle of big cities where there  are hardly anything green at all. Oh, and there is a castle on campus, a small one, but a castle nonetheless.

It’s a good university for sports, with more than 40 sports clubs, a gym, various playing fields and a golf course. Personally I joined one of the two karate clubs, something I have never tried before, but which has been great!

Maybe this is common in Britain, but it seems like there is a lot of focus on making everything accessible for anyone at the university. Or maybe it’s just more visible here, with power assisted door openers, signs showing where it is disabled entrance, which there is to basically everywhere. Last semester the entrance to one of the buildings was completely redone, to make it easier for wheelchair users to enter the building. Of course, this brings the question of how much resources should be used for a very small minority? Don’t take me wrong, of course everyone should have the opportunity to study, but isn’t it a little unfair when so much effort is put into making something for a tiny minority, something that I have so far never even seen anyone use? Couldn’t some smaller, simpler solution have been found, instead of almost redesigning the whole entrance? And used the rest of that money for something that is beneficial for more people? Like more computers in the library.

The university buildings from the top of the Wallace Monument

Most people have very few classes per week, I have 11 this semester, and I had 9 last semester, and that is almost twice as much as most of my friends here. It seems to be more common to have 5-6 hours per week, depending on what you study. This is great as it gives quite a bit of independence, although it might not be the most efficient way of teaching. As you are supposed to study a lot outside the classes, but few people do even half as much as they are supposed to.

One thing I particularly like is to be able to influence how your timetable to some extent. Not the lectures, but for the practicals and tutorials you get to pick from different choices of time/day.

In general the buildings and teaching rooms are very much acceptable, if not always perfect. With things such as projectors and computer access everywhere. If the lecturer is good, the classes are good (duh). The grading system is fair, anonymous and with two different graders for each paper.

The library is really good in some respects and not as good in others. The opening times are great, as it’s open every day until midnight, and until 2 am in exam periods. In particular I also like the system for loaning/extending books, as it’s easy and practical, and the movable shelves. They make it feel like it’s Hogwarts. Ok, not really, as Hogwarts had moving staircases,  paintings with crazy knights and fat ladies, ghosts, screaming books and way, way cooler library than the one here. But one can dream, the movable shelves are pretty cool anyway.

All in all I have really enjoyed studying here, although much more because of the people and the location than the classes. I sorta dislike most of my classes. Which is sorta ironic when I’m here to study.

Where did/do you study, or where would you like to go? Did you like it there?

Stirling: Wallace Monument

Wallace Monument

If you’ve seen Braveheart, you should recognize the name William Wallace, the guy who fought against the English for the freedom of the Scots. Now, the movie is far, far from historically correct, but Wallace actually lived in Scotland and he did fight against the English at the end of the 13th century, and the battle he is most famous for took place here in Stirling. The battle of Stirling bridge, where Wallace and the Scots won against the English. Because of his relatively successful fighting against the English, Wallace became one of the Scottish heroes, and thus it was decided to build a monument in his honour around 140 years ago. It was long debated where to build this great monument, and it was eventually decided to build it in Stirling, on a hill not far from where he won his great victory seven centuries ago.

The monument does look pretty cool, and it can be seen from really far away, as much of the land around is very flat. I personally use it as a landmark when I’m on the train sometimes to see when it’s time to get off.  Mostly if I’m on the train alone and is bored.

View towards river Forth and Stirling from the top of the Wallace Monument

I’ve only been inside and on the top of the actual monument once, but I’ve been on the hill where the monument stands 4-5 times so far, as it’s a nice (if steep) walk, and it’s pretty nice view from there as well, particularly when it’s nice weather.

I’d say the monument is worth a visit, even though it’s perhaps a little more expensive than it should be, as there isn’t enough interesting things in the tower to justify 6-7 pounds in my opinion. There is a rather nice room, on the first “floor” where you get to learn the real story of William Wallace. It’s very interesting, but other than that the only other really interesting thing is the view from the top. But then, the view really, really is worth it. It’s absolutely beautiful from the top, and you can see so far. I think I would pay again, just to see the view from the top, even if it means climbing the 246 steps a second time.

Have you seen Braveheart or know about William Wallace from somewhere else?

Sunburns in Scotland..in March!

This doesn't count as clouds, not in Scotland

Scotland is known for being cold, cloudy, windy and rainy,  which in many cases is true. Even in the summer the average temperature is 15-16 degrees (Celsius to be specific), which is pretty cold for summer. However, last week, in March, it was no rain, and barely any clouds for well over a week. Now, that does happen sometimes, but this time it was actually warm. Warm enough for people to get sunburns. In Scotland. In MARCH. Actual sunburns. It was 18-20 degrees here for most of that time, if not more, as it felt even warmer in the sun. It was similar weather and temperature in other parts of northern Europe during the same time, but still, this is Scotland, and it rarely gets that warm here even in July!

I also went to take pretty pictures outside, like this one of the reflection in the river

Of course, I was mostly stuck inside avoiding  working on assignments I had conveniently forgotten about until it was getting very close to the deadlines. Bad timing there.

Then the weather went back to being normal, volatile Scottish weather, with rain, clouds and cold temperatures. Yesterday it even snowed and hailed here, and the hills in the distance are capped by snow. I’d like to think this weather won’t last long either, but I don’t really believe it.

 

Anyone else enjoyed the unexpected, nice weather in the end of March?