Norwegian national day Scotland

The 17th of May is the Norwegian national day. It’s the date where we got our own constitution, in 1814, when we finally became free of Denmark, after being part of them for almost 400 years. Of course, we were then in a union with Sweden until 1905, but at least we were more free than we used to be.  We celebrate it every year, with children in primary and high school going in parades and singing national songs. Everyone dresses up, many in bunad, the national costume, and many watches the parade of the children. Afterwards there are usually games for children in most schools, and people generally eat good food, spend time with friends and family and celebrate. Of course, not everyone cares that much, or bother to join every year, particularly if you don’t have children or are in the stage between being a child and having children, but most people celebrates in some way.

Apparently there is a relatively big community of Norwegians in Scotland, or at least there were some sort of celebration in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. The largest one was in Edinburgh, where I went and met up with two other Norwegian friends, one who studies in Newcastle and one in Surrey. It was the first time I saw either of them in a while, so it was really nice to meet up again, and to actually speak Norwegian!

Typical of Scotland it was pretty awful weather however, with heavy and constant rain, as well as maybe 7-8 °C, which is not a very nice combination. We still went to the parade though, and so did quite a few other people, surprisingly many wearing their bunad. Made me wish I had mine here, so I could have worn it. It was a tiny band  in front, playing typical 17th of May marches and songs, and a lot of Norwegian flags. I wonder what the Scots and tourists thought, when they saw a bunch of people marching, everyone dressed up, with flags, singing songs and lots of umbrellas. Must have looked kinda strange.

Quite a few people..and umbrellas.

It wasn’t a very long parade, which I’m quite ok with, as it was so. much. rain. We followed it to the end, in the Princes Street Gardens by the Norwegian stone, where there were some speech and everyone singing the national song. That was pretty cool, standing in Scotland, in heavy rain, not being used to speaking Norwegian at all, and then hearing so many people singing this song together..I really enjoyed it and it made me feel all happy and, well, Norwegian again.

The Norwegian stone in the Princes Street Gardens, the women wearing bunad. And part of my umbrella. 

After that there were a short sermon and some more things happening afterwards, but as none of us are particularly Christian and we were pretty soaked by this point, we decided to retreat to a nice pub, where we spent the next 3-4 hours eating a good dinner and talking a lot. Great way to end the day!

How is your national day celebrated? Do you care much about it?


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? 

Isle of Iona

It’s just so cool!

Isle of Iona is officially my favourite place in Scotland. It’s a small island on the west coast, which you need to take two ferries to get to, first from Oban to an island called Mull, then drive across it to get to the ferry to Iona, but it’s worth it. It probably helps that it was really sunny the day I was there, but the island is so, so beautiful anyway, and so peaceful. It’s also where Christianity started to spread to Scotland, literally the place it started, which is really interesting. Essentially an Irish guy, who later became Saint Columba, went to Scotland and was given Iona, and started spreading the word of God in Scotland. Which does seem to have been relatively successful.

The Abbey of Iona is now restored and can be visited, as well as there are remains of a nunnery nearby the Abbey. There are some really nice carvings and decorations in the Abbey, and there are these huge stone crosses which are really cool. A lot of kings and other important people over the years are rumored to be buried there, but how much is actually true is hard to know.

From the highest point (which is not really that high) of Iona, Dun I,  you can see almost the whole island as it’s not very big, and  it’s very much worth the trip up. For example, sitting there and eating lunch with the amazing view is pretty great. There is also quite a lot of sheep on the island, and since I was there in spring, there were a lot of weeks-old lambs, and they were just adorable. I want one now.

Why, of course all the beaches in Scotland looks like this.

Being on the beach was by far the best part though.It was sunny, the sand was so white, the water was so clear and turquoise it didn’t look like Scotland at all. I went barefoot most of the time on the beach, and it was wonderful. The sand was warmed up from the sun, so it felt like summer to walk there, even though I had 3-4  layers of clothes on my upper body. Even the water wasn’t actually that cold. If I had a towel and some sort of swim wear, I would probably have gone for a (very, very) quick dip in the water. Too bad I didn’t. We spent most of the time at Dun I and afterwards at the beach, until we had to go to catch the ferry back. At that point we were all sun burnt to some degree…which is sort of cool when it’s in Scotland it happens. 

Where is your favourite place?

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?