On Exchange: The Glasgow Diaries

[C]onfession: I have never left North America, so I figured it was time to go out and explore the world, starting with an exchange to Scotland.

Because Scotland is an English speaking country, I figured this would be a good place to dip my toes before jumping right in and becoming a world traveler. However, with this being said, sometimes it was difficult for me to understand the Scots. Glasgow, where I am staying, is beautiful. There is so much history in the buildings, and an abundance of hidden side streets leading to other little squares of shops and pubs. Because of this maze-like setting, I feel as though even with four months to spend here, I still won’t see everything!

From left to right: Laura Sewell, Rachel Robinson and Amanda Just on a weekend getaway to London, England.

From left to right: Laura Sewell, Rachel Robinson and Amanda Just on a weekend getaway to London, England.

Nothing could have prepared me for the amount it rains in Glasgow. However, the people here make up for the gloomy days. Everyone I have met has been extremely friendly and helpful. Canadians are definitely a well-liked group in Scotland. The Scottish way of life appears to be very relaxed. Shops close before 7 p.m. and university classes never run past 5 p.m. They believe in a strong work-life balance, with emphasis on the “life” portion.

A big difference I’ve noticed is that families are more likely to eat out at a local pub or nearby restaurant than stay in for a home cooked meal. This can make finding a place to eat around dinnertime quite the challenge. The food is fairly similar to that in Canada, but of course there are a few things that take some getting used to. Scottish staples include fish and chips, bright orange pop called Irn Bru, mushy peas literally cooked until they become a soup-like consistency, and of course beer. The national dish, Haggis, is a Scottish sausage made from sheep liver, lungs and heart, onion, oatmeal and seasonings that are all stuffed into a sheep’s stomach and simmered for a few hours. I can say I have had my fair share of all these local delicacies, and despite what most Canadians think, Haggis is quite delicious!

Classes at Glasgow Caledonia are hands on and exciting. The learning style tends to be more interactive and practical, as opposed to the lecture styles I am used in Ryerson’s retail management program. Professors engage students with weekly seminar tasks and discussions in a portion of each module. Being on exchange, we take three modules as opposed to the average five classes we would take at Ryerson. I find this creates a nice balance of class time and free time to sight see. I have learned so much about Scotland, its people and culture, and myself throughout this journey and I know there is only more to come as I continue to explore!