Our friend’s birthday was in June and we were struggling to think of somewhere fun, but affordable to go to. We decided that a day out to one of the Isles would be a great day trip! We left early in the morning to start our long trip to the Isle of Bute. First we took a train from Glasgow to Wemyss Bay
The morning seemed a bit dreary, but we persevered! We then took a ferry from Wemyss Bay to Rothesay on the Isle of Bute. Unfortunately it was so windy and rainy on the ferry that I didn’t manage to get any good pictures! Once we got into town, we took a walk around the castle and through the village. We walked all the way up a hill to get a good view of the island.
Our walk left us quite famished so we stopped in town to get the BEST FISH AND CHIPS EVER. But seriously it was so good. Amazing the difference when they use fresh fish! As we were sitting outside eating, the sun suddenly decided to come out! We grabbed an open top bus tour that took us all around the island. We saw some amazing sights!
After the tour, we settled in at a small brewery to have a pint before heading back home. All in all, it was a great way to celebrate a birthday!
So in case you didn’t know, Scotland doesn’t really have a summer. It lasts for about a week before going back to cool and rainy. So my friend and I decided to go on a hunt to find warm weather. We treated ourselves to a long weekend in Tenerife, in the Canary Islands. This is the go-to place for British holidayers so we were able to find some pretty good deals!
Strange beach with towers of stones
Our resort with a view of Mount Teide
This trip was a great way to get away from the Scottish weather! We had a great time and many piña coladas were had!
Just a quick post about another hike I went on! Whenever it’s a nice weekend, we’ve been trying to go for hikes outside of the city. First was the giant hill hike in Luss in October. We’ve done a river walk to the town of Milngavie a couple times now (and finally haven’t gotten lost!)
We had a stretch of nice weather in early May, so the crew headed out for another hike. This time it was an easy hill walk that started and ended at the town of Croy, northeast of Glasgow. This was our nerdy archaeology walk because it followed along the Antonine wall, highlighting several Roman fort ruins. It was an extremely pleasant walk, only about 6 miles with few hills. The views of the surrounding areas were beautiful and we couldn’t have asked for better weather. And, as always, there was dessert to be had at the end of the walk!
Okay okay I know it’s way past April now, but I’ve had a lot to do! Between all of this traveling, I’ve been writing a dissertation (in case anyone forgot that I was actually going to school, not just exploring the UK). BUT although it’s several months later, I just wanted to post a couple of fun things I did at the end of April!
I had a few days after my parents left to catch my breath before my next visitor came: my boyfriend. Since it was his first time in Scotland, we spent a lot more time exploring Glasgow and I got to show him all of my favorite hangouts. We also took two small trips, one weekend in Edinburgh and then a day trip to the Lochs.
We had a blast in Edinburgh, especially because the weather was amazing. Since I had
just been there two weeks before with my parents, I became our amateur tour guide. I took us all around my favorite spots around the city telling him some of the quirky stories about Edinburgh that I’ve learned over the past year. One of the best things about our first day in Edinburgh was that we scored FREE tickets to the Castle! We hadn’t intended to go inside because it’s a bit pricey, but we just got as close as we could when this lady (MVP of the trip) asked if we wanted her extra tickets. Um heck yes! SOOO we got to spend the afternoon exploring the Castle and getting awesome views of the city. Also the Castle sports some pretty awesome museums. Definitely worth a visit.
The next day we explored a bit further outside of the city which meant we did a TON of walking. We got up early(ish) and heading out to find a full Scottish breakfast because we needed our strength for the day! Our first task: to climb Arthur’s seat. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day for the hike. It never ceases to amaze me how gorgeous Scotland is when the sun finally comes out!
View of the bay
Looking up at Arthur’s seat from Duddingston
We climbed back down the far side of the hill and walking through the small town of Duddingston, taking a small break at the wildlife reserve. There were a bunch of wild birds, like grouse, ducks and swans (I kept my eyes on the swans; those guys are shady).
Then we walked back towards Edinburgh University and along Lothian road. I had read about the village of Dean in some travel blogs about Edinburgh and wanted to see the little town for myself. So we continued to walk that was until we reached the river Leith. The town was beautiful as promised and we took the Leith walkway until we reached Stockbridge. By this point, coffee and ice cream was much needed. After resting, we continued towards New Town, stopping along the way to see statues and houses of famous scientists. Finally we ended our long day with pleasant stroll through the Princes Street Gardens and went off to have a much deserved dinner and rest at my favorite Edinburgh restaurant, The Hanging Bat (honestly it’s awesome, mostly because it has a ton of beer on tap!)
On our last day in Edinburgh, we started out with the best breakfast at Cafe Class. Seriously it was incredible. Then we moseyed through the city for one last look around. We looked went down to Holyrood Palace and walked back up behind the Royal Mile,
checking out some of the old cemeteries along. Probably sounds strange, but we’ve always had a weird fascination with cemeteries especially here in Scotland because they have such huge gravestones and mausoleums. Finally it was time to head back to Glasgow.
We spent the rest of the week checking out all of the museums, breweries, and sites that Glasgow has to offer. The BF particularly like the Necropolis, except for the part where it started hailing. The days went by way too fast, but we had something fun planned for his last day in Scotland. We booked a small bus tour that went up through Loch Lomond National Park, Inveray, Oban, Glencoe and various castles along the way. We saw so many amazing places along the way. We were both so glad to have gotten a little taste of the highlands.
At the very end of the day, just when we were starting to get sad that our time together was almost up, we saw the most amazing rainbow outside. It was just a perfect little reminder of how happy our trip had been. I’m so lucky to have gotten time, as short as it was, with my partner in crime.
April has gone by in a whirlwind! The time between the end of classes and Easter is our spring break here at Glasgow Uni (although don’t be fooled; it’s not as much of a break as a time to do hw). But I, of course, figured I could do my school work and get in traveling at the same time! To assist me in this noble goal, my parents came over to the UK to spend two weeks with me. The itinerary? Glasgow to Edinburgh to Cardiff to Dublin and back to Glasgow. As you can imagine, we managed to do quite a bit in that time. I can’t possibly mention everything but I’ll give some highlights!
1. Edinburgh (Scotland)
I’ve been to Edinburgh a few times now, so I was the official tour guide of this trip. We booked a small apartment through AirBnb that was close to the Castle and had a fantastic view overlooking Princes Street Gardens and the New Town (which apparently I did not take a single picture of). It was such a great location where we were only a couple minutes walk from views like this:
We also conveniently had a small pub (The Jolly Judge, I highly recommend) just outside our back door. Couldn’t ask for a more convenient location!
We had three days to spend in Edinburgh and I think we really made the best of them. Our first day, we went on a Sandeman’s New Europa walking tour. If you’re ever traveling to a new city, I would really suggest looking into these tours. They’re usually everyday and are technically free, you just tip the guide at the end what you feel is adequate. Our walk was a perfect way to get acclimated to the city and learn a lot about the city’s history. Our tour guide also gave us a great suggestion of where to get traditional pub fare and we treated ourselves to some haggis, neeps and tatties. (That’s turnips and potatoes, but I’m not gonna tell you what haggis is. Just trust me, it’s delicious!)
Our second day in Edinburgh, we went on a Rabbies’ bus tour through the Scottish Borders. We saw Rosslyn Chapel, Scott’s View, the William Wallace Statue, and Melrose Abbey. We were amazingly lucky to have a beautiful, sunny day which made the glorious sites look even more amazing. I think my favorite part of the tour was seeing Melrose Abbey. It was built in the 12th century and although mostly ruins now, you can walk around the grounds and even go up one of the towers! Here’s just a few of my favorite pictures from the day:
Tower at Melrose
Castle Ruins behind Rosslyn
Our final endeavor before leaving Edinburgh was to climb the famous Arthur’s Seat. This is a large dormant volcano top that rise behind Holyrood Palace. It’s an easy hike and you get some pretty spectacular views of the city. It was pretty chilly and windy when we made our trek, but it was completely worth it for the views of the city and the distant port
Overlooking the port town of Leith
All too soon, it was time to say bye to Edinburgh and hop on a plane to….
2. Cardiff (Wales)
Cardiff is the capital of Wales and is a pretty small, less-touristy city. We only stayed here for the weekend, but found plenty to do. Our first day we did a lot of walking around, exploring the city and the large park just north of City Centre. One of the things I liked the most about this city were the Arcades! There were like indoor streets lined with shops. They had the craziest shops and restaurants. Every time we walked into one I felt like we had discovered a little secret of the city.
Our second day in Cardiff, we explored the bay area. The weather was perfect for a day by the water. We first stopped at Fabulous Welshcakes to buy a dozen of the tiny pancake-like pastries to munch on as we walked around. They were delicious and disappeared way too quickly. The rest of the day was something Dad and I had been looking forward to: the Doctor Who Experience! We’re huge fans of the show and couldn’t wait to geek out. The experience was really fun and super cheesy, but in a good way. The museum of all of the props and costumes was my favorite! While we were being geeky, Mom took a boat tour of the bay and took lots of beautiful pictures! We had a really great day and ended the evening with a delicious dinner of traditional Welsh pub fare.
The next day we were flying out of Cardiff, but our flight wasn’t until the evening. We had to check out of our hotel, but thankfully it was another lovely day so we walked around the nearby park for a while. Then we settled in at Tiny Rebel, a local brewery, to have lunch before heading back to the airport. (Tiny Rebel is great, if you’re ever in Cardiff it’s definitely worth a visit!)
3. Dublin (Ireland)
Dublin was the longest leg of our trip; we stayed almost a full week! But it was completely worth it! There’s so much to see and do around Dublin that I could have even spent a few more days there! It’s also a surprisingly walkable city. Everything is way closer together than it looks on a map. We stayed in the Camden street area which was a perfect location. It’s near a lot of restaurants and pubs but it was far enough away from the Temple Bar area that it was nice and quiet. Also shout out to AirBnb host, Lex, who was pretty much the most awesome host we could have ever had. His place was perfect and he gave us so many suggestions for things to do in the area!
So some of the highlights of the stuff we did in Dublin city. On our first day we did
another Sandeman’s free walking tour to get acclimated to the area. Our guide was great and he taught us a lot about the city and the local flavor. He even went to a pub with all of us after the tour was over and got to know us a little more. Later on we went to see the #1 thing I wanted to see in Dublin: the Trinity College Library! My old English teacher in high school used to have a poster of the library on her wall and I couldn’t wait until I could see it for myself! Well it definitely lived up to my
expectations. I’ve never been in a more beautiful library building. I could have spent the whole day there. Before our day was over, we managed a quick visit to the Charles Beatty museum which was the private library of a rich collector. It was a really well-done museum and I wish I hadn’t been so tired to enjoy it!
Our next day was a trip outside of Dublin. We took a bus tour of Wicklow county. The tour itself was a bit cheesy at time (plus our driver got sick at one point and an ambulance had to be called! Talk about an action-packed tour!). But the sites we went to were breathe-taking so it was definitely worth it!
Glendalough Monastic City
Glendalough Upper Lake
Our next excursion was a trip to see the fishing town of Howth and the archaeological site of Newgrange. It was a shame that we went to the fishing village first thing in the morning because I wanted so bad to take some home for dinner, but I don’t think the other people on the bus would have appreciated that! It was a really cute town though and we spent quite a bit of time taking in the sights.
Then it was on to Newgranage. I’m a huge archaeology nerd, so getting to see this Neolithic ritual site was on the top of my Ireland bucket list. We spent most of the afternoon touring the museum and seeing the actual site. It was crazy to be inside of something made 5000 years ago. Definitely a highlight of the trip
Entrance to the chamber
All too soon our trip to Dublin was wrapping up and it was time to head back to Glasgow. We got back right in time for Easter Sunday and treated ourselves to a traditional Sunday Roast which was Ah-Mazing. We spend a little time around the city but soon it was time for my parents to head back home. It was a wonderful trip and we got to see so many cool places together!
I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic today. Yesterday I had my last postgrad class and today I finished up my internship. All that stands between me and a Master’s degree is a few essay and about five months. Oh yeah and a dissertation.
But with finishing a milestone in my graduate studies, I started thinking about how far I’ve come from this time last year. I still can’t believe I left everything to up and move to another country. And boy are there a lot of things I wish I knew this time last year when I was planning this move. Just recently I had a friend from home reach out to me to ask about Museum Studies at Glasgow. One of her questions was is there anything I wish I knew before going. At the time, I couldn’t come up with much so I said I’d think on it. Well here it is folks: the big list of Things I Wish I Knew a Year Ago (Mostly about Glasgow Uni and Graduate Life but also about Living in Another Country). TIWIKYAMAGUGLBALAC for short. Just a heads up, this geared directly at people who are looking at coming to Glasgow (or the UK in general) for postgrad study.
The UK grading system
At Glasgow Uni they used a 22-point grading scale and it is super hard to get used to. A 22 is a perfect score and corresponds to the grade A1 (the ever elusive A1). After that is A2 which is 21 points. Hmm maybe a chart is the best way to show this:
1 (22), 2 (21), 3 (20), 4 (19), 5 (18)
1 (17), 2 (16), 3 (15)
1 (14), 2 (13), 3 (12)
1 (11), 2 (10), 3 (9)
1 (8), 2 (7), 3 (6)
1 (5), 2 (4), 3 (3)
1 (2), 2 (2)
I believe D3 is the last passing grade, but most core classes require at least a C3. So in some ways it’s similar: A is good, F is bad. But the addition of the points can be confusing. Don’t ever try to think of your grade as a percentage. You will cry.
Speaking of crying: they grade INCREDIBLY harsh here! We were told in our orientation to that we will never get an A1 and to get any level of A is incredibly hard. I just assumed these were scare tactics, but DEAR LORD THEY WERE NOT JOKING. Do NOT come into grad school expecting to get the kind of grades you did in undergrad.
Graduating with honors does exist. They call it distinction. You must be a superhuman to get it. I am not a superhuman
Class and semester structure
UK semesters are weirdly short. They work on 10 week semesters with a reading week in the middle as a semi-spring break (but nowhere near the same cause people actually study during the break).
Classes only meet once a week, for two hours. This took a lot of getting used to. As a postgrad student, you typically only have three classes a semester, so that’s only 6 hours of class a week. It always felt like I had too much free time because I was used to having classes that met three time a week.
Instructors are very hands-off. They give you a required reading list, but they are not going to force you to read it nor are they going to quiz you in class about the reading. It’s entirely up to you how much (or how little) you want to read. But really, you’re only hurting yourself in the end if you decide not to do the reading. At the same time, it’s important to prioritize your reading because there is not physical way you can read everything. So read smartly, not endlessly.
You will get very little hw and it will all be due at once. Most of my classes had three or less assignment and they were mostly essays. And everything was always due in the second half of the semester (which is only 5 weeks long if you recall). So essentially all of your assignments will be due the same month. So all that free time I mentioned earlier? Yeah, it wasn’t as free as I thought…
There are specific referencing styles and paper formats to use and these vary across departments. Make sure you’ve get the right now so you don’t lose points for something silly (I’m not bitter or anything)
University housing sucks. Its expensive, its low quality, and they are constantly checking up on you. We have room inspections ALL the time and there is a huge amount of things that are not allowed in your room. You can’t put anything on the walls (even with sticky tack). They have fire alarm tests at 7am on Saturday mornings, once a semester. On the bright side though it is a fate rate so no bills and stuff and it was all arranged before I got here. So planning-wise, smart move. Living-wise, not so much.
The Click2Campus packs are not worth the money! Glasgow Uni promoted a company that would have all of the stuff you need for a dorm waiting for you when you arrive for a fee. It sounded great on the surface. I would have pillows, sheets, towels, pots and pans, silverware, you name it all waiting for me when I arrived. No need to go out and buy it! WRONG. That stuff was so bad! I had to buy a whole new bedset because the sheets they gave me felt like cardboard. They were also a really gross black and gray checkered pattern that made me feel like I was in a dungeon. The kitchen stuff was all horrible quality and I’ve had to buy some new stuff to replace things that have broken. SAY NO TO CLICK2CAMPUS.
If you’re feeling panicked, no fear! We’re gonna take a quick break so I can show all of the goodies I’ve been eating in Scotland. Donuts are featured heavily.
The Nitty-Gritty on Living in Glasgow
Some people really are hard to understand. I thought it wouldn’t be an issue but sometimes even now after being here for 7 months, I come across someone who I just cannot understand for the life of me. I smile and nod and back out before I can embarrass myself any further.
There are so many things that they just don’t sell here that you wouldn’t expect, so be prepared to learn to live (and especially cook) a little differently. (Heads up ladies, they don’t have gel deodorant; it’s all spray on here!)
You will spend more money than you think you will. Isn’t that how it always works? I thought I would live super frugally to offset tuition costs. But remember, having a life and doing things that make you happy are important too! But yeah, you will definitely spend more than you expect
Setting up a bank account is hard! Not on the Scottish end; they’ve gotten it all worked out. But the American banks are a pain! I’ve had several friends who have all complained about the difficulties they’ve had with their home banks when they’ve come here. So make a game plan before you leave so you know what your home bank is going to need from you when you’re setting up a new account.
Adjusting to living without a car is hard! I’ve never had to fully rely on public transport and my own two feet before. Grocery shopping is a nightmare because you have to lug everything back. Make sure to invest in a backpack, trolley, or even a suitcase to carry groceries in.
Do some research on cell carriers before you buy. Some really are better than other. I started out with Lycamobile and it was horrible. But then I switched to EE and its so much better. Also phone plans are pretty cheap and are usually month by month
You have to ask for the bill at a restaurant! They will not just bring it to you!
People don’t drink water here. It’s weird. Bring a water bottle with you because there are very few fountains. I don’t understand how everyone isn’t dehydrated.
Umbrellas are useless. Just don’t bother. Raincoats on the other hand are essential.
If you cannot comfortably walk more than a mile in a pair of shoes, don’t bring them. I brought so many shoes and I’ve worn maybe three pairs consistently.
The public libraries suck. Apparently, people don’t really check out books here that much. It’s a shame.
Figuring out where to buy stuff is hard. When all the stores are different from what you’re used to it can be really hard to figure where to find (and get the best deal) for certain items. Unfortunately, there’s no simple solution to this. You’ve just got to experiment and ask around.
If you’re a craft beer lover like I am, you’ll be disappointed to know that craft beer is just barely making a name for itself here. There are a few good places (ahem, Brewdog) but you’re not going to find the gastropubs with 50 (or even 20) beers on tap like we’re used to at home.
International shipping is really expensive. Like really really expensive. Sometimes it might be better to just buy something new than ship it from home. Also be aware of customs. If you ship something that’s worth more than $35, the recipient will have to pay a customs tax on it.
Well I’m going to stop there because I’m sure I could rant on and on about what not to pack or buy, but that seems like the topic for another blog post. I know I got into a lot of little details on the living part, but they are all little things that I found jarring, and honestly still do. And just one final thing that I wish I knew last year: you will get homesick and you will feel lonely. It doesn’t mean that you’re not cut out for this international grad school thing. It just means that you are in a new environment and you will miss your comfort zone. You will miss your family, friends, pets, house, car, food (I could seriously write a whole post on the food I miss). Make sure you make an effort to stay in touch with everyone. It can be hard with the time difference and people’s busy lives. But make the effort, for your sanity and for your friendships. And finally, make sure you find something you can do when you’re feeling sad. Mine is going to the plant shop down the road, grabbing a book from the library, and settling in with a coffee and scone at the coffee shop.
So it’s the first of March and I can’t believe that by the end of this month I will be finished with my postgraduate classes! This semester has been incredibly busy, hence the lack of blog posts about fun things. I have one class plus rollover assignments from last semester (long story), a work placement twice a week, and then volunteering on the side, in addition to getting started on my dissertation. So I’ve been a pretty busy gal juggling all of those! On the bright side, I really enjoy the variety in my schedule and the different people I get to meet. My work placement is working with business archives, which is something completely new to me! But I’m learning some pretty helpful skills with digitization, cataloging, and archival research. I’m also volunteering with an archaeological society in a small town outside of Glasgow. I’ve been helping the volunteers to repackage and catalogue their HUGE collection of Roman artifacts that have been gathered over a number of years going field surveying. It completely blows my mind that people are able to just go walking in their backyards and find ancient artifacts. So different from the archaeological record. And yes people, the Romans did make it as far as Scotland. They actually went beyond Hadrian’s Wall and built another wall along the central belt in Scotland and called it the Antonine Wall. Yay for history lessons!
Since we’re on the topic of history lessons, I wanna tell you about my fun day trip to the site of the Battle of Bannockburn. If you have no idea idea what (or where) Bannockburn is, that’s completely okay because I wasn’t sure either. I only signed up for the trip as a chance to get out of Glasgow for the day and see a heritage site. Thankfully my Scottish friends helpfully enlightened me on some Scottish history. So Bannockburn is the site of the pivotal battle for Scottish Independence in 1314 when Robert the Bruce defeated English lead by King Edward II near Stirling castle. It’s not Braveheart, my friends were quick to mention. A good movie, though it’s just three hours of historic inaccuracies. So sorry, no William Wallace at Bannockburn.
The visitor center sits on the campsite of the Scottish warriors, not actually on the battlefield because, truthfully, they aren’t exactly sure where it all went down, though they have rough estimates. The visitor center for the Battle of Bannockburn Experience is a really unique, high-tech way of presenting history to visitors. The main attraction is an in-depth 3-D movie experience that takes you through the key figures and weaponry and war tactics utilized at the battle. Then you move into the battle room where you watch the battle from a bird’s eye view, with a staff member energetically narrative. Then comes the fun part: you are split into two groups, the Scots and the English, and get to face off in battle! The point isn’t to reenact the actual battle, but rather to work as a team to move your armies against the other team to defend Stirling Castle. This part was actually a lot of fun and thankfully my team (the Scots) came out victorious, almost just barely. After a while in the dark room of the 3-D experience, we took some time to look at replicas of medieval weapons and clothing. I, of course, had to get decked out in full garb. I even put on a chain mail shirt, though I definitely needed help. That thing was easily 30 pounds!
Finally, after a long day, we were able to head outside to get a view of the Robert the Bruce statue and ceremonial area. It was gloriously sunny out, though a wee bit chilly. All in all, my trip to Bannockburn was really fun and I learned a lot! It also got my travel bug itching to see more of Scotland!
Inside the monument
Statue of Robert the Bruce
Path up the monument
Stirling Castle in the distance
Bonus: yesterday was Marti Gras, or as the Brits call it Pancake Tuesday! Pancakes here are kinda gross. They sell them premade in stores and they are usually eaten with lemon juice and butter. ick. But my friends and I managed to find American pancakes at a little New York-style cafe. And of course we had to wash them done with milkshakes. I think pancake day is my new favorite tradition!