Keep Fresh: an International Guide to Scotland

Starting university, as exciting as it is, can more often than not be an incredibly daunting experience no matter where you come from. Adapting to the new studying schedule and navigating new social circles can seem intimidating enough, but for many the intensity of it all increases tenfold when the additional weight of living in a new country is added. Moving countries and starting university far away from home is doubtlessly a bold decision that requires bravery and determination. In fact, if you find yourself living Scotland at the moment this is a big indicator that you already have the right disposition to make your university experience fulfilling.

Despite the intense adjusting period and the inevitable ups and downs that come with all big changes, life in Scotland will offer so many fantastic experiences and opportunities. So, in light of my own personal experience as an international student, I’ve put together this short guide for you listing a few different key aspects to consider as you start making your way through life in Scotland.

  • Prepare yourself for differences and try to embrace them.

You’re probably already expecting this, but there will inevitably be aspects of home you’ll be missing. Regardless of how your relationship with your home country is, being away from some of the elements we’ve been accustomed to for years can certainly be unsettling. Be it food from home, the weather, the landscape or so on, be prepared to almost certainly find yourself yearning for familiar things you might have not noticed or placed much importance in before. Don’t be alarmed if you feel this happening as it’s a sign you’re starting to adapt to Scotland! Allow yourself to feel the loss of all that was familiar to you, but challenge yourself to find beauty and joy in difference. It’ll help you feel more comfortable and at ease here while also making each time you return home special and heartfelt.

  • Get out there and explore!

Feeling bored? Have no plans for the weekend? Want to take some stunning pictures? I couldn’t recommend enough that you take a short trip and visit some of the other unique Scottish gems nearby. Scotland offers incredible variety and will most certainly have something affordable that suits your tastes. If you occasionally find living in such a busy city too chaotic and start longing for some breathtaking natural landscapes and crisp clean air, a 50 minute long train journey will take you to Balloch where you can easily reach the southern end of Loch Lomond. What’s more, it’s only £6 for a return ticket. If you’re the adventurous type who loves to hike, just catch a bus to Arrochar and reach the base of The Cobbler, a charming short mountain that can be easily climbed with no equipment in very few hours. More interested in art, history, and architecture? You’ll nothing short of fall in love with Edinburgh. From the gorgeous Old Town, to the many free museums to the history-laden Castle, your day trip will turn into an incredible cultural experience. The cheapest way to reach Edinburgh is by bus: under £8 for a return ticket.

  • This one’s important: get involved!

This is advice you’ve probably already read on every leaflet and heard in every speech but I can’t stress how heartfelt it is coming from me! If I could somehow speak to my first year self, the first thing I’d do would be encouraging her to get as involved on campus as possible from the start. First year is the perfect year to find clubs, societies, initiatives and so on and lead a proactive student life as the workload won’t be too overbearing; it’s a very valuable way to fill up empty spots in your schedule. But most importantly, and this is especially true for international students, getting involved is a precious resource when it comes to meeting new people and building a support network for yourself. It’ll give you an opportunity to get out of the flat, be around people, and be productive in something you enjoy every week. There’s no better cure for loneliness and homesickness, and being a part of something on campus – whatever it ends up being – will help tremendously in feeling at home here in Glasgow.

  • Always remember, you’re not alone.

Being a student in a foreign country can sometimes feel like the loneliest you’ve ever been. It can take some time to connect with a different culture and feel completely comfortable hanging out with locals or other internationals. However, no matter how dark it gets, never forget that everybody who has ever studied abroad has been in your situation and has at least once felt like an outcast. It’s always good to challenge yourself to spending more and more time with people of other nationalities, but never feel guilty about seeking friends from your same home country either. There’s something incredibly comforting in even just speaking your own language when you’re abroad sometimes! On that note, always keep an eye out for language/nationality-based clubs and societies: they’re the perfect opportunity to meet other nationals and be in a familiar atmosphere that will make you feel more connected with home.

[Susanna Zarli – she/her – @veterisflammae]

[Photo credit: Zoe Avison/]

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