After traveling around London, Stratford, and Chatsworth, I’ve officially made it to Scotland!
My family helped me move into my single room (with a private bathroom!) on a cloudy day in Aberdeen, and from the minute I walked into my dorm, I could tell orientation week (or “Freshers Week”) was going to be a lot different from those I’ve seen in America. Here are a few things I’ve learned about “uni” through orientation:
1. You’re on your own.
A lot of people warned me that uni asks you to be a lot more independent than American college, and this became clear as soon as I went to get my room key. During freshmen move-in at Hope, we’re greeted by a long string of cars, balloons and painted banners, and sweaty, cheery RAs that are ready to help us with whatever we need. At Aberdeen, I was just given a room key and an “Okay. Get movin!” Don’t get me wrong, tons of staff helped me when I asked, but everything seems to be up to me here. There are no mandatory events to go to during Freshers Week. You don’t get an orientation group and leader. You simply get a list of events that you can go to if you want. It would be super easy for someone to stay shut in their room over here. Everything’s up to me. My uni experience is what I make it.
2. Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol.
Hope is a dry campus, and I’m under 21, so I’ve never “drank” before in my life, although I do know that drinking culture does exist on American campuses. However, uni is a whole new deal! The drinking age is 18 over here, so alcohol is a lot more “out in the open.” The faculty talked to us all about the best bars, nightclubs and hangover beverages. Nightclubs and bars had booths at the activities (or “societies”) fair. There’s even a bar in Aberdeen’s student union. Luckily I’ve managed to surround myself with a good group of friends who don’t like to party and don’t think I’m silly when I order water when we (rarely) go out. However, it definitely is a culture shock. The Scots love their beer.
3. School is free here?!?!
While talking to a Scottish student, I was told that college is free for students in the EU. WHAT?!?! All they have to pay for is accommodations. She asked me what I have to pay for in American schooling, and I just laughed and said, “You would die if I told you.” I’ve also learned that students here come in with their major already picked out, which is interesting to me. They have to apply to their program while applying to Aberdeen. Also, tons of people take gap years. I’ve met “first-years” who are 17 and others who are 23. I guess when you have to know what you want to do when you apply it makes taking gap years seem less intimidating. It’s just interesting to learn about how their schooling is different from ours.
4. Where are the Scottish people?
Seriously, maybe it’s because I live with mostly international students, but I’ve met more students from outside Scotland than inside Scotland. I’ve met people from Estonia, Spain, Finland, Italy, the States (of course) and the list goes on and on and on. I’ve also met a lot of people who have lived all over the place. One guy I met said he’s lived in California and Italy. Another girl said she moved to New Hampshire after living in England. One of my good friends here is a duel citizen of the US and Canada. People have been everywhere over here, and when they ask me where I’m from, they have no clue what Ohio is. The funniest thing I’ve been asked: “Is Minnesota in Ohio?”
Classes start this week, which I’m sure will show me even more differences between Scotland and the States. I’m taking classes on grammar, Shakespeare and the New Testament, so I’m looking forward to it. I’ll make sure to write more as time goes on, but for now I’ll say goodbye and leave you guys with a few pictures of Aberdeen. Cheers!