Featured Students

Carolyn Goebel

Personal Discovery

Cultural Discovery

Social Discovery

Academic Discovery

Carolyn shares her experiences attending University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. She shares her discoveries about cost of living and budgeting, housing, classes at Strathclyde, how she got involved abroad, the local music scene, European travel, local culture, and advice for other students. Read some or all!


Term Abroad: Spring 2010

Home University: University of California - Santa Cruz

Host University: University of Strathclyde

Major: History


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Cost of Living/Budgeting

If you had $25 and one day in your host city, what would

Check out some of Carolyn's pictures from her time abroad!


you do?

Glasgow has many free attractions, so this is more a question of time than money! Walk or take the adorable subway (affectionately dubbed “The Clockwork Orange” for its color and tiny circuit) to Glasgow’s west end to explore Byres Road, picturesque Ashton Lane and the beautiful Botanical Gardens. Check out Glasgow Green, The People’s Palace, or brave The Barras if you’re up to it. And of course, there’s Glasgow Cathedral, the Necropolis (fantastic views of the city), and Provand’s Lordship (the oldest residence in the city). Watch street performers on Buchanan Street (but watch out on weekends – it gets very crowded). At night take a stroll down Sauchiehall Street and duck into one of the dozens of lively pubs, or go see a movie at Cineworld, the world’s tallest movie theatre. Take tea at the 100-year-old Willow Tea Room on Sauchiehall Street. Walk along the river Clyde to see Glasgow’s iconic bridges and the Armadillo, or take a leisurely stroll through Kelvingrove Park.

What did you spend more/less money on than you expected?

I didn’t think I would spend so much money going out for a pint here and there, and groceries could certainly add up, too! Luckily I quickly found the pubs that had good deals on certain nights and cheap grocery stores that helped me save.

What restaurants/eateries would you recommend to a student who was looking for something both inexpensive and delicious in your host city?

Many people forget how cheap pubs can be for food, and some of them have a great deals at certain times of the day or week. Walkabout (an Australian-themed pub) makes a great kangaroo burger, and there are so many Kebab shops around the city that stay open all hours. Any Wetherspoon’s pub tends to have cheap deals, and, although part of a chain, each has a unique style and atmosphere. You can find traditional Scottish dishes for relatively cheap at pubs like The Drum and Monkey or Waxy O’Connor’s, or go for Indian food at one of many restaurants around the city. Glasgow has so many great inexpensive eateries that you could probably try one every day and not get through them all.


How did your housing situation help you meet the locals?

My flat in Birkbeck Court was where the university typically places their lower-classmen and international students. While this was initially not very helpful in meeting locals, it was a fantastic way to make amazing friends from all over the world, and through them it was possible to meet other locals. Strathclyde’s campus is small enough that it is easy to meet others that are living in different housing around campus. That said, because Strathclyde is located in the city center, most locals do not live on campus, but choose to commute to campus for classes instead. This just means that it is easier to meet locals in classes, in clubs, and around town.

Did you prepare your own meals? If so, what resources were available to you for this (i.e. nearby grocery stores, kitchen equipped with necessary supplies)? Were there any benefits to making your own food rather than going out?

Because the University of Strathclyde was so centrally located in downtown Glasgow, it was relatively easy to go out for food any time of day, even in between classes. I did do a lot of cooking in my flat, however, which was made easy by cheap nearby stores like Aldi, which sells generic brands at nearly half the price that you would find them elsewhere. Our kitchen was small and decently equipped, though I certainly had to improvise on several occasions when I was cooking something more elaborate. Larger stores like Sainsbury’s tend to have almost anything you might need, and even pound shops carry groceries (like milk!) and useful items for cooking.

What did you like about your housing situation?

My flat was extremely small but great, and I lived with 5 other girls from all over. One of them was a local, and through her it was easy to meet other local students. I also lived on the fourth floor of my building and could see a great deal of the campus from where I was, at its center. While I may have been less than grateful (but still amused) for this during the wee hours of the morning when someone outside decided to sing or play bagpipes, it was delightful to be at the center of the student community where locals and international students came through regularly. It was not uncommon to have a conversation with someone from our fourth floor window.


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While you were abroad, what was your favorite class? Why?

I took a course on The Covenanters and the British Civil Wars that I really enjoyed. Although it was more challenging than I had expected, I loved that we were given the opportunity to dig through primary source documents and extract important information that we could use for our research. What was even greater was being able to visit the famous sites that were mentioned in the documents.

Did you get to know any of your professors or instructors? How?

I was able to get to know my professors relatively easily. Three of my courses had supplementary seminars – like the discussion sections held by teaching assistants at home, but led by the professor. These seminars were very small, and provided a unique opportunity for one-on-one interaction with professors. Additionally, I found that some of my professors were interested in me as an international student, and even invited me to a special small seminar that focused on US history. My professors showed an interest in helping me adapt to their education system and methods of instruction.

What major educational differences did you notice between your host university and your home university (i.e. differences in teaching styles, homework load, etc.)?

While many students I knew found that the course load was easier for them at Strathclyde, I found it more challenging. The professors seemed to expect more from their students, especially in terms of spending more time studying independently. I was given exhaustive reading lists to choose from that helped guide us through course material, but no specific instructions to purchase or read any particular texts. However, when asked, professors could be quite helpful here in finding the most appropriate materials for the specific topic I was interested in researching. Access to multiple libraries also proved very helpful.

What was it like to study classes in your major in a different country? Did you notice differences about the way your major or field of study was taught/approached?

History courses were taught more or less as I had experienced them back home. We spent more time breaking down individual sources in my seminars, and those sources that we did use were readily available. There is a certain benefit to studying British history in Britain, in that it is easier to find primary source documents to work with than it is back home. Furthermore, my professors were experts in their field, so that I felt like I was getting the best out of the courses I had chosen.

Getting Involved Abroad

Describe any involvement you had in clubs on campus.

I joined the Strathclyde University Chorus shortly after attending one of their “A Rough Guide to Singing” events that they hold each semester. It was a fun, no-pressure workshop that allowed interested students of any experience level to see what it was like to sing in the choir, and sign up if they enjoyed it. Once I signed up I was given the materials I needed and got to perform in the breathtaking Barony Hall on campus, as well as the Ramshorn Theatre downtown. We were also given the opportunity to be privately individually coached by a professional at each rehearsal session if we wanted to. I had a truly great experience singing with the Strathclyde Chorus, and I would recommend joining it to anyone who likes to sing.

How did it help you meet locals?

There were local and international students in the choir, and this provided me with the opportunity to get to know all of them. In addition, the concerts we performed allowed me to meet other locals who had come to see us perform.

How would you recommend that future students studying abroad in your city get involved on campus or in the community?

Strathclyde holds a wonderful orientation session that dozens of clubs and organizations table at. Although I wasn’t sure what I wanted to get involved with initially, talking with many of these organizations helped me make the decision to get involved with the Chorus. There is also an established Strathclyde International Society that organizes trips and events throughout the semester for students to get involved with the community.


Local Music Scene

Describe any music festivals, concerts, or fun local music venues you went to.

What genre of music was it?
Indie rock, folk, and pop.
Approximately how much did it cost?
I spent anywhere from £5-50 on concert tickets. It was easy to find concerts within my range and interest by visiting the Tickets Scotland office on Argyle Street, where full lists of upcoming concerts are posted and you can buy tickets to almost any event. It is also relatively easy to find free concerts and music events. My favorite place to go was Nice ‘n’ Sleazy’s on Sauchiehall Street, which is a small venue where you can enjoy a pint over their wonderful and intimate acoustic open mic sessions on Monday nights. A bigger show that I went to was a festival in Bellahouston Park, where they held a homecoming show for local bands like Snow Patrol and Frightened Rabbit, as well as Band of Horses and The Editors.
What did it teach you about your host country?
One of the reasons I chose Glasgow was for its incredibly vibrant music scene. Glasgow is home to many of my favorite bands, and some of its venues are world famous. I knew that this was the perfect place to be to see some incredible Scottish bands and others from around the world that were touring the UK. It’s a great place to be whether you want to go to a huge production at the SECC, see a favorite at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut where Oasis was discovered, or duck into a small pub where locals showcase their talent.

European Travel

What kind of travel experience did you have prior to studying abroad?

I had made a brief 3-week trip to Europe with friends after high school where I stayed with friends that were exchange students, but never travelled by myself.

Describe your favorite trip.

I took a trip to Hungary and Transylvania. We flew into Budapest, explored the city for a while, and then took a train through Transylvania through the beautiful Hungarian and Romanian countryside. This turned out to be a great adventure, however, when a volcano in Iceland erupted, leaving a huge ash cloud over Europe and stranding us with no flight back to Glasgow. We were delayed an entire week in getting back to Glasgow, but spent this time slowly working our way back through Austria, Germany, France, England, and finally into Scotland. While this was a stressful experience, it taught me useful skills for travelling and I will always consider it a great (and ridiculous) adventure.

When did you start planning?

I started planning this trip a month or two after I arrive in Glasgow, when my flatmate and I discussed our mutual interest in going to Hungary and Romania.

How did you budget for your trip?

We divided up hostels to book under a specific budget that we agreed upon. We decided that we would cook for ourselves when possible to save money, and made allowances for occasionally dining out. We also made sure to book what transportation we could ahead of time, and researched the cheapest ways to get from one point to the other.

Who did you go with?

I went with my flatmate, Mariam.

What were some challenges?

Language was a large barrier. Although we were able to find people that spoke English, we had trouble communicating a lot of the time and even interpreting to find something as simple as still water! After the volcano eruption, we were severely limited in our budget because we had spent all that we had allocated to ourselves during the planned part of our trip. Luckily, the emergency numbers, EuroLearn connection, and friends around Europe were extremely helpful in getting us back to Glasgow.

What advice would you give to future students studying abroad at your destination who want to travel around while abroad?

Make sure you have all of the information for the places that you are staying, and that you have a big enough budget to accommodate for emergency situations like we encountered. Buses, although less comfortable, tend to be cheaper than trains or planes. It is also extremely helpful to create a written itinerary for you and your travel buddies. List the places you’ll be staying and travelling to along with any important addresses and phone numbers, including the US embassies in case of emergency. Make sure you have all of your documents together and that you take them with you wherever you go, just in case. I used a small plastic folder.

Cultural Immersion

Describe any cultural festivals you attended while you were abroad. Did they teach you anything new about your host country?

I attended several Highland Games festivals, which are essential for any trip to Scotland. These are large events located throughout the highlands, though you can often find them in the lowlands as well. In addition to traditional contests such as tossing the caber and shotput, there are often magnificent processions, drum and piping contests, delicious food vendors, and locals selling their crafts. These are great places to connect with locals and experience their traditional games and food.

What was the most delicious or most interesting thing that you ate in your host country?

Kangaroo burgers, deep fried Mars bars (the Scots will fry anything), and haggis. You might also find a soda called “Irn Bru” that is orange, but NOT orange flavoured. Beware, this toxic bubble-gum flavoured “drink” may be a better seller than Coca Cola, but it tastes like Pepto-Bismol.

Describe any national holidays or celebrations you witnessed while in your host country.

Burns Night is celebrated on January 25th every year. This is the celebration of Scotland’s most famous and beloved poet, Robert Burns, who wrote (among other things) the Auld Lang Syne. On Burns Night, it is traditional to eat a Burns Supper of haggis, neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes), to drink whiskey, and to recite the poetry of Robert Burns.

Give examples of any slang words, expressions, or different pronunciations/accents that you encountered while abroad.

A Glaswegian accent is simply not English. Well, it is English, but it might as well not be. The locals are known to exaggerate their accents around international visitors in jest, but are usually willing to repeat themselves after a while if you can’t understand them. The main tip is: don’t pretend like you understand them if you don’t, because they know when you don’t. Don’t let them fool you on the myth of the “haggis monster,” either. The usual greeting almost anywhere is “hiya,” and a small “thank you” is often expressed by a simple “ta.” Restroooms are “toilets,” cookies are “biscuits,” chips are “crisps,” and fries are “chips.” To get on the right foot with locals, it’s good to pronounce “Glasgow” the way they do – not like it rhymes with “Moscow,” but rather like “Glaz-go.”

Advice for Future Students

If you could speak with a student interested in going to your university abroad, what advice would you give?

Scotland is easy to fall in love with, but don’t be fooled by how small it is. There is so much to see, and you’re best off organizing a longer trip than a short and superficial tour of everything. Go off the map a bit – the West Highland Way is a wonderful way to explore the country and you can pick up on segments of its 96-mile trail from Milngavie (just outside of Glasgow) to Fort William. Locals know that a weekend trip to the Isle of Arran is also worth it. Don’t be afraid of the city – explore it! Glasgow has so many hidden treasures; it’s almost impossible to see them all. Try to get involved with events at the University of Strathclyde – there are so many, from dances and rallies to pub quizzes on campus!


Looking back now, what did you take from your time abroad as a student?

My time in Glasgow will always be a definitive point in my life. Living in Scotland was a dream come true, and every day I learned something new about its culture and people. It reinforced my love for travel, and opened my eyes to how many wonderful things to see, people to meet, and places to go that there are out there. It also reminded me that challenging myself and stepping outside my comfort zone can be immensely rewarding. I will always remember this time in my life as one of happiness and wonder.


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