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September 30, 2013

Waiting for that W-Curve

30th of September, 2013

It has been a full three weeks since I have moved to Glasgow, and unsurprisingly, I'm still having loads of fun experiencing the differences between Scotland and the United States. 

As a third year study abroad student, I have found it rather difficult to make friends with local students. I have made quite a few other study abroad friends because we are all going through similar transitions. A word of advice on my part, however, is to make friends with anyone/everyone that comes around. Even though most of the people I have met happen to be American, there are still many cultural aspects I am learning through and with them. Since it has only been three weeks, and I have high hopes of meeting local and more international students throughout my year here. 

I am (gladly) still waiting for the ominous W-Curve slope to set in, but I don't think it'll happen until the holidays! Getting involved is the best way to transition oneself into any university, and thankfully I have gotten involved with the University's feminist society, but if I didn't have something to go to to meet new people, I think I would be sitting in my dorm, not quite sure what to do with myself. 

The University of Glasgow hosts what is known as fresher's week every year, where new international students and first year students can get to know the life on campus and in Glasgow, as well as have many opportunities to meet people. To keep it short, my favorite events have been a headphone disco-where everyone is given a pair of headphones and can switch between two DJ's all night. Most of all, I have enjoyed going to a couple of Ceilidhs (kay-lay's), in which we were taught how to dance traditional Scottish dances, usually with a partner and in groups. They have been some of the best nights I have had in Scotland. 
The nightlife is incredibly different than my time at Morris, and it is definitely (semi)encouraged.

Since I am majoring in Psychology, and still want to be able to graduate in four years, I decided to take, full-on, psychology courses at both levels 3 and 4. I have met very few other study abroad students doing similar. To compare to UMM, my course schedule is very different. I am only taking three classes for the first five weeks of my semester, all 2 hour lectures, and then I take another three classes for the last half of the semester. On top of that, most of my grades are based on my end of term exams; meaning that most of my learning is independent.
I think an important note for anyone studying abroad, and college in general, is learning how to balance out social time with academic time. One of the reasons I chose the University of Glasgow is because I wanted to see how Psychology differs in the U.S. and the U.K.; which I will delve into later on. On top of that, though, was to make connections with people I would never have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. So far, I am enjoying both aspects! 

-Rachael Blais

September 10, 2013

Initial Reaction

10th of September, 2013

This year I am studying abroad at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. I have only been here roughly 3 days, but so far I have been having a great time. It is an experience in itself when people from all over the U.S. get together and talk about culture. I went out with about 5 people-all American study-abroad students- on my second night in the city, and after a while we ran out of things to talk about. Somehow, we got on to the topic of what are appropriate reactions and sayings in Scotland. One kid even asked how are we to respond when someone says "cheers." Since we were all from different parts of the state we all had different answers, from saying nothing to giggling or giving a response. While none of us really know yet, in due time we will, an may possibly even be saying "cheers" ourselves. 

Some things I've noticed in my incredibly short time in Glasgow:

1. Sometimes, when conversing with the locals, it can be extremely hard to understand their English, the accent in Glasgow is very thick; however, almost everyone I've met have been extremely accommodating in slowing down when they talk. It's a very sociable city.

2. About half of the study abroad students are American, that's 250.  I am overwhelmed by the number of people I am meeting, but it's easy to make friends just walking down the street. As someone said during my orientation, "all of you have a stamp on your forehead that says you are a tourist/(American)." It's easy to spot the other study abroad kids, because they are just as lost as I am!

3. The nightlife/pub scene is unreal...even on Sundays.

The University of Glasgow, as confusing as registration was/is, I am so excited to start my  psychology classes and actually begin classes; but first, I have two weeks of orientation, this week is international student orientation and next is Fresher's week. 
I am excited to learn about Scottish culture, and even though I haven't met any Scottish students, I am overjoyed that I have been able to find comfort in fellow Americans and other study abroad students who just want to meet people and make friends.

-Rachael Blais

September 4, 2013

Perspective and Paradigm

September 4, 2013
     One of the most valuable gifts granted to me in my time in Norway so far is the expanded perspective. It's platitude to say that the world is much greater than most of us realize and that "broadening one's horizons" is very enlightening. Similarly, it is trite to respond that one does not realize how important gaining perspective is until they experience it for themselves. However, experiencing the new culture, the new ways, the new people, the new ideas for myself, subjectively, brings about an understanding that I have never quite felt before.
     This became the most apparent in my Psychology of Religion course yesterday. I grouped myself with some fellow students who will present on religious fundamentalism and its psychological underpinnings. Our conversation abstractly enough, but when the (European) group members started giving concrete examples of fundamentalism, every one that they gave was of Islamic fundamentalism. I thought that certainly we would be covering Christian fundamentalism first and foremost, as this sort of tradition is the one I am familiar with back in the US. When I brought up the Christian side of fundamentalism, the group members were really excited to hear my perspective, eager to learn information about Christianity that I considered obvious. As clueless as I am of Islamic fundamentalism, they are the same of Christian fundamentalism. This made me realize just how disparate our formative years in our cultures must have been in order for such different paradigms to develop.
     I am finding myself more sensitive now to the subtler differences between this culture and my native one, especially the small differences in acculturation that yield such different perspectives in our adult lives. It is my hope that this experience is only the tip of the iceberg in my cultural training. I hope, of course, but it is more to say that I will act.
     And I certainly intend to act.

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