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Know Your Resources

Time January 5th, 2016 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents, Scotland | No Comments by

Hey there, reader! This final post is coming to you from California, where I’ve been adjusting back to home life for about a week. I can’t really say that I’ve experienced extreme reverse culture shock yet, like I was warned about, but I have a feeling I’ll get a bigger taste of it when I adjust back to US college life. So far the holiday season has been me being giddy over holding US currency, inhaling burritos (which California does so well), and being bummed about my home town’s lackluster Christmas markets that can’t even begin to compete with those in Europe.

I’m also reintegrating myself into suburban life, after having lived in the heart of a city with a population of around 600,000 people and a drastically different demographic than that of both small-town Oregon and the San Francisco Bay Area. I know it will definitely be strange going back to school in a town with 55,000 people, half of which are students. As liberal as many college campuses can be, it’s only to a certain extent when over half of the students are from small town neighborhoods in Oregon. And after being in Glasgow, one of the most LGBTQ+ supportive universities out there, normal life might have a hard time competing. This is not to bash my home school- Oregon State University has an amazing network of resources and people, but I’ve learned that so much more can be done on a university campus to demonstrate solidarity and provide educational opportunities. Granted, there might be a higher demand for educational opportunities about global LGBTQ+ issues at a school like the University of Glasgow but it doesn’t mean that those opportunities should be 100% denied at smaller schools.

What I’m talking about here are the events I had attended that were hosted/endorsed by Glasgow Uni’s LGBTQ+ society. They hosted a lawyer from Kenya to talk about discrimination in Africa, organized a group to attend the Scottish Queer International Film Festival, organized Reclaim the Night to protest sexual assault, and way more. While I understand that their large presence could be attributed to their location at the heart of a city like Glasgow, it just showed what kind of things are available to an organization with bigger numbers and more visibility. Because Glasgow is the biggest city in Scotland, it’s kind of a beacon in the Scottish LGBTQ+ culture, and presents a lot of opportunities for global education and participation as well.

That being said, with marriage equality being attained in so many western cultures in recent years and the future, it is not the be all end all for LGBTQ+ rights. It’s a fight that the US is gaining ground on and the UK as well, and with the battle for marriage equality out of the way for them they can focus on other things like passing non-discrimination policies, educating trans doctors, and getting all gender expressions recognized in daily language. Scotland (Glasgow in particular), is definitely doing their part in working for these issues on a domestic and a global scale. So many organizations in the UK exist to do research, provide policy recommendations, support networks, and educational events to continue to keep LGBTQ+ issues relevant in their society. These include:

Their efforts combined with their easy accessibility make for a pretty prominent presence in Scotland. That being said, it doesn’t mean that everything is sunshine and rainbows over there- there is still so much work to be done in terms of equality. But I think that the actions they are taking set them in a safer direction for the queer community.

If you’re queer and looking for a welcoming place to spend a term or two, I wholeheartedly recommend Glasgow- or even Edinburgh if you must (the rivalry is real)! Knowing what you have available to you when you are abroad might be the most important aspect in terms of safety and making your new place a little smaller. So I really hope that this blog helped you feel comfortable with your choice or point you in the right direction in making one. The time I spent in Glasgow was all too short but still gave me so much perspective on not just a new queer community but a new culture all together. Though it still doesn’t feel real, I can definitely say Glasgow will feel like home the next time I return.

Cheers,

Gina

 

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Time for Inclusive Education

Time December 1st, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents, Scotland | No Comments by

Okay, okay, okay, I know it has been since the first week of November since I’ve written you, but this month has literally flown by- and by that I mean blown by because it is just that windy here. Today, it is a crisp 36 degrees but I don’t even care because it’s the first day we’ve all seen the sun since probably the last time I’ve blogged.

Today is the last day of November and I’m pretty sure I’m still from the two Thanksgiving’s I was fortunate enough to celebrate here. On Tuesday last week IFSA hosted a dinner for all of us Glasgow students complete with turkey, candied yams, mashed potatoes, green beens, stuffing, and even pumpkin pie! Then on Thursday almost 20 of us gathered for a potluck style Friendsgiving! It was mine and a ton of other people’s first Thanksgiving away from home so it was amazing to have good people to bring good vibes to the holiday. We also had people from Scotland, Canada, and Australia there, so they experienced their first ever American Thanksgivings!

For this week, I wanted to take the time to talk about something going on here in Scotland that particularly concerns students in the LGBTQ+ community. Also because I’m really excited that this is happening. It’s called Time for Inclusive Education (TIE). TIE is essentially a political campaign meant to address the issues of LGBTQ+-phobia, particularly in academic environments around the UK. But one of the coolest parts about this campaign is that it was cofounded by a sociology student at Glasgow Uni! I had been seeing their logo (the rainbow tie) posted around campus from time to time, but couldn’t really grasp what they were about until I saw a news headline pop up on Facebook. And it was pretty important news in my opinion- TIE had officially taken their campaign to the Scottish Parliament to bring them up to speed on exactly what kind of struggles LGBTQ+ students face in schools around the country. For example, 52% of LGBTI youth have experienced homophobic bullying, 1 in 4 students have attempted suicide due to homophobia, 97% hear words like, ‘faggot’ and ‘dyke’, and 54% do not feel like they are a part of their school community. These statistics come from Stonewall Scotland– an organization meant to provide support for lesbian, gay, transgender, and intersex individuals, as well as work to make communities, institutions, and even laws safe and inclusive towards the LGBTI+ population. They regularly do research to report on what exactly these individuals experience in their daily lives. In 2012, they put out a report on student experiences, as well as a report on teacher experiences in 2014. These reports also gave alarming numbers of students who have left education because of homophobic/transphobic bullying.

So earlier this month, TIE had been invited to speak before the Scottish Parliament and give evidence and testimony of bullying and its negative impacts on students. Their main goals are to implement better education for teachers on the effects of bullying, the experiences of LGBTI+ students, how to handle these instances when they witness them, and how to make education more inclusive so those students will get a normal school experience. One thing that’s also pretty rad is that they are working on creating LGBTI+ groups in schools to help students stay aware of their rights and have a support group at the same time.

The issue of discrimination is often something that’s overlooked even though it plays a huge part in so many LGBTQ+ student’s lives. Those that have access to education should not be scared to attend simply based on who they are. Academic environments are places of growth and exploration, not places we should dread going to because we don’t feel accepted as a person. Teachers, administrators, and policymakers should make it a priority to make not only the LGBTQ+ population, but every single student feel comfortable in a stimulating environment like school. So yes, Time for Inclusive Education is definitely something to be excited about and it’s been really cool to see it gain so much momentum over the past couple months. They will be present during the Edinburgh Winter Pride Fest, which is this week as well. I’m a bit bummed because I don’t think I’ll be able to attend because it’s essay crunch time- but it’s rad that they have pride festivals in the winter and the summer here!

Alright- back to the essay cramming!

Cheers

 

 

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Its ‘Autumn’- not ‘Fall’

Time November 3rd, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents, Scotland | No Comments by

November. Day 3 of the 11th month, less than 2 months left in this ‘Dear Green Place’, and 1 month to go until exams. What?! How?! When?! Questions I cannot seem to answer as I’m losing my time to the change in seasons and as the worn leaves mold to the sidewalk, so forms the realization that I will soon be going back to where I came from.

I spent Halloween weekend in Ireland- my first weekend outside of Scotland since I arrived, and as I was returning on Sunday night I sensed that I was going home. The little dorm room on Winton Drive, the University I dedicate my days to, and the streets I wander at night have become just as much my own as my college town in Oregon and the town I spent the first 18 years of my life in. And just as I have gotten settled, I have to get right back up again. The Autumn weather- soon to be Winter- sets me into hibernation mode rather than migration mode.

Yes, it is finally (finally, finally) November. Halloween, a holiday of which I am not a fan of is over! I wanted to get out of town for the weekend just to get away from this holiday, which seems to be impossible as I realized I should have gone to France where they don’t celebrate it. I spent two nights in Dublin, which is kind of a rough city and I wasn’t all that impressed with it. But I must say that the spirit of the gays is alive in Ireland! They are still buzzing from their recent May referendum, allowing same-sex couples to wed across the country! Street art advocating for it is everywhere, there is no subtly in the flying of rainbow flags, and coffee shop posters are still promoting. It definitely made up for the lack of personality in the city. So if you want more personality, a place with a bit more character is Galway- just on the other side of the island. It’s a college town, so it’s younger, but the place has amazing vibes- probably because it’s right on the water. I have a thing for towns on the coast and will always, always romanticize them. When in Ireland- go to Galway.

But back to the reality of school, and with one month until exams, the essays are upon us and I am buried in books to read and research to do. The fog and the rain make it easier to stay inside, which means hot tea and hot coffee, something Glasgow does extremely well. I’m sitting inside Artisan Roast as I write this- a place I definitely recommend. It’s right off of campus on Gibson Street and they make a mean double shot flat white. I even came across a feminist movie mag, called Little White Lies that was perfect for the procrastination I had set out to do.

Also good Glaswegian procrastination content: Lip Service. I had no idea this even existed, but it has been the highlight of my week and I cannot stop laughing at it. Lip Service is the UK version of America’s lesbian TV show, The L Word- if you haven’t seen it go watch it now! And all of it is set right here in Glasgow. Though it only ran for two seasons (it ended in 2013), it’s worth watching at least a couple of episodes. I’ve only watched two episodes, and it’s got just as much graphic content as The L Word, with three times the amount of cheese, and light Scottish lingo in the Glaswegian accent. But it has some great panoramas of Glasgow and it’s exciting to watch scenes about lesbians and think, ‘I’ve been there!’ Definitely check it out if you’re looking for some Scottish LGBTQ+ entertainment as it would be highly useful for your pro’s and con’s list about which city to study abroad in (it’s a pro, in case you were wondering).

 

 

 

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LGBTQ+ Asylum

Time October 26th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents, Scotland | No Comments by

The more time I spend in Glasgow, the more I’m realizing that this is the best place to be for someone in the LGBTQ+ community. I imagine that toward the end of my stay here, I’ll write a summary of my infinite reasons for saying this, but as the term goes on, you’re getting a play by play!

GULGBT+ (Glasgow Uni’s community) has been providing a bunch of opportunities for socials that are extremely inclusive and welcoming. They have weekly meetings for international students, bi students, gay men, women, transgender students, asexual, and intersex people. I have not been to a group that is specifically for one community, but every Wednesday night they host an event for the entire club, and it’s pretty amazing how many people show up. They always end their night at The Polo Lounge, which is one of the best gay clubs in the city (definitely the most fun in my opinion). Last week they took us on a pub crawl of a few LGBTQ+ friendly pubs and clubs. We went to at least 6 and I’m sure we didn’t hit them all! So there are plenty of friendly spaces involved in Glasgow’s nightlife.

On the other hand, GULGBT+ also hosts events on the educational side of things. This week, in honor of Black History Month (October in the UK/February in the US), Anthony Oluoch came to give a talk concerning LGBT and Asylum in Kenya. He’s one of the founders for Gay Kenya Trust, which is essentially a law firm based in Kenya for LGBT (they don’t use the ‘Q+’) crimes and lawsuits. This was incredibly relevant, especially because of the refugee crisis happening across Europe. It was a short talk, but he gave us the groundwork to a lot of the problems the LGBTQ+ community faces in both Kenya and Uganda. While it’s not a crime in Kenya to be gay, it’s a crime to commit gay acts. And by this they mean sex, and by sex they mean penetration- which means the laws target gay men and it’s rare for a lesbian to ever get prosecuted. That being said, there is some confusion concerning their Constitution because it states it is against the law to “act against the order of nature”, which is problematic because it’s largely subjective. Discrimination is also a major problem, so Anthony along with other lawyers are trying to introduce a bill that outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation (similar to one making it’s way to the Supreme Court in the US).

The other major issue Anthony addressed is the situation in Uganda. Last year, their government criminalized homosexuality all together, which was a change from their previous law stating that homosexuality was punishable by death. After loads of (rightful) scrutiny from countries around the world, the Ugandan government adjusted the punishment to life in prison. So all these refugees are seeking asylum in Kenya, where they get placed into a refugee camp where it can take anywhere from 2 days to 10 years for them to find a home and make a life somewhere. One of the biggest points of his talk was to raise awareness about the situation in Kenya and Uganda, and to get us to realize that one of the major problems was just getting people to realize that those who are seeking asylum are humans too, and are just trying to make a life somewhere where they feel safe. All in all, though short, it made for an eye opening discussion, especially with someone who experiences it first hand.

We’ve officially hit the halfway mark in our term- two months here and two months to go! Its insanely hard to believe, and some days two months seems so long and others it’s enough to induce a panic about how quickly time is running out! I’m heading to Dublin next week to see what it’s like across the water so stay tuned!

Cheers!

 

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They’re more like guidelines anyways!

Time October 13th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents, Scotland | No Comments by

When I made the decision to go abroad to a school in the heart of the big city, I knew I would end up being busy. But I definitely underestimated just how hectic city life can be. I grew up in relatively close range to San Francisco, so I was somewhat familiar with city life. My distance from SF was a safe one, and it forced me to be selective about the times I spent there. But that all changed when I moved to Glasgow- where it’s easy to feel like you’re missing out on something due to the sheer amount of happenings and all the nightlife hype. And let me tell you- it’s not hard to get yourself right in the middle of it. Glasgow is often referred to as one of Europe’s main music capitals, and it’s so apparent with the amount of buskers (street performers), over 130 music events in the city per week, and just a culture hub for the arts.

I’m really excited to say that I’m officially writing for the Culture section of Glasgow University Magazine! Which is one of the reasons I’m able to get such an inside scoop on what’s going on around the music scene here and I can’t think of a more intimate way to get to know the city I’m spending such a short time in- a city I have only 8 weeks left in to explore.

So you can understand why my writing has been so sparse the past couple weeks! It’s the fourth week of classes, and things definitely picked up quick here with the amount of reading, seminar exercises, and weekend adventures. So I’ll take a little time to talk about the school time of things here at Glasgow Uni.

I’m getting a huge range of academic experiences here because I’m in four separate classes, each with completely different types of students. My English Literature class is 1A-  meaning that everyone is a fresher and just beginning their university experience. 1A classes typically meet three to four times a week with an additional seminar to supplement the lectures. My Sociology class is level 4- meaning that I’m learning with third and fourth years. This class meets pretty much once a week for strict lectures and a ton of reading to supplement the bi weekly seminars. My Scottish Culture class is one that is specifically reserved for international students. It meets bi weekly and is full of non-Scottish students. My Creative Writing class is affiliated with the Centre for Open Studies at Glasgow University. Basically it means that the class is open to everyone in the community, regardless of whether or not you are a student at Uni. So I  sit in class with many people who are three times my age or even younger than me but already a published author. It’s a really humbling experience because it gives me a different perspective on the educational system.

Now that that’s out of the way… I’m sorry- I kind of hoped you skimmed all that. But as far as differences go between the US and UK system (at least at GU), I’m realizing that there’s a lot more room here for the student. What does that mean? Well, if you read anything about going to the University of Glasgow, or ask anyone about the experience-they’ll tell you that it’s a whole lot more independent. Which is definitely true- but I feel like that explanation just touches the surface. Yes, there are lectures, yes, there’s assigned reading, and yes, you are held accountable for certain assignments- just like in the US. But the strictness about which readings you do, and the direction that the lectures take you in are up to interpretation. It’s up to the student to follow up on lectures, and take the initiative on what kind of research they want to do to fulfill the class requirements. My seminar teacher put it in really understandable terms: “The level of knowledge and analysis given in lecture is something that you should aspire to- not a level that you have to reach that night at home”. I found this really helpful when I went to make a study plan, and when I was taking notes in lecture. It let me figure out what I was interested in, and made me realize that I could make my own path when it came to studying. The lectures are meant to give you a baseline- and the assessments at the end of the term are more open and the student can demonstrate what they learned on their own- versus in the US where we’re given a template we have to fulfill and it’s much more cookie cutter. That being said, it’s way harder to just skate by here because in the end you have to have a well-rounded presentation of your knowledge instead of knowing exactly what you’re supposed to be learning for that multiple choice exam.

I hope this is all making sense! On a lighter note I was doing some research and found this lovely Buzzfeed article: 25 Reasons Glasgow is the Gayest City in the UK. I have to admit- it’s pretty true :)

Cheers!

 

 

 

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Here and Queer

Time October 1st, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents, Scotland | No Comments by

Week 2 at uni and week 5 in the UK- and I finally feel like I’m getting my bearings here not only as a student but also as a queer person. Since I’ve last written all of you, a lot has happened in terms of being out and just trying to get immersed in Glasgow’s existing queer culture. As a student, I’m finally working out a routine balancing classes, rugby, writing, and a social life and as a queer person I’m hitting the tip of the iceberg of what Glasgow has to offer.

Last Wednesday, I attended GULGBTQ+’s first major event! It was just a meet and greet meant to get new people introduced to both the club and a few other individuals who made up Glasgow Uni’s queer environment with a few ice breakers and some games. There must have been around 50 people there, to my surprise, and of course spanning all identities on the spectrum. The last game taught me that my queer pop culture knowledge really needs some work, which is a bit embarrassing. Then a few of us head over to the Polo Lounge in the City Centre, which is one of Glasgow’s main LGBTQ+ night clubs. I have to say that it was one of the most fun club nights I’ve experienced so far with good people and good vibes all around.

On Friday I had the chance to check out SQIFF, the Scottish Queer International Film Festival, held at the Centre for Contemporary Arts. First off, I am obsessed with the CCA building. When you walk up to the door, you would never get the idea that a building could open up into that much space. An art gallery hits you on the way in, you pass the welcome desk/box office and the space opens up into a full fledged cafe complete with colored lights strung atop. And that (along with the necessity for a toilet) is when you realize that there is an entire other floor that you need to explore that’s full of theaters, more galleries and event rooms. The film I was seeing, Open Windows, was held in a quaint theater room on the first floor.

To commence the event, a representative from Scotland’s LGBTQ+ Health and Wellbeing and LGBTQ Age introduced a short film called Are We Being Served?, which more or less communicated the Scotland experience of aging while identifying as LGBTQ+. A few individuals aged above at least 35 discussed feeling alienated from the youth dominated gay and trans rights movement, finding family in friends rather than blood, and their hopes for LGBTQ+ elders to be considered in policymaking. While these concerns were voiced from people living only in Scotland, they are still concerns that permeate the elder sector of the movement all around the world.

The short film was also a good way to set the stage for the primary feature, Open Windows. It featured four women from Spain and France, all in their seventies, discussing their lives as lesbians from the very beginning. When they were coming to terms with their sexualities, the term “lesbian” did not even exist and there was virtually no literature on the subject- they just knew they were into women. Which in my opinion is pretty badass because they were sneaking around Catholic school with girls they called “their closest friend” and their heats all aflutter. The cuteness doesn’t end there though because the two ladies in France (a lesbian couple) didn’t fall in love with each other until they were 69 years old. Like what! I won’t give away their discoveries- you’re just going to have to watch their love unfold. The documentary did get down to the serious stuff though when it came to activism and lack of visibility when it comes to the older LGBTQ+ community. This mostly came to light in the form of retirement homes and whether or not there should be homes exclusively for LGBTQ+ persons or if current homes need to be educated on the issue and make it known that they welcome the community. What it really comes down to is safety, because every person is different and might feel comfortable in a different environment, so there needs to be a variety of options to make the transition into that lifestyle the easiest it can be. One of the main concerns that was addressed in the film is the terrifying notion of going back in the closet when moving to a care home, which is often a reality for many people- especially in the UK where there are no homes targeting the LGBTQ+ community. But that might change soon! The first UK LGBTQ+ home for elder people is officially in the works and they seem to be taking it pretty seriously. Check out their website here!

Also if you’re interested in the Open Windows documentary, here’s the trailer.

Cheers!

 

 

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Am I a fresher?

Time September 21st, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents, Scotland | No Comments by

University of Glasgow’s Fresher’s Week 2015. Hoards of swarming first years. Flyers thrust in faces. Struggling to commit name after name to memory. Scribbling on email lists. Stealing all the free pens in an ever growing free tote collection. Hunting down free food spots. Failing to remember which pub has the best deals on drinks. Struggling to come to terms with the fact that school starts tomorrow.

That is the daytime mayhem of what’s known as Fresher’s Week here. First years are welcomed with a week long party, introducing them to the city of Glasgow and giving them a false hope of what every night in college has the potential to be. All before the first week of classes descend and suddenly the reading lists are upon us and we remember that campus is actually for learning!

What. a. week. Many of the events in Fresher’s week required a Fresher’s Pass, which I did not actually acquire. But I managed to do my thing anyways and attend what seemed like the important events. The Fresher’s Fair was about every single club/society begging for new members. I put my email on more than a few lists: GULGBT+, Wine & Cheese society, Sociology club, FemSociety (Feminist club), rugby sports club and even the golf sports club. I’m probably forgetting a couple, but that’s how many societies there actually are.

It’s during Fresher’s Week too, that the sports club host what they call “taster sessions”. They’re basically two hour time slots where anyone can show up and get a “taste” of what it would be like to either play that sport or be on the squad. They welcome anyone, even if you don’t even know what a soccer ball (whoops football) looks like! I went to the football, rugby, and the golf one, but of those three, I think I’ll stick with the rugby club. I haven’t had that much fun chasing a ball around, tackling and rolling on the ground since I got a puppy. The girls were so rad too though- probably one of the most welcoming groups I’ve been a part of all week. Aside from the fact that they all called me a fresher- even though I’m technically a fourth year- it was a blast. By the end of the night they almost had me convinced that I am actually a fresher, and you know what- I can live with that when it comes to rugby!

I stopped by the GULGBT+ Welcome Tent this week, and had a great conversation about how horrifying the reality of having Donald Trump as president might be. I’m finding that a lot of people here find it pretty funny how seriously he is being taken by Americans. I can’t really say I’m laughing as much as I used to about it…

My flatmate brought up an interesting point the other day though, even though it was about strippers. She was wondering what they do in the UK, because there is no one pound bill- only a solid, quite heavy, coin. Do they throw them? Do they have a deposit box at the stage? What goes on here? I don’t really have any desire to find a strip club here in Scotland, but it made me think of drag shows. In the U.S. it’s a sign of encouragement and support to hand dollar bills to the queens and kings on stage! I brought it up in a conversation with a girl from England while we were talking about RuPaul. She wasn’t exactly sure but we speculated that maybe it had to do with the fact that tickets to a drag show were more expensive here than in the U.S.? I’m not exactly sure how that checks out, but I figure the only way to find out is to find a drag show and go!

This weekend, Glasgow is hosting the first ever Scottish Queer International Film Festival this week! SQIFF began earlier this year, hosting a few film events across the country, but this will be their first full festival- which is really exciting! Most events take place at the Glasgow School of Art, I believe, but it’s not just films! There are workshops about scriptwriting, activism, a feminist porn night, shorts about LGBTQ+ experiences, and more documentaries. It’s 24-27 September, so I’ll have to check it out and let you know how it goes.

But honestly I could not be more excited for classes to start. Two weeks have been spent here and I’m ready to get down to business! After the insanity that was registration (here it’s called enrolment), I officially have four classes! One sociology, one poetry, one writing, and one history class. Stoked beyond belief. Hopefully this excitement lasts all term and not just until my next blog post!

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Hogwarts Vibes

Time September 11th, 2015 in College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents, Scotland | No Comments by

Well, it’s official. Week 1 at Hogwarts is officially over. I’ve been sorted into Gryffindor and I couldn’t be most upset that we’re not allowed to apparate on campus here.

Okay, part of that sentence might be a lie, but the one true thing is that I really wish I could transport myself from place to place that easily. After spending a full week in the massive city of Glasgow, my iPhone says I walk an average of 8 miles a day. 8 miles! My college hometown doesn’t even have an 8 mile radius! Even though the walk through the Botanic Gardens multiple times a day is stunning, my feet are still getting used to the fact that the free campus bus has not started running yet.

The comparison to Hogwarts is also no joke. The University of Glasgow’s main building feels like a real life school for witchcraft and wizardry. And that’s not in a “creepy hocus pocus” kind of way, but in a “larger than life” kind of way. So far, it’s been a bunch of orientation activities and meetings, waves of panic about class registration, and bagpipes on every corner. When I imagine Scotland, yes I automatically think bagpipes, but when I knew I was going to live here I never imagined hearing bagpipes off in the distance just about everywhere I walked. I have to say, it’s pretty magical and it makes me want to learn to play more and more everyday (which might come true with a piping class they offer here).

The IFSA- Butler squad is amazing, who I first all met at the orientation in Edinburgh last week. There are ten of us attending the University of Glasgow, and after spending a week in our separate University housing arrangements, I think we’ve all kept in touch pretty well. Now’s the time I get to talk about my sexuality! I think that most of them are aware that I’m gay, and as expected, none of them batted an eye when I dropped the “my girlfriend back home…” sentence, except for one girl! She was (and of course I was as well) excited to meet someone in the same program who also wasn’t exactly straight. We’ve spent a lot of time talking over brews at a pubs about how easy it can be to feel isolated as a gay person in this world, and how necessary it feels to have people by your side who shares a similar experience.

Coming out is another big theme in the LGBT+ world that’s a never ending process- especially after just having moved to another country. It’s been easy for me with my level of comfort with my own sexuality, and because I can just drop the fact that I have a girlfriend. It automatically outs me (unless they’re thinking I’m referring to my friend who happens to be female), and it gives them something to focus on other than solely my orientation. I think it’s been received well here and my roommates and other people I’ve met seem just as eager to talk about my girlfriend as they would be to talk about someone’s long distance boyfriend. Granted, most of them are American, so I’m not really getting too big of a feel for Glasgow’s gay community just yet. I do have a friend here who’s Scottish and I struck up a little conversation about Glasgow with her. She mentioned that Scotland in general is pretty liberal and very accepting of the LGBTQ+ population (especially in Glasgow). I had gathered that much purely from research,  but it’s always nice to hear from a local!

The University has an LGBTQ+ organization (GULGBTQ+), and so far I’ve noticed that they have an amazing presence on campus and around the city.  At a table they had at an international student information fair, they told me they had one large group with weekly events, but that there were also multiple groups within GULBGTQ+ that threw events on their own. These were separate groups like International LGBTQ+, Women’s, Lesbian, Transgender, Asexual, Bisexual and way more. I was shocked! Not only because of how inclusive their organization was but at the fact that the University’s community was big enough to form that many distinct groups. I’m on their email list already so I’ll keep you posted on events!

On another note, this weekend I’ll be moving into the home of a family in Shap, which is a town in Northwest England. They’re a family of four and they have a farm! Not only will it be a completely new experience for me in general (because no I have never lived with farm animals), but it will be an entirely opposite perspective of the UK that I have yet to experience.

Next week is the sports and clubs fair, so I’ll keep you posted on my first quidditch practice.

 

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Officially en route…

Time August 31st, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents, Scotland | No Comments by

Hey there everyone!

My first post is coming to you from a train going 125 mph up the countryside somewhere between London and Liverpool. Yes, I used miles/hour… so you can probably tell that I’m from the States and have yet to fully convert to the metric system. I’ll let you know how that goes once I get to Scotland! I officially report to Edinburgh for a two-day orientation to the program on Wednesday (Sept. 2)! I’ll have to admit it doesn’t actually feel real despite the fact that I’ve been in the UK for almost three days now. I decided to come a week early to get some traveling in before the hustle and bustle of school starts. So the past 70 hours have included miles upon miles of walking through London, frequent ducking for cover from torrential downpours, and struggling to figure out what direction cars will come from when crossing the street. Being from America, where we drive on the right side of the road and from the left side of the car, not being able to immediately locate a car or its driver was probably the most terrifying aspect of the city. From London, I’m heading to Liverpool for the day to shamelessly feed my Beatles obsession, and from there it’s on to Edinburgh!

Now that you’ve got a grasp of where I’m coming from, I’ll let you know where I actually come from. I was born and raised in San Jose, California. For those not familiar with USA’s west coast, San Jose is roughly an hour south of San Francisco. I grew up in a world of competitive softball and an all-girls Catholic high school. (I’ m seriously going to miss the atmosphere of October baseball in the States.) From the SF Bay Area I moved to Corvallis, Oregon to attend college at Oregon State University (Go Beavs!). At the time it was the farthest I had lived from home for an extended period of time. But that’s all about to change! I’m going into my senior year as a sociology major with a minor in writing. Please don’t ask me what I want to do with it yet… I don’t have a straight answer for even myself!

Starting next week I’ll be writing to you from the University of Glasgow, where I’ll (hopefully) have classes Sociology and Writing. I don’t yet have my courses figured out but that will all sort out sometime in the next couple weeks. School doesn’t officially begin until the third week of September so for the next couple of weeks I’ll be getting my bearings around Glasgow. You’ll hear all about them just as I learn them!

The goal is to post here a minimum of once a week, and to give you the inside scoop on what Glasgow is really like. The highlight of this blog though, is my take on the LGBTQ community. As an LGTBQ Correspondent, I get to let you all know about my experiences as an individual who doesn’t identify as straight. I’m from the Bay Area, so I’ve grown up in an area that was pretty accepting and aware of the gay community. San Francisco’s history was a big part of that. My family is a little bit of a different story, and most of them are not aware that I am keeping a blog geared towards communicating my life as a queer person abroad.

Moving to Oregon was a bit of a shock because for the first time I wasn’t exactly sure about the conservative atmosphere in a small town (even though it was a college town), I had roommates, and many people were from towns with fewer streets than some outdoor shopping malls in my home town. So I’ve experienced moving to a new state and battling the coming out process, but moving to a new country might be a different story. That being said, same-sex marriage has been legal in Scotland since 2014- a right that all American citizens didn’t get until two months ago. But having same-sex marriage rights doesn’t tell all about a country and how it responds to members of the LGBTQ community- there’s a whole lot more to it (but more on that later).

I’m excited because keeping this blog will push me to get more involved in the gay community in Glasgow, something I might be too shy to do otherwise. There are organizations across Glasgow, on campus, gay bars, and even Glasgow Pride (Glasgay) that I’m hoping to get myself into.

So there you have it- an introduction to what you’ll be hearing from my side of the world. More next week-from Edinburgh and Glasgow!

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