I have unbelievably already been in Scotland for nearly three weeks, yet unfortunately have only written about the first three days of my time here. This is because for the the past couple weeks I have been incredibly busy with different Orientation events here at the University of Glasgow, participating in Fresher’s Week (a week of events/parties dedicated to the incoming freshman class and open to us visiting international students), and doing just what the title of this blog implies, STRESSING OUT.
Rest assured, I will write about the many exciting and fun events of the past two weeks sometime in the near future, I promise. But seeing as how those blogs will likely take up more of the time that I seem never to have, and don’t necessarily reflect upon the feelings I am having at the exact moment, the real purpose of a blog, I will jump ahead a bit before coming back to those events at a later date.
Ok, so the first thing I have been stressing out about has been classes. Yes, I know classes haven’t even started yet, so I’m sure you are wondering how in the world that could be possible, but that is just because you have never experienced the University of Glasgow registration process. It is hands down the most complicated process in the history of the world, not to mention determining a class schedule that actually works is like trying to put together a 500 piece home theater system from Ikea with directions only in Swedish and 150 or so parts completely missing. You may be thinking that I am exaggerating and in all honesty I probably am, but it has been incredibly difficult nonetheless and I shall tell you why.
Our journey begins back in February when I was first applying to the University of Glasgow. At the time of application I was required to provide a list of 8 to 10 potential courses that I would be taking in the fall in which I would be “Pre-Registered” for. One was very easy for me, the Pre-Med Functional Anatomy course that I had mentioned previously as the reason for my selection of the University of Glasgow. However, I then, on my own and with a little help from my Butler Study Abroad Advisor Kathleen Gordon, an angel and savior on earth, had to learn the Scottish system of credits, 60 “Scotcats” equal to one full semester course load, and then scour the massive course catalogue and find potential courses that would add up to the 60 credits I needed, while also satisfying my English major requirements at home as well as my Pre-Med requirements. After hours of searching and emailing back and forth between professors at home and Kathleen, I finally had a solid list that I was able to send in.
But the fun was only beginning. Then in April I had to attend a credit checking session at Lafayette where I met with department heads to get the classes approved and determine the Lafayette course equivalents. Of course a few didn’t transfer as well as others, however I still had a good number of choices I could choose from. Over the summer I then received e-mail confirmation from the University of Glasgow informing me that I was officially Pre-Registered for all the courses and all I had to do was enroll in the classes that I wanted when I got onto campus in a few months. Woo! Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong.
Once in Scotland I learned that in order to complete the simple process of enrolling in a course I would first have to log on to the university network “Websurf” and add all of my classes. I then had to attend the “Supermarket Session” and meet with the department heads and learn when and where I had to go to sign up. But before I did that, I had to register as a University of Glasgow student and receive my student ID and number. Once I was a registered student I could then go to the specified buildings at specified times and sign up for the classes I wanted. And as the final cherry on top, I have to go around to all of my new professors and have them sign a form stating that I am enrolled in the class, which I turn into the office for Study Abroad students and am FINALLY registered and enrolled in all of my classes. Phew!
However, me being the lucky guy that I am, could never have that process run so smoothly. Because the Functional Anatomy course is a new, special course only for abroad students, it does not show up on the Websurf account so I can not add it to my course list. Ok, no problem I will just go to the Supermarket Session and meet the professor who is supposed to be there and get the necessary information. There, he tells us that the course will be three hours in the afternoon on MWF but after a few weeks it will change to MWR so that we have Friday open to travel. Sounds great but there are a few problems. For one thing he didn’t say what time in the afternoon! Secondly, doing so my Anatomy course now conflicts with my oddly scheduled MW morning, R afternoon English course… So just to make sure that we heard him correctly, Will and I go to the biology department to try and get the scoop. The receptionist at the desk is able to give him a call and he informs us that…. he does not yet know when or where the class is to take place or how we are to enroll in the course. But not to worry! Since we are pre-registered for the course he can e-mail us when he gets the details. Only one problem, the course still does not exist on Websurf. So what can we do, we tried everything we could and just hope that it will work itself out.
Moving on to my other courses, Scottish Literature 3A Lectures MW 10-11 and R 2-3 with a Seminar F 10-11 or 11-12 and Essential Genetics Lectures MW 9-10 with a lab component to be assigned. This “to be assigned part” had me a little nervous because of the way my luck had been going in regards to my Anatomy class, and my gut instinct was right. I received my Lab assignment and what time could it have been other than F 10-12… And finally to top it all off, I have two trips scheduled for the first two weekends in October through my program, which of course leave on Friday mornings, so now I will be missing the first rounds of my seminars and labs, critical components of the courses in which attendance is monitored very carefully.
I don’t know if you have been following my rantings and ravings, but the long in short of it is that I have some major scheduling conflicts for the courses I am set to take that I did not foresee, I do not have hardly any information about the course that I came to Glasgow in particular to take, and I have two trips that will force me to miss the first weeks of my supplementary parts of my courses which I had no previous knowledge of the timing for. Now you understand the Ikea metaphor…
I will go ahead and stop with my diatribe about classes because I am hopefully going to get those issues ironed out later this afternoon. Switching gears to traveling. As I have said, I had lots of friends who studied abroad last semester and I was able to follow their many adventures to various parts of Europe with great excitement, knowing that I would be able to do the same in the fall. Although only a fraction of the overall study abroad experience, it was the aspect that I was most looking forward to, so I was eager to get my trips scheduled. Unfortunately, not knowing what my class schedule would be, or how complicated figuring that out would be, I waited until I got here to begin my search.
Knowing that I would be in Europe in October, I thought what better time is there to go visit Munich and experience the grandeur that is Oktoberfest. Unfortunately, I soon found out that Oktoberfest actually occurs mostly during the second half of September and ends the first Sunday in October. Because it was only a few weeks away, tickets to get there were absurdly high and hostels were completely booked up, leaving only the luxury hotels and 50 euro rentable tents. As I am sure you have guess by now, the idea to go to Oktoberfest unfortunately ended rather quickly. I then set my sights to other places in Europe I wished to travel to, Barcelona, Spain, Salzburg, Austria, anywhere in Switzerland, Amsterdam, Dublin and a few others. Unfortunately, as it turns out, Ryanair, the budget airline that my friends used so many times last semester, only flies to a very select few cities from Glasgow, and only on certain days and up until November.
I was and still am disheartened to find out how difficult and limited my travel would be, however there is still hope that I will make it Barcelona, Dublin, and now Brussels, Belgium and Gothenburg, Sweden as those are a few places which would still be reasonable. Will and I are looking in to finding alternate routes to get to Amsterdam, as that is a must for any college-age student in Europe.
I would like to finish with an apology to all you readers who have managed to make it all the way through this long, sarcastic post. I know I sound very bitter about my experience thus far but I would like to assure you that is not the case. I have still been having a wonderful time, meeting new people and participating in a variety of very fun and exciting events. These are just some of the difficulties of travel and study abroad that I have been dealing with and I am merely trying to make light of them.
I think the biggest thing for me to overcome during my time here is to accept the fact that this is MY semester abroad. As I have said many times before, I had a good number of friends including my girlfriend who were abroad last semester, so I heard from them all the time about what they were doing, where the went etc and I began to create an image of an ideal semester abroad and what I thought it was about, what I need to do, what I need to see, where I need to go and what I need to experience. However, if these first few weeks are any indication of what is to come, my abroad experience is going to be very different than theirs, but in no way less exciting or less rewarding. I need to learn to accept that I am in a completely different place, with completely different people, and completely different opportunities that I need to take advantage of for myself and not for them.
Well, I think I made great progress today. Thank you for listening haha. I assure you my next blogs will be much more exciting and visually stimulating.