Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler
Anyone who has studied in Great Britain knows how central Tesco, a popular supermarket chain, is to everyday life. With decent prices and locations at what seems like every corner, it is every university students go-to. I pass two on my walk home from the University of Glasgow and I usually stop in every day to pick up whatever I need for that night’s dinner. However, the smaller Tesco Metros don’t always have the selection I need, so I make the 10 minute trek to the huge Tesco nearby. To get there, I walk along a beautiful tree and apartment-lined canal, which makes every trip special.
You can expect to see lots of wildlife while walking along the canal. Doves, ducks, and squirrels are all very common, but some have even seen foxes! In Scottish Gaelic, Glasgow means "dear green place," which still holds true given the many parks and waterways that host these lovely animals.
There is beauty everywhere you look in Scotland — the stunning hills surrounding Stirling, the architecture of Glasgow, and the historical sights of Edinburgh are all breathtaking during the day, but Scotland truly comes alive at night. These pictures were taken mostly on the first few nights of orientation in Edinburgh. I definitely recommend walking along the Royal Mile at night; it was surprisingly calm and it was nice to be able to explore Edinburgh Castle up close without crowds!
Last week I went to my first ever gay bar, and boy, what an experience (so no this isn’t about ‘camping’ but a different type of camp).
This night was a highlight of my trip; I love the idea of my favorite moments either revolving around the scenic, nature sights or the late-night neon of queer Glasgow.
I was able to know all the songs they played because I mostly listen to queer artists anyway, so it was such a treat. I’m so used to not getting any of the heteronormative youth culture, like at all, especially at parties. I just don’t feel ‘with it,’ in a way that is hard to explain a lot of the time.
My friend and I went out to one of the drag shows and it was a small show with local queens, but it was such a joy to be a part of something like that, especially since I love drag and its artistry. I was so happy to be able to dance to my favorite hits. Especially all the RuPaul songs. What a euphoric experience when I knew the “Purse First” song, having (not obsessively haha) watched Bob the Drag Queen’s music video on repeat when it first came out after season 8 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s not often that I get to gush about my love for camp and butch aesthetics besides in a classroom environment, and even then I’m surrounded by people that don’t really fully understand the reasons queer subcultures are so important to our community. People usually boil down ‘gay bars’ as being oversexual which is pretty homophobic in itself. A lot of people look down at gay bars, but these are the places in history that prompted hidden discussions about gender and sexuality, and allowed for a community during times when that was extremely unheard of or condemned.
In that way, it was a soft relief to open up to my friend (who is queer as well) in such a historically symbolic way, and ramble about drag shows, pride, and my girlfriend. (There was still a straight guy who ruined a bit of my evening, as he tried to flirt with me even after learning I was lesbian.) That annoyed me as usual, but I didn’t let that stop my night. It was a solid experience, being social for once and dancing underneath a ‘love trumps hate’ sign with a world I could grasp, like I was something significant in the timeline of queer culture.
Before I visited Scotland, my school had us enroll in a study abroad class as a way to prepare us for some of the larger, internal issues like culture shock and anxiety that would occur. One of the projects we had to do was on our interest in the city we were traveling to. I chose LGBT culture, especially the night culture in the 80s because that era really personally affects me, as it might to any gay person. To be able to insert myself, for even a night, into what I had studied, and also to feel so ‘in’ with a hisotry that I can call mine was a worthwhile experience.
I’ve been in Scotland since 31 August and I’m already feeling like I can carve my name someplace, somehow. The homesickness didn’t really register to me until literally right after I gave my mom a hug goodbye and rolled my way past security check points at the airport. Everyone else (students, travelers, young adventurers) seemed to be fine with leaving, laughing and chatting with each other like the friends they’ve made on the airplane were people they’ve known for years and years. I sort of envied them, especially as I couldn’t seem to stop crying until a week had past since the plane landed in Edinburgh. I’m not a huge crier and couldn’t remember the last time I had actually felt tears before, but being away from home, and remembering how my mother, usually stoic and not privy to painful emotion, cried against my shoulder before I had to let her go.
I didn’t come out to my mother that day, or the next, or the next day after that. It seemed inconvenient in a whirlwind of new sights and sounds. I felt more vulnerable than I had ever been before, and while people around me were fresh to exploring and shopping all I thought about was how I knew I couldn’t let my depression and anxiety overcome me like it did my freshman and sophomore years of college.
Perhaps it was because I felt far too alone in a place that felt vaguely familiar, but had the blaring cultural differences when looking up close. Once I arrived in Glasgow, after staying with a host family, and settling into my day to day life, I was able to feel more balanced. Glasgow would be my home for the next four months, and I already seemed to enjoy staying here than anyplace else that my abroad program showed us. I could finally unpack my suitcase, and unpack some emotion, in a quiet room by myself. Once I was able to make my room my own, and meet my new flat-mates in our hall, I felt more secure. As of today I feel much better than the day I arrived, jet-lagged, in Scotland, and I know that even better days will be ahead.
Once I actually befriended people, both Scottish people and other exchange students, I felt safer in my travels. There were things to do and sights to see, but I never forget the times, while walking home with a new friend, of talking about our families and how we missed them, even when we came from vastly different places. It made me wonder if the people, so outgoing the first day we arrived, we also battling with homesickness, vulnerability, anxiety, or general stress of what would be a genuinely exciting and worthwhile experience.
If you’re queer like me and/or someone who might feel vulnerable in the beginning days when abroad, make sure to book a therapy appointment prior to boarding your plane. It will take so much stress off of you, as it did me, when understanding there is a safety net for days when identity and other disorders could get the best of you.
Alas, my first blog entry. I’ll be leaving my rather monotonous town on Tuesday for the ripe loudness of Glasgow, Scotland. I’m usually used to the sameness of my summer, with its family ‘fun’ time and staying home to scroll through aesthetic reblogs. On Tuesday, however, I’ll be leaving that: my boisterous family, my new cat, my friends, and my campus in search for something different abroad. I wasn’t nervous really, not for the summer. Too much to do. Too much time spent bickering with my brother or gushing with my girlfriend via Skype. As the depart date approaches I’m getting a bit more anxious, as any big trip would make someone be.
Now whenever someone asks me if I’m getting ‘jitters’ yet I just want to shout YES for God’s sakes. But maybe it’s because I’m just an anxious person in general. All I know is I’m definitely gonna be sleeping that whole plane trip. Speaking of which, this will be my first time on an airplane by myself; in fact, it’s my first time leaving the U.S.
When I was little I always pictured myself somewhere rainy, in the bustle of a city, being able to learn and grow, and grow some more. Now, my anxiety is immersed with a glowing sort of lightness. Like I’m finally able to reach some distant dream that was tucked away somewhere close to my childhood. My child self would never believe how far I’ve come, how long it took me to accept myself and envision a future where I’m not only going to be in an unknown place, but that I’ll be doing it with full confidence in my identity as a gay person. Imagine that, little me.
I planned to come out to my mom this summer, but as the days wane, I’m not so sure. There’s always tomorrow. Tonight. The next day. Something tells me she knows. Another part of me wants to keep this to myself, to store it safe so I won’t be even more vulnerable while I venture to a far off land. At least I know that once I am abroad, I can experience life independently and not have to worry. I am curious about what classes I was able to get, as I’m taking English Literature courses to help with one of my majors for college. Whatever this experience brings, I’ll knows that I will grow from it. Academically and personally. So maybe it’s less ‘jitters’ and more me realizing I’m going to change after I board that plane.
In any case, I’m excited. That’s what I’ll call it. Excited. Because even if I might be the sort of person who frets and fusses, I know that this is a chance of a lifetime, at least for me and my family. Excited that I’ve packed my things up. Excited that I can be myself. Excited for studies. Excited for the newness of a city I could grow into. Excited that I won’t have to hide.
Something I didn’t consider before choosing where to study abroad was my proximity to an airport. I’m not sure why it never occurred to me, because it would seem that ability to be able to journey from your home base country to another would be extremely important, especially since I ultimately decided to study on an island. Thankfully, there’s an airport a taxi ride away from where I live, with 20 euro flights to places like London and Glasgow, just across the pond.
One of my friends is studying at Queen Mary University in London, so I took one of these very inexpensive flights for a weekend to visit him. I almost chose to study at QMU when applying for schools abroad, and I feared that visiting there may make me regret my choice of UCC instead. Being a laid-back travelers, we wandered from place to place via the Tube, enjoying the sights and sounds of people from everyone rushing from one place to the next. Being foodies, we took advantage of the diverse cultures and ate authentic sushi and Indian food (both of which are very hard to find in Ireland). Being huge nerds, we geeked out at Platform 9 3/4 (I’m a Ravenclaw by the way), and, being shopaholics, gaped in Harrod’s (a very expensive, very beautiful mall, in short). London had the glamour of New York with the diversity of Los Angeles and the sprawl of San Francisco. It delivered the dazzle promised by the media, with a healthy dose of lovely accents and delicious food.
- Glasgow Botanic Gardens, which I get to walk through to go to class every day! It’s gorgeous
- St. Mungo’s Tomb and Cathedral, St. Mungo is Glasgow’s patron saint, and his tomb is under Glasgow Cathedral (picture 5)
- Drinking fountain in the Boyd Orr building, drinking fountains that I’m accustomed to don’t exist in the U.K, at least as far as I’ve seen. Make sure to bring a cup of some sort!
- The cloisters located in the main building, They’re pretty, one of my favorite spots on campus.
- Glasgow Cathedral, the original founding place of University of Glasgow, one of the oldest spots in the city, and an absolutely gorgeous building
- Donald Dewar statue, located outside of Glasgow’s equivalent of a shopping mall (The Buchanan Galleries)
- Duke of Wellington statue, located outside of the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art (the cone is thanks to Glaswegians, I think it’s a good addition)
- BRGR burger, featuring a BRGR “Hawder” which was completely new to me, but also in celebration of the first dinner I ever had with my flatmates!