School Daze – DU Abroad

New child in a new school

I’ve never had a scary first day of school. I went to the same school from fourth grade to senior year because it was a K-12 institution. And in fourth grade, your first day of school isn’t so scary. I was a social kid so making friends wasn’t very intimidating. Going to a new school your freshman year of high school is daunting. Transferring schools to college is intimidating but going to the same school for nine years with the same people, same teachers, same building and same environment, is by no means intimidating. I remember being a little nervous at the start of each year, but it was more exciting to see all of my favorite teachers and peers that I grew up with. Going to college was scary. Going to college in another country was scarier. At least in America, I knew exactly what to expect in the classes. I had taken college classes all through high school, so I knew what to expect regarding the classes, the teachers, the class structure, the technology software used, all of that. In Scotland, I had to relearn everything. It was quite similar to where I wasn’t completely lost, but quite different from where it took effort to learn and many sightings to figure out. Here are some of the most notable observations:

  • Times and registration: I always knew timetables meant the multiplication charts we were tested on in elementary school, but here you don’t use the word timetable, it’s a timetable. It’s not just about the school, there are bus schedules, meeting times, etc. My schedule consisted of two courses in public policy and a course in law. All classes were worth 20 credits, which translates to 4 DU credits, but the schedule…sorry…calendar it is complicated. For the two public policy courses, they are once a week for two hours. This is different from DU classes being twice a week for two hours. From what I understand school in the UK is the most reliant on self-study so they have fewer lessons to give students time to read and learn on their own assigned material. Students are expected to complete all prep materials and out-of-class readings, which I found very interesting. In America, we don’t believe that students will do their work on their own, so we have attendance notes and little quizzes to keep them accountable. That doesn’t happen here. It’s in my law class that things get complicated. I have the lesson for an hour on Wednesday then Friday from 9am to 10am then back from 12pm to 1pm. It’s so strange to have a two hour break between the same class and I’m sure it’s hard for students to schedule their classes between such a spread schedule like that. However, they wouldn’t know because they don’t make their schedules. At DU, when registration opens, you sign up for your classes and it’s free for everyone while everyone else signs up for the classes they need to take. But, in Glasgow, the registration service sets your timetable, so all you have to do is submit the courses you want to take with your first choice at the top of the list and hope you get a good timetable. It’s probably very nice for students here who are used to submitting classes they like and getting their timetables a few weeks before class, but for me it was scary. It was scary to wait all summer without any control over my registration, without knowing what classes I was taking and at what time. Another twist is tutorials. My law class has an extra class six Mondays of the semester where a small group of the large class of 80 people meet to discuss a problem-solving activity. The problems are given to us in advance and we meet to compare our answers with a tutor (the Glasgow equivalent of a Teacher’s Assistant). Other courses are sometimes specified as seminars and lectures where seminars are just talks and lectures are a mixture of talks and teaching, but the tutorials are the most interesting aspect of the schedule and class setup.
  • Professors: The professors at the University of Glasgow are incredibly nice. Every teacher really wants to make sure students understand and even the strictest teachers are never rude or block students’ ideas. Nor do they assert their own political views in debates or discussions as American professors do. It’s not uncommon to have multiple teachers for a class here. In my public policy class, we will have a total of five professors rotating weekly lectures. Thus, a teacher can teach weeks 1 to 3 and week 7. Another teacher can only teach weeks 4 and 5 and so on. I wasn’t sure about this system at first, but I have to say I actually think it’s a brilliant idea. Different teachers have different teaching styles, which not only helps students stay engaged as they don’t quite know what to expect from each teacher, but it also helps if a student is struggling to be receptive. to a teacher with whom he will always have a chance to connect. others.
  • Secondary to higher education: The transition and roles of high school and college are very different in Scotland. In America, the common curriculum is taught throughout high school and into early college. However, in Scotland, students begin to specialize in certain areas of education in high school, so by the time they reach university they are already enrolled in a major and only take a few courses from the common curriculum. This means people rarely change majors and usually take gap years in order to be absolutely sure what they want to graduate into. Law school is the most interesting course in the UK because instead of going to high school and then an undergraduate degree and then law school for three years, students graduate from high school, study undergraduate law and then graduate with the ability to practice law. Thus, they receive the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree and a doctorate in law in just four years of university. I am taking a contract law course overseas which has been very insightful in setting up a law school in the UK. When we spoke to students in Glasgow about the law school setup compared to American law school, it seemed like we didn’t understand each other. It took us a long conversation to figure out how the opposing systems worked.
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Professors Square, University of Glasgow
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12-storey library at the University of Glasgow

Trip to Edinburgh

For my birthday abroad, my best friend and I took a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. It is a town just an hour from Glasgow and it is the capital of Scotland. The city is bigger, more expensive and certainly more “touristy”. We took the train to Edinburgh which was interesting for us. In America, I rarely use public transport. My freshman year at DU, I took the light rail to get downtown, but once I got my car to school, the light rail was almost never a means of transportation to me. However, in Glasgow, public transport is widely used and highly preferred. . Edinburgh was the same distance from Glasgow as Colorado Springs was from Denver, but I could never imagine taking a train to Colorado Springs, I would drive. Not having a vehicle meant we had to use public transport which was scary at first but easy to master and understand after a few weeks. Trains are also unreliable in Glasgow due to strikes. This may be a current issue and not typical of Glasgow, but strikes seem to be causing cancellations and delays everywhere. It’s not just with rail systems either. Strikes have occurred with post offices, garbage companies, airlines, and even the campus gymnasium. To say the least, adjusting to relying solely on public transport has been difficult, but very insightful after living in a place all my life that has little dependence on buses and subway systems.

Anyway, my friend and I took the train to Edinburgh and spent the day exploring. We saw the Scot Monument and Edinburgh Castle which are two of the most amazing structures in Scotland. Edinburgh was also the birthplace of Harry Potter, so there are many historical places where JK Rowling wrote her books or inspired places/things in the world of Harry Potter. There were more American fast food outlets like Burger King, Five Guys and Wingstop in Edinburgh which intrigued us. We had afternoon tea in a cozy tea room near the Royal Mile. We ordered a ‘tea’ experience which consisted of a teapot as well as an assortment of pastries and snacks. The scones were one of the most amazing pastries I have ever eaten.

We ended our adventure by eating at an Italian restaurant that had amazing reviews. The servers were so much fun. They were fascinated that we were from America and had a lot of fun teasing us and asking us about studying abroad. When they found out it was my birthday they gave me a free dessert with a candle and sang happy birthday to me in Italian. In America I used to feel so uncomfortable and embarrassed when restaurants sang happy birthday to me, but for some reason I felt too comfortable and genuinely grateful to the restaurant staff of make me feel special. The best part of our dinner was when we tipped the waiter. We tipped him 10 pounds on a 50 pound check, so the standard American tip of 20%, and the man was appalled. He gasped at the money and, eyes wide, tried not to accept the tip. I explained to the man that in America we tip well, especially when we receive good service. I told him about my service experience and he finally understood and took the money. He promised to split the money with his colleagues which I found very kind and with gratitude he escorted us to the door and said goodbye. It’s the little things that make me happy, so although it’s amazing that I can say I had 20 years in Edinburgh, Scotland, exploring monuments, castles, old shops and tea rooms , my favorite part of the day was doing server night with just a 10 pound note.

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View from Edinburgh Castle
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Scottish monument in Edinburgh, Scotland
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Tolbooth Kirk, renamed ‘The Hub’ located on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile

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