One of the most frequent questions I get asked during the very British activity that is small-talk is: “why did you come to Glasgow?” To be perfectly honest, before applying, I had not heard much of the university or the city. Although I am now in love with both, sometimes I still sing to myself, “I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien, I’m a Spanish girl in Glasgow.”
Spain and Scotland have nothing in common. But in order to explain why, some clarifications need to be made about what is commonly thought of us: we are only known for siesta and fiesta (statistically, Spaniards work longer hours than most Europeans; we do party hard though), we drink a lot, we kill animals for fun (not everyone supports bullfighting), we are poor (the third richest man in the world, Amancio Ortega, is Spanish, although Spain is not economically great), we are the best at football (that’s true), and it’s never cold in Spain (it is, in many parts, even more so than in Glasgow).
A stereotype that, I feel, happens to be true, and one which makes me feel very proud of my culture is partying. I do not understand clubs here closing at two or three. The first time I went out and lights came on that early, I freaked out that something was wrong and we were being evacuated. I also feel like a sober alien when people start drinking at eight o’clock; that’s usually around the time we finish having lunch! I won’t get used to alcohol being expensive either, or the fact that, as a friend of mine once said about the volume of the shot measures, “alcohol here is non-alcoholic”. It also happens to be very common to steal road signs. For some inexplicable reason.
A fellow Spanish native Carlota, who is doing her exchange year in Glasgow, told me that she “cannot get used to timetables. Everything happens earlier in the day: you eat early, drink early, close the party early. While in Spain we do everything later”. Indeed, maybe that’s why we are in recession.
Despite all of this, I love Glasgow. There are so many things this city and all the students living here should be proud of, especially regarding life at the university. The education system is more practical and makes you relate much more to the subject – it actually makes you like what you study. I’m used to a system where the teacher would say: “This essay is an A, and it might come up in the exam.” I would then go on to learn fifteen essays, word by word.
Another exchange student, Alessandra, was amazed how much the education system in Glasgow differs from the one back home. Having regular seminars, tutorials and tests can be a pain sometimes, but they are extremely helpful. “I wouldn’t do anything otherwise,” she says. She also remarks about how important it is to have office hours for getting in touch teaching staff. “Back home the lecturer might as well be a prince. There’s no way you can approach him.”
Another Spaniard in Glasgow, Carlos, a fourth year Aeronautical Engineering student told me he was shocked to see such friendly people. “Even if they don’t know you, they want to talk to you and help you if they can. Someone once saw I was lost, and took the time to walk me where I had to go. I couldn’t believe that. Although I have trouble understanding their accents, Glaswegians are amazing.”
Personally, I too am gobsmacked at how the university, and the city, are willing to help students – from discounts on food, shops, transport, museums, SnapFax, and all the offers printed on a rainforest’s amount of fliers.
But by far my favourite part of being a student in Glasgow, the crème de la crème of my time here, is the abundance of clubs, societies and ceilidhs. In Spain, there are only a few student associations, but if you join them, you’ll probably fail your degree – the time commitment won’t mesh well with the inflexibility of your timetable. So it’s fantastic knowing that your hobbies and skills are valued by the University, whether it’s a sport, volunteering, or the Cheese Society. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to start the “Clubs should stay open all night” society, and I hope to see you all there.