Week One (& a half) in Glasgow

This week has gone by so quickly! Classes started on Monday – that is, if you were registered for classes. Which I (along with a lot of other study abroad students) was not. I could point fingers (and oh boy have I been) but for now let’s just leave it at the fact that finally, on day four of the semester, I have all of my classes figured out.

I’m taking four classes. Most students here take two or three, depending on the number of credits each one is worth (I’ll do a whole blog post on the Scottish education system once I understand it myself), so when I list off my classes people sometimes look at me like I have two heads. Or maybe it’s just the funny accent.

Anyway, these are my classes:

Comparative Literature: Heroism in Slavonic Cultures – which is basically exactly what it sounds like. We get to read a lot of cool books.

Theatre Studies: Theatre and Society – also exactly what it sounds like. We read plays and talk about how theatre has been perceived in society throughout the years.

Intro to Scottish History and Culture – this is a course offered only for visiting students. We’ll be learning about Scottish history, archaeology, literature, and gaelic (pronounced “gah-lic,” like “garlic” in an English accent, contrary to what the Irish would have you believe).

Darkroom/Film Photography – I’m probably most excited about this class, if I’m being honest. I love photography, and I think it’ll be a great motivator to get me out and exploring every inch of the city.

I’ve only been to the history class and the theatre class so far, but I loved both of them so I’m optimistic about the rest.

Living in Glasgow… where to start? It’s definitely been an adjustment. I’ve been juggling so many different things at once – figuring out where to buy food (and what food to buy), figuring out what I need for my flat and where to buy that (where’s a Target when you need one??), figuring out how to get around this city despite my constantly malfunctioning GPS, figuring out classes (don’t even get me started), figuring out phone plans and health care and every tiny logistical thing you never knew existed – all this while dealing with the weather. Let me just say – horizontal rain? It’s a thing. And it’s not super fun.

The more time I spend in the city, though, the more I’m beginning to like and even love it. I love hearing the Scottish accent everywhere I go. I love seeing dogs in nearly every restaurant I go to. I love asking someone in a store for help and ending up hearing about how their whole day has been. I love the parks and the university. I love learning more about the culture and the history every day. I love the people and their sense of humor – when my friend asked a stranger for the quickest way to get to the train station, “helicopter” was his answer.

The other day we were walking around trying to find decorations for our rooms, and we stumbled across this little cobblestone lane off of one of the main roads of the West End. There were some cute restaurants with fairy lights strung up outside in the first half – but the second half was by far the most interesting. It was just a network of antique shops, most of them neatly organized but one of them positively overflowing with items – guitars and silverware and old telephones and furniture and matchboxes and trinkets and, in one corner, two heaping boxes of old photo projector slides from the ’60s and ’70s. Holding slides up to the light, you could see tiny images of people and landscapes from those years – a marina, a river, an old couple standing in a doorway, a group of bagpipers in kilts. And they were only 50 pence each, so I’m planning to go back there eventually and buy some! And maybe bring my own camera.


On Saturday we took a trip up to Loch Lomond and the town of Balloch – a  forty-five minute train ride away for under six pounds round trip! We wandered around the town for a bit – which was really adorable and quaint and exactly what you’d expect from a lakeside (loch-side?) Scottish town, found some neat playgrounds that I would have loved as a kid, and explored the shores of the loch a bit. The coolest part by far though was the abandoned house we found in the woods.

Just barely peaking out from the woods at the edge of a field was the stone face of an old house. It was only accessible by going up an overgrown dirt road that had a chain running across it – but, fun fact, Scotland has a law known as the Outdoor Access Code which basically allows the public to wander wherever they please, even private property, so long as they’re respecting the environment and the privacy of the landowner. So the chain didn’t stop us.

The house was so cool! There were actually two separate structures, both with roofs collapsed and vines and moss creeping across the stones. Rubble – wooden beams, piles of stone – filled the structures, making exploring the inside more of a challenge. Open doorways led to dark rooms and basements that we didn’t have the time (it was getting dark) or the nerve to explore, but maybe next time. And the forest around the ruins was cool as well – dense, low-hanging and crowded branches covered in moss made for darkened caves. The whole place could very well have been a faerie den – it definitely felt creepy and magical enough.


If you squint you can see the house in between the trees.






Here are some more highlights from the week, in picture form:


Kelvingrove Park near the university


The Hunterian Museum in the university


Glasgow Cathedral (oldest cathedral in the city, surviving from before the Reformation in the 16th century), the Necropolis and silhouettes of the graves, and a full moon.

I’ve yet to do much exploring – usually when I venture out of my flat it’s with a specific destination in mind. I’m excited to have the time, now that my class schedule is under control, to wander around and see what I can find.

I’ll let you know if I find anything interesting.




2 thoughts on “Week One (& a half) in Glasgow

  1. Carolyn Byam

    This is so exciting, thank you so much for sharing your journey with us.
    I sense your growth and maturity, CARRY ON MAC DUFF. Love you


  2. Martha Byam

    I admire your openness to the journey Melissa – and do so enjoy your pictures and commentary. You will have a lot to write about! Be well.


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