Stirling, Scotland: So Worth It Past Review

By (Environmental Science., University of Southern Maine) for

CISabroad (Center for International Studies): Stirling - Semester in Stirling

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I wanted to go to Scotland since I was a sophomore in High School and started planning to study abroad my first year of college, so I put a lot of time and effort into my choices of school and program. I was not disappointed. It was really good for me to get away from home (I live at home and commute to school normally) and from the same old thing at my home University for a semester. I learned a lot about myself through this experience because going in, I had never been on an airplane before, never left home for that long, and didn't know anyone. I think I gained confidence and independence through this experience and it has most certainly changed the course of my life. I met my boyfriend while in Stirling and am going to go back to the University of Stirling this fall to get my Master's Degree.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Academics at Stirling were different from what I was used to at my home university. There are not as many assignments in each class, so your overall grade was heavily dependent on just a few grades. Generally you have only 3-5 assignments which make up your grade, usually a combination of essays, class tests, and/or presentations, plus the final exam, which is routinely 50% of your overall grade. The teaching structure was also different. Generally you have a one-hour lecture twice a week and a seminar once a week. Lectures are in a large lecture theater with as many as 100 other students. Seminars are small group sessions with generally 10 students in each section. Grading is also different, you have a registration number and a coversheet you put on all your assignments and then submit them at your department's office. That way grading is totally anonymous because your name is not on anything. Generally your professors let you know when assignments can be picked up and you pick them up in the office. They also sometimes post grades on WebCT, their online access to course materials and other student information (kind of like the Blackboard website at my home university). The workload is not too bad, but you have to keep in mind that you don't have weekly homework. You get a long reading list of "suggested reading" that may help you with a particular lecture topic or unit. Sometimes you will have reading or questions to answer for a seminar as well, but you do most of the time management for yourself, i.e. reading and essay writing.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I don't think I contacted the administration/support services at all while I was there. We did have plenty of orientation the first week and I felt very confident that if I needed help I would be able to contact someone and get the support I needed. Stirling is a big study-abroad school so they are very experienced in helping out foreign and study abroad students. There were quite a few other Americans as well as people from other countries studying there while I was there.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived in Alexander Court, which I really liked. They are definitely the nicest campus accommodations. They are newer and more homey feeling than the other residences. The chalets are another nice option if you don't want to live in a giant residence hall (these can be quite rowdy, the rooms are small, and you will hear a rumor that they were modeled after a Swedish prison). Generally you will live in a "flat" with 4-7 other students. You each have separate bedrooms and a communal kitchen/common room area. The dorm rooms come with a desk, chair bed, small set of drawers, wastebasket, and some closet space. They provide bed linens and pillows which they will launder for you every other week if you bring them to the porter's office on the specified day. They aren't particularly comfortable (my pillow was rather flat) but they were livable. They do not provide you with any kitchen utensils, but you have a fridge and sometimes a toaster, microwave and/or electric kettle. You will more than likely be moving in with students who have a lot of kitchen stuff already so you probably won't need to but a whole lot, maybe some plates, silverware, and a few pots and pans. I was lucky enough to live with someone who shared all their kitchen stuff with me so I didn't have to buy anything.

* Food:

Food is a lot cheaper in the UK than the US. There are no meal plans at Stirling Uni and every flat has a kitchen. The two major grocery store chains near campus are Tesco and Sainsbury's. There is also a small local health food store in town. There are many places to eat on campus, including Haldane's which is the closest thing they get to a cafeteria - they have weird hours there so if you want to eat there make sure you know when it's open. You can get breakfast and lunch at Studio in the student's union, and there is a fast-food type place in the middle of the atrium as well as a cafe. There are also quite a few restaurants in town, lots of Indian places. They also have McDonalds, Subway, Domino's and KFC if you are missing home, I guess.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

During orientation we got a bus trip around the Stirling area which was a lot of fun. We went to the field at Bannockburn (where Robert the Bruce defeated the English), up to the castle (although we didn't have time to go inside), and to Dunblane Cathedral in the small town of Dunblane north of Stirling. You definitely have to visit Stirling Castle while you're there. Another cool place to go is the Wallace Monument (great views!). Glasgow and Edinburgh are both around an hour away on the train and cost around 7 pounds round trip so you have no excuse not to go. In one of my classes (Environmental History) we got to visit a peat bog and Cambuskenneth Abbey.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

We had to bring one of my flatmates to the hospital once and the porters didn't want to call an ambulance so we had to get a taxi there. They are very hesitant to call emergency services unless someone is unconscious or something. Healthcare is covered by the National Health Service so if you did have to go to the emergency room it is free. I didn't need any special vaccines for the program and wasn't aware of any national health issues during my stay.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Local Students

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Don't be like a lot of other study abroad students I met when I was over there who drank a lot and went out partying every night. That's fine once and a while and is part of the cultural experience, but it is a stupid thing to waste all your precious time in Scotland doing. Don't turn down an opportunity or experience because you have too much school work to do, but don't neglect your work either. See as much as you can but also know that the friendships and personal connections you make while there are just as valuable as the places you visit. Don't be a tourist, try to immerse yourself in the culture and live like a local.