Living in one of the Prettiest Countries: Exchange in Strathclyde, Scotland

I originally chose to do my year exchange at Strathclyde University because I had never left Australia before and I wanted to go to an English speaking country with a similar culture. The Scot’s are pretty similar to Australian’s, they’re laid back, super friendly, love their beer and footy (well soccer, but that’s not an argument you’ll win over there), and, like us, don’t speak “proper” English. Basically, I felt right at home.

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Glasgow is a perfect city to do exchange if you want to travel. It’s smack bang in the middle of the UK, so you can get anywhere in Britain by bus. Plus, thanks to the beautifully cheap airlines that are Ryanair and EasyJet, flying is crazy. Like I’m talking €10 to pretty much any city in Europe. It’s also a perfect city for students. There are three universities in Glasgow, Strathclyde, Caledonian and the University of Glasgow so there’s a massive student culture. Glasgow is one of Britain’s best cities for night life and live music, and there’s always student discounts and, even though Strathclyde isn’t as pretty or famous as Glasgow Uni, it’s smack bang in the city centre so you don’t have to worry about getting an Uber after a night out or catching transport to go shopping.

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The Uni itself had both good and bad points for me. Firstly, because I was doing a full year, but beginning in their second semester, I had a little trouble with administration. I was unable to register for my second semester there for almost the first 4 weeks which was a massive pain because I missed quite a bit of assessment and they’re not big on extensions over there. Another issues with the Uni, which didn’t have too much affect on me because I wasn’t overly concerned with doing exceedingly well, is that in some subjects don’t have CRA’s for assessment. If you’re going over there to pick up your GPA and do really well, that will be a huge frustration, because it’s not standardised at all. However, if you’re going over for more of the experience, like I did, but also want to do semi-well, the pass rate for subjects is 40% so that’s a huge plus.

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Strathy also has campus residences, so you don’t have to deal with home owners or strict living rules or neighbours. It’s nothing fancy, but definitely more convenient, safe and perfect for making friends quickly. The halls usually have 4-5 people to a flat with a shared kitchen and bathroom. There is 24hr security and maintenance so if anything goes wrong or needs to be replaced it happens pretty quickly. The only thing with campus living, is it’s mainly for first years or internationals. If you’re wanting to meet and properly get to know Scottish people, living on campus isn’t going to help. But, it is so good for making friends from all over the world and perfect for travelling purposes… I didn’t pay for accommodation in Italy or Germany, went to Lithuania for Christmas, and popped into Bali on the way home to visit a friend.

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Financially, although the Australian Dollar to Pound rate is ridiculously crap, living expenses is pretty similar, especially if you shop at Aldi or Tesco. So long as you’ve saved up enough to do everything you want to do, and personally I recommend also getting the HELP loan, you’ll be fine.

My one tip is to come to Europe before your exchange starts or have a few weeks travelling planned after, because it’s too cheap to travel around not to make the most of it. Also, make the most of the day or weekend trips offered by the Uni or societies. It’s an awesome chance to get to know more people and see Scotland or other places without having to be in charge or the schedule.

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Basically just get involved in everything, put yourself out there and go a little crazy, no one knows you, so who cares. I honestly couldn’t recommend exchange, or Scotland, enough. 2015 was the best year of my life!


The accommodation I had was located in a great part of Glasgow about fifteen minute walk from the campus.  The building itself was a four floor tenement with a fantastic view over the city.  Facilities included a bathroom, toilet, well-equipped kitchen and laundry.  The room sizes depended on which room you decided to pay for but most were adequately sized.

I didn’t really have a solid plan for saving.  In total I went with about $8000, but didn’t have to pay for flights so this amount was more than enough.  I spent around £60 a week on food and drink (including alcohol) but this will come to more or less depending on how much you like eating out.  A good quality meal can be found in most places for between £15 and £20.  Accommodation came to about £120 a week.

Most weeks I tried to stick to about £140 a week (not including accommodation) for everything but this will increase depending on how much you want to go out on weekends and how much travel you would like to do.  Keep in mind the university will have you pay the total of your accommodation amount by a month into the semester so you WILL NEED this money available.

View from the window of my kitchen on a really, really foggy morning!

View from the window of my kitchen on a really, really foggy morning!


The cost of living in general is cheaper than Brisbane but the exchange rate was a huge killer.   Groceries for example will come to less a week than in Australia but because the amount is paid in GBP it ends up being roughly equal or a little more than the same amount of groceries would cost in Brisbane.

If you are planning to set up a bank account when you get there, forget it.  Most banks I tried told me I could only set up an account with them if my visa was for 12 months, but the student visitor visa only lasts 6 months.  As I didn’t expect this I just ended up withdrawing my budgeted amount once a fortnight from an ATM.  This isn’t recommended though as it will end up costing you around $400 in fees.  Try and set up a traveler’s card (or something similar) with your bank at home before going over.

Always have a laptop

The one must have item is a laptop so you can keep in touch with family and friends back home.  The whole experience is very exciting but you will have down time when you aren’t travelling, studying or partying and you will begin to miss everyone at home!  My one travel tip is to always go with a friend if you are going somewhere after dark.  It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how able you are to navigate yourself around, you are in a foreign country and something could always go wrong. I flew over with Qantas and bought travel insurance through World Nomads.  Both companies did their jobs well.

Halloween! I’m in the middle in blue.

Halloween! I’m in the middle in blue.

Personally, the exchange experience made me more willing to put myself ‘out there’ for people, and to communicate with people I’ve never met before.  You will meet a lot of people overseas and you won’t learn anything new if you keep to yourself!  Academically, I took on subjects that may have been a little out of my competency but pushed myself to ensure I learned the content.  This helped me understand the value of hard work while at university: sometimes, you’re not just going to understand something straight away.  You need to keep chipping away at it.

Professionally, exchange made me realise the competition for graduate spots once uni is over.  There are millions of students out there, and sometimes you forget this while at QUT.  Going overseas exposed me to other students around the world who are all fighting for a job once they’ve finished studying. I would definitely recommend the exchange experience!  There’s the opportunity to travel, meet plenty of great people and learn new things about yourself.

Campus looking like Harry Potter

Christmas market ice-skating in the town centre.

Christmas market ice-skating in the town center

Glasgow is a cold, windy city that rains a lot!  While the weather is average by Australian standards, the city makes up for it with a fantastic music and cultural scene.  There are always bands to see, venues to go to and bars to enjoy.  There are plenty of students floating around with lots of talent, lending the place a really exciting feel.  There was always something going on!  The people are very friendly, although it might take a while for you to get used to the accent.

While the campus at QUT is new and for the most part has primarily modern architecture, the main campus at UoG looks like something out of Harry Potter: it’s very old and consists of many winding corridors and spiralling stairs. It is the fourth oldest university in the English speaking world!  The facilities are top notch, with a number of well-equipped libraries, sporting venues and lecture theatres.

Lecture in a converted church

UoG paid a lot of attention to students and made a real effort to ensure we were receiving a quality education.  The tutors and lecturers were always available and willing to engage with class members, and the small class sizes meant that there was always quality discussion.  Two active student societies also meant there were plenty of student events going on at cheap prices in locations close to the student accommodation, which allowed for entertainment all the time without needing to worry about transport. The university is fairly strong in all of its departments but the schools of Law and Medicine in particular are very strong and receive large amounts of funding

One of the lecture halls for Jurisprudence, held in a converted church.

One of the lecture halls for Jurisprudence, held in a converted church.

While I was in Glasgow, I studied Labour Law, Jurisprudence, Business Law and Advanced International Law.  Studying over there was much more intense than at QUT: there were three to four lectures for each subject a week, and a tutorial once every three weeks.  The study in general required much more reading and discussion of the topics rather than focusing on answering questions after attending lectures.  End of semester exams were worth 75% so the rewards/price of studying/failing to study were much higher than at QUT.  In general I would say the teaching method over there was much more focused on ensuring students completely understood the theory compared to QUT’s method of ensuring students could use the theory in a practical situation.

Say ‘yes’ to everything about Scotland

One of my favorite view at Scotland

One of my favorite view at Scotland

Before I left, I was concerned I wouldn’t understand anyone’s accents! And listening to Ewan McGregor wasn’t enough preparation! At first I felt like I was really rude not understanding anyone but after a few days it kicked in, and if anything I have now come home saying new slang words that my friends don’t understand and saying Aye and Wee before just about everything! I cannot find the words to say how much I truly loved my time in Scotland. It is a county full of history and culture, the people are just amazing and I have made some unforgettable friends from all over the country.

The Study Abroad program has given me an opportunity to develop my skills in Journalism and expand my knowledge of world news and stories. I have never had so much fun and never felt so confident and excited about my chosen career path. Suddenly I am more aware of the world around me, I was able to travel, meet amazing people and see some incredible places! I would encourage any students embarking on their overseas exchange to say yes to everything, really open up and put yourself out there, be willing to try haggis and Black Pudding despite the ingredients, get involved with everything the university has to offer and over all experience everything you possibly can.

£1 berries and unit issues at Strathclyde

I had issues in my first few weeks trying to figure out classes. I had enrolled into Journalism 2 which I had presumed would get me full credits at home, however when I attended my first class no-one else came in, not even to the tutorial. I went to speak to the head of department and he told me that this class wasn’t running until the following semester. All of a sudden I didn’t have enough classes to get me direct credits and I wasn’t sure what to do. Professor Higgins (HoD) then suggested taking on an Honours Course if I was prepared for the workload, and so I did. In the end I was enrolled into Journalism 1, Journalism and Politics and America in the 1920s. Of these three subjects, not only had I fulfilled my credit point expectations but was also taking two honours courses. Journalism wasn’t a huge Bachelor at Strathclyde, the university is mostly known for its Business and Engineering Degrees. I only had a total of 12 people in my Journalism classes and maybe 9 in my Honours classes. This was a surprise to me, however this allowed me to meet more people and truly build an awesome relationship with my Professor and classmates. The classes were fantastic and I really enjoyed learning about Scottish and British Media and Politics. In fact, because of this class I have become more interested in perusing Political Journalism. I wish I had thanked my Professor for inspiring me in such a way!

I was unaware that there was an on-campus living option for exchange students, so I went about searching for my own flat prior to leaving. I found a flat for £280 a month, which was pretty reasonable I thought! I was 5 miles from the university, but in truth it was only about 20 minutes walk. I shared my flat with a 23-year-old guy named Luke who studied Engineering. Luke ended up becoming my best friend and a person I will genuinely miss! Glasgow was incredibly affordable, not only my rent but also general living! Luke constantly laughed at me when I got excited about £1 berries and vegetables. Furthermore, the affordability of socializing and events was incredible! I have never experienced nightlife like Glasgow! It was phenomenal and affordable! I managed to go to 5 live bands, all of which cost under £20!!! It is easy to see that I took advantage of social opportunities! I had been saving for almost two years and tucking everything away so whilst abroad I made sure I did everything! Any opportunity presented to me I took up, and now I have no regrets! I went on the Ski Trip to Val Thorens in France and it was by far the greatest experience of my life and I cannot thank the SUSC Team enough! Overall, I did spend a lot of money but I have not come home broke and as I said before I do not regret a single thing!

Strathclyde: a university on a hill?

The two Canadian girls I met

The two Canadian girls I met

I left for my exchange in the middle of August 2012. I had chosen to attend the University of Strathclyde so that I could experience something a little bit different. Truth be told, I had never considered living in Scotland, sure I wanted to visit but living there was a whole new concept to me, if anything my real inspiration to go to Scotland was thanks to Ewan McGregor and the cute Highland Cows. When I applied and was accepted I was suddenly hit by this fear thinking why had I chosen a city so far out from anywhere I had ever heard of! I was nervous and excited when I left Australia. When I got to Glasgow, it was cold and grey even during summer, just what I had expected!

The University was spread out over a massive hill, and I had no clue where all of the classes were! But I entered The Union and met a girl who gave me all the information I needed and told me about Freshers Week, I assumed this would be similar to O Week at home, I was wrong! Freshers was a week filled with parties and shenanigans! Dress Up Parties, Club Sign Up, Djs, Performances, Fairs! I decided to get involved in every social element of the week and surely enough met some of the other Exchange Students. I made friends with some incredible girls in this week. The two Canadian Glaslowgirls I met ended up being two of my closest friends. I signed up for Surfing, Snowboarding and Football, all sports I had never been involved in when at QUT. This allowed me to get involved with completely different social groups and meet so many amazing people!