Monday, 20 February 2012

February 20th, 2012 – Future Travels

            I have many exciting upcoming trips planned!  This Sunday I’m going to a rugby game with Scotland vs. France in Edinburgh!  I’m going with Mike, Janine, and a bunch of Mike’s friends who are French and German.  Of course, the French will be rooting for France, so the Germans and Canadians will naturally be rooting for Scotland!
            On March 3rd I’m going to St. Andrews with the Strathclyde international society for the day where Prince William and Kate, which should be good.  Mike and I have also planned our trip to London and Bristol on the March 8-12th weekend so we can FINALLY visit Chris at Bristol!  The following weekend we’re going to Belfast in Northern Ireland and Dublin in Ireland for the St. Patrick’s day weekend from March 15-19th!  Haven’t planned anything else yet except Mike and I have decided that for Spring Break we’re probably going to go to Venice, Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam, and Paris.  After Spring Break from April 20-22nd is the Isle of Skye trip which is the one place in Scotland I wanted to see the most when I came here so I’m really excited for that!  Hopefully we’ll be able to plan more trips soon once we know when our exams are, and when we have to go back home.  Time is going by way too fast.  Can’t believe its already February 20th!

February 20, 2012 – Inverness, The Highlands, Loch Ness, and COCKROACHES!!!!

            Last Saturday I went on the University of Glasgow international society weekend trip to the Highlands.  On the way we stopped at Perth, Pitlochry where we saw a fish ladder and dam, and Aviemore, which was a cute ski village on one street.  We finally arrived at the hostel in Inverness and I was quite impressed with how nice it was.  It reminded me of when I went to girl guide camp, music camp, or Camp Kearney when I was younger.  After getting settled into the hostel, we then had some free time in the city.  We walked around the streets and saw the castle, which was a let down.  It hardly looked like a castle and was the courthouse instead.  After walking around and having some free time in the hostel, we then had dinner in the hostel, which the international society provided and made for us.  Later on, everyone came down to the common room and played games, partied and hung out all night getting to know other exchange students.
            On Sunday we went to Loch Ness.  We first stopped at Drumnadrochit where the Nessy monument at Monster Centre and the monster exhibition was.  Everyone immediately went to the gift shop to get some Loch Ness souvenirs – I myself got a cute, soft stuffed animal of Nessie since I don’t have any stuffed animals here in Glasgow.  We then continued onto Loch Ness and saw the Urquhart Castle.  We were able to explore the inside of the castle and we watched a video about the history of it.  After Loch Ness, we then made our way to Fort Augustus/Fort William for lunch.  A group of us went in a pub to have a nice lunch and we thought we had time because we had an hour and 15 minutes.  It ended up that they totally forgot about Janine’s and my orders and I finally got my food 12 minutes before we were supposed to be on the bus.  I had to scarf down the food SUPER fast, which was a big struggle for me!  Janine didn’t even get her food, so we had to rush to a grocery store to get her some after she got her money back.  After frantically getting back to the bus we then continued on and eventually stopped at Glencoe to see the 3 sisters, which are 3 mountains that looked similar all beside each other.  The view was spectacular and we even saw hikers coming back with their crazy hiking equipment, which made me want to hike on the trail just a little ways.  Sadly we were only there for a photo stop and we had to get back on the bus to continue on our way home.  The only other two times we stopped was for another photo stop to see Loch Tulla and a toilet stop.  All in all it was a very good weekend with amazing scenery and many great people to hang out with!  Luckily we get to see Loch Ness, Inverness, and Glencoe again when we go on the Isle of Skye trip in April!
            This past weekend one of my flat mates saw a huge cockroach in one of our toilet rooms.  GROSS.  She said it was at least 2 inches long.  We haven’t used that toilet room since but thankfully we have two!  An exterminator came today.  He went right into the toilet room prepared with his flashlight, closed the door behind him, and looked everywhere in there for that cockroach.  He couldn’t find it.  He then went to our kitchen and pulled our fridge and stove out from the wall.  He found 2 cockroaches.  I haven’t been more disgusted in my life in a place I’ve lived in.  I’m wearing shoes everywhere I go and whenever I go to the washroom, I check the entire floor, walls, AND ceiling before I go in there.  To be honest, I do that wherever I go in my flat now.  I’ve developed paranoia of cockroaches.  The exterminator put down poison and traps, which will hopefully get rid of them.  He seemed to think that it shouldn’t be a big deal because he has seen A LOT worse.  I’ve never even seen a cockroach and I want it to stay that way.  We’ll see what happens to them in the next few weeks.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

February 8th, 2012 – Class and fire!

            Yesterday I went to my favourite class called “Pollution and the Rehabilitation of Degraded Ecosystems”.  We were learning about climate change so I was excited for it.  As the lecture went on, I realized a couple things:

- I already learned everything we were learning in my first couple years of university in various courses back at McMaster.
-This class was a graduate class, how did these students not know about this stuff?
-Students didn’t know the answers to his simple questions.

            From these observations, I concluded that North American schools must be better than European schools.  I know that you might be thinking that it is impossible to come to that conclusion from simple observations.  There are many facts, and proof from students themselves that made me come to that conclusion.  First, I only have 8 hours of class a week here, whereas at McMaster I usually have a minimum of 22 hours a week of class.  They say they focus on self-learning here, but they don’t give you enough work to do to equal the amount of hours I just go to class for at McMaster.  I usually have a ton of reading to do at McMaster every week, so much that it is impossible to not fall behind – I think many students would agree with me there.  At Strathclyde, they rarely have textbooks, and they just give you a reading list of articles to read.  In one of my classes, we don’t have ANY weekly readings at all.  It baffles me how I feel like I’m hardly in school.  Second, I don’t have any quizzes, tests, or midterms this term.  All I have to do are research papers, or essays, and then two final exams for my assessments.  At McMaster, I usually have some sort of test every couple weeks it seems, or else I’ll have labs due almost every week.  Students that are here doing their degree have even told me that school is a joke here.  I’ve overheard lots of students in my classes who don’t do the weekly readings in the courses, even though that’s the bare minimum of work that has been assigned so far!  I know that lots of people back at Mac don’t do those either, but there’s no other work to do here, so you might as well do SOMETHING.  Most students only have to take 3 courses as a full course load.  They say that it is harder to get higher marks here, and I wonder if the reason is because of the level of education.  Guess I won’t know until I get some marks back.
            I may be getting ahead of myself because I’ve only been here for a couple weeks.  I’m sure that the schools here are fine, I’m just not used to these great differences.  I feel like I’m on a giant vacation here, since I can pretty much travel every weekend, and not feel stressed about school.  I do enjoy my classes when I have them though.  They are all really small ranging from a class of 15 students, to maybe 40.  They have a lot of class discussion so everyone is involved which is nice.  My classes also have a lot of people from mixed backgrounds with all different accents.  I was surprised when I wasn’t the only one with an “accent”.  Made me feel more included to be honest.  Its cool getting opinions of people from different countries, and learning about how things differ around the world.  It’s definitely a different aspect of learning that I’m glad I’m experiencing.  Now I know why everyone recommends going on exchange.
            On Tuesday evening there was a fire in the James Weir Building.  Apparently you could see flames and smoke from outside the building and classes are cancelled in the building today.  That building has a lot of engineering labs, including labs with hazardous chemicals that made it hard for the fire fighters to put the fire out.  We’ll have to see what the extent of the damage is once they release more information.  I'm just glad it wasn't my residence!

February 7th, 2012 – Aberdeen and Dunnottar Castle

            This past weekend Mike and I went to Aberdeen.  We arrived on the Saturday to some nasty weather.  It was raining, cold, and extremely windy at times almost blowing me over.  We decided to start our day off indoors at the Maritime Museum.  It was very interesting seeing what the city was all about since Aberdeen is a port town with giant ships.  It reminded Mike and I of Halifax.  In the museum there were models of ships and giant sail boats that reminded me of Laura Mitchell and her dad since they both love sailing so much.  They also had illustrations of whaling that showed how people killed whales in the past.  It was upsetting, but crazy how they actually managed to kill the whales with the tiny arrows they had when compared to the size of the whales.  After spending a few hours at the museum we then decided to grab some lunch in a pub.
            For the afternoon we walked throughout the city and tried to take cover from the drizzling rain as much as we could.  We went to the King’s College campus, which was founded in 1495.  It was a very pretty campus with cobblestone streets and beautiful architecture.  For dinner Mike and I tried out the Old Blackfriar pub that everyone says is a must to visit.  I have to say, I was thoroughly impressed with the food.  I had cannelloni and it was some of the best food I’ve had in a very long time.  After we had dinner we then went to another pub that the girl at the travel centre told us to go to experience the Scottish culture.  There was a live band playing songs we both knew.  The funny thing was, Mike and I were probably the two youngest people in that pub.  Everyone around us seemed like they were mostly older than 40.  We just sat there listening to the music anyways, and then went back to the hotel to get a good night’s rest for the next day.
            On Sunday we got up and took the train to Stonehaven.  The train ride was beautiful with a view of the North Sea the whole ride there with the sun shining brightly.  It reminded me of being on the GO train back home looking out at Lake Ontario by Rouge Hill, except to be honest, the view from this train was prettier.  You could see rolling hills and cliffs beside the sea, but these cliffs were larger and more colourful than the Scarborough Bluffs.  When we got to Stonehaven we had to walk from the train station to town, and then find our way to Dunnottar Castle.  We didn’t know what we had in store for us.  We ended up having to walk almost 3 miles in total from the train station to the castle, but the walk was well worth it.  It was still pretty early in the morning so there was ice on the trail we walked along.  It was called the castle trail, and was right on the edge of the cliff on the North Sea with farm fields on the other side.  The view was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.  Right when Mike and I came up a hill we could see the castle in the distance on a cliff surrounded by water.  There was moss on the cliff faces and the fields were almost emerald green.  We stopped there for a minute and just stared in awe at the view.  From that point, we still had a half hour walk ahead of us to actually get to the castle.
            The castle itself was built inside the cliff it seemed.  We were able to wander all around the castle grounds and check out all the rooms.  Of course, it was just castle ruins.  For what was left, it was in pretty good shape though.  After spending a few hours inside the castle and around it by the beach and neighbouring fields of view with sheep, we then started the trek back to Stonehaven.  By the end of the walk, we were both extremely tired.  We decided to go back to Aberdeen, grab lunch there, and then just take it easy for a couple hours in the apple store playing on the ipads with free internet.  We then had a 3 hour bus ride ahead of us and we were thankful for that because we needed to rest our legs and feet.  Mike thinks we walked more than 6 miles that day, and it was up and down hills full of mud that melted in the afternoon after being frozen in the morning.  Overall, Sunday made up for Saturday to make the weekend amazing.  I think everyone that visits Scotland MUST see Dunnottar Castle and experience the long relaxing walk to it beside the North Sea.  If possible we want to go back and do it all again.  Next weekend, we’re off to the Highlands, Inverness, and Loch Ness to find Nessie!!!