My First Days in the UK: Adjusting to Scotland

Oct 13, 2017 12:00:00 PM

Meet Hailey, one of our bloggers for the 2017-2018 academic year.  Hailey is studying at the University of Aberdeen.

Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire.jpg

My move to Scotland didn’t feel real until I stepped into Aberdeen Airport, fresh from a 9.5-hour flight from Toronto. I staggered off the plane and walked towards baggage claim. Alone. I felt tired, thirsty, and completely unprepared for my journey ahead. I recalled the long hours editing personal statements, corresponding with references, and gathering writing samples. At the time, I thought nothing was more arduous than my postgraduate applications. But in hindsight, pressing “submit” was the easiest part of the process. Cramming my life into two suitcases, on the other hand? Quite the challenge.


Nothing truly compares to the experience of entering a new city. The world feels fresh and uncharted. Despite my sudden dose of reality, I couldn’t wait to begin my adventure in the UK. The first item on my To-Do list? Visiting the University of Aberdeen, A.K.A. my home for the next year.


The King’s College campus greeted me with weathered brick buildings and climbing ivy as I walked through the gates for the first time. Founded in 1495, the University of Aberdeen is the third oldest university in Scotland and the fifth oldest university the UK. If you have no other motivation to study in the UK, the cozy old-world charm of the universities ought to be a strong starting point.

Settling In

Since moving abroad comes with a long checklist, finding an affordable student flat should not be your top priority. To save myself the hassle of house-hunting, I opted for off-campus student accommodation. Fortunately, the University placed me in a complex with other postgraduate students, making it easy to meet people with likeminded interests.

I arrived in Scotland one week before my check-in date, which is something I highly recommend. With one week to spare, I had time to overcome my jetlag, shop for items that wouldn’t fit in my suitcase (i.e. raincoat, bedding, stationary), and travel around Scotland. By the time I moved into my flat, I had already adapted to the groove of Aberdeen.

 Newburgh Beach, Aberdeenshire.jpg

Fresher’s Week

The University kicked into gear with Fresher’s Week on the day I moved in. Many events and activities are targeted towards undergraduates; however, all students are welcome to enjoy the many offerings of free food, live music, and poster sales.

Fresher’s Week also included promotional fairs, such as the “Societies Fayre” and “Sports Fayre.” During these events, student societies and sports teams arranged booths on campus for students to browse around and sign up. I can’t speak for every UK university, but societies and teams are a major component of student life at the University of Aberdeen. They can be a great way to meet new friends, so I definitely recommend attending Fresher’s Week for these initial meet-and-greets.

Starting Classes

On Orientation Day, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my program only consists of seven other people. Postgraduate programs in the UK are typically quite small, so you quickly become close with your classmates. The class structure, however, required more adjusting. For me, classes occur in blocks, with each class running back-to-back for three week intervals. This system has its pros and cons.

Con: Three weeks of intensive reading, lecturing, and studying.

Pro: No exams in December!

I won’t pretend that moving overseas is easy. I felt displaced for two weeks before I began to acclimatize and feel at home. But these initial feelings shrink in comparison to the people you’ll meet, the places you’ll visit, and the lifelong memories you’ll create. If you’re interested in beginning your journey abroad, please contact one of our ATP Advisors.


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