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Life in Scotland

Haydn Gill

Life in Scotland

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When I left Barbados on a Friday afternoon in September last year, the temperature was 31 degrees Celsius. When I arrived in Scotland the following day, it was 13 degrees. It was a stark contrast for which I was not quite ready.

As I prepared to get on board my transportation dressed in four layers of clothing, I could only stare in disbelief when I realised one of my fellow passengers was attired in a T-shirt only.

By the time I returned home a few weeks ago, however, I was fully accustomed to the cold of Scotland and during the lovely summer months, I could venture outside without the protection of a jacket or a coat.

When the temperatures dropped to between two and four degrees on cold days, accompanied by persistent rain and high winds, it became distinctly uncomfortable. By the way, on average, Scotland is about four to six degrees colder than London.

I spent an enjoyable year at the University of Stirling pursuing a master’s degree in media management but there were several times during the winter months from November to February that I wished I was back in Barbados.  

There was some consolation with the sight of breathtaking views on the 330-acre campus, which is set in the shadows of the hills and offers scenic views for miles.

The university experience was fascinating, highlighted by an environment that was conducive to learning. Academic staff were knowledgeable, engaging and accommodating while support services helped me to settle.

I lived in an old Victorian house a stone’s throw away from campus with more than 40 other postgraduate students from a diverse group of countries – Scotland, England, Ireland, United States, Canada, Australia, India, China, Italy, Greece, Malta, Israel, Slovenia, Romania, Malaysia, Dubai, Zimbabwe and Ghana.  

In between the many days that you might prefer to remain under the sheets than to go to classes, there was wonderful sunshine that allowed the opportunity to explore Scotland and enjoy all that it offers.

Stirling is a relatively small city even though it was once the capital of Scotland. It has a population of around 45 000 but it offers a combination of the charm of an historic destination and the buzz of a contemporary city.

The city centre, a mere ten minutes by bus from the university, serves up a range of options for shopping, cafés, pubs, performing arts and nightlife.

Throughout Scotland, there is no shortage of options to purchase a kilt, a unique Scottish garment that covers the body from the waist down to the knees. Since returning home, I’ve been asked more than once if I came back with a kilt and the best excuse I can offer for not bringing one is a lack of space in my luggage.

Two of the more popular tourist attractions in Stirling are Wallace Monument and Stirling Castle. Wallace Monument provides one of the best vantage points in Stirling. Standing 220 feet high, it is a prominent Victorian tower which is surrounded by Abbey Craig, a vast area of unspoilt land and beautiful woodland.

Stirling Castle, which has its origins in the 12th century, is another landmark that offers breathtaking views for several miles. Mounted high on an old volcanic outcrop, it has various statues and stone carvings mounted around castle walls.

I didn’t spend much time outside of Stirling but I managed to take in a bit of Glasgow and Edinburgh, Scotland’s two most popular cities, which were less than an hour away by train.

Glasgow is the country’s largest city and has a population of more than 600 000. Leading up to and during the Commonwealth Games, the city was noticeably abuzz.

A visit to the Riverside Museum, which was adjudged the European Museum Of The Year in 2013, offered the chance to view almost 3 000 objects, ranging from paintings, vintage cars, bicycles, horses and the list goes on.

Another highlight on my trip to Glasgow was a visit to BBC Scotland, an impressive five-tier facility which was opened in 2007, setting a benchmark in state-of-the-art technology and production methods.

A few people have asked me what I will miss most about Scotland. If you have a doctor’s appointment for 2:15 p.m., chances are that you’ll see the doctor at exactly 2:15 p.m. If you are at bus stop and the schedule says the next bus is scheduled for 11:33 a.m. chances are the bus will come at 11:33 a.m.

And what was my biggest disappointment? There’s a saying that everywhere you go, you will find a Bajan. Sadly, I didn’t find any during my year in Scotland.