"Studying Abroad: My Most Common Questions Answered"
By Jessica MacDonald
When coming back to Scotland after the holidays I thought about what would be most beneficial for readers who stumble across my blog posts.
Looking back on when I was applying for schools abroad, I had many questions which I wanted an answer to. Luckily for me, one of my best friends Hannah was doing her degree at the University of Glasgow. It is good to talk to someone who was already abroad, and it made the process easier for me. So here are some of the most common questions I get asked, along with my answers.
Honestly, this is probably the question that I get asked the most. Why did I choose to study in Scotland? And truthfully the answer is simple. It was due to a couple of factors, the first being that in my undergraduate degree, I studied English and Scottish history, particularly the birth of the common law system which peaked my interest in law thanks to Professor Cynthia Neville at Dalhousie University. I found the history on this side of the world incredibly fascinating and knew that I wanted to see it for myself.
(Kyla, who is one of my good friends from work back home in Canada! She also decided to come to Scotland for further education.)
Second, my family heritage is Scottish; hence MacDonald. It would be neat to see where my family originally came from. The program itself also sparked my interest, Strathclyde offered a Dual Qualifying English and Scots Law Program, meaning that I would be studying both English and Scottish law in my time here, giving me different perspectives on the law. They also have one of the top Law clinics in the UK.
How did I go about applying?
This was where Hannah came in, back in October I would say I starting to look at Law Schools abroad. Hannah mentioned that she went through Across the Pond for her applications, so I looked them up. I was looking through their website, and catalogue as well. I sent in an inquiry and they got back to me with an advisor who I could speak with via e-mail. They are based out of Hamilton, Ontario. My advisor, Heather was amazing! She was able to answer ever one of my questions and made sure that everything was in order. I finally met Heather about a year later, when I spoke at a conference here in Glasgow about studying aboard to agencies. She was there representing Across the Pond. Heather made the process a whole lot easier, she checked over my personal statement, told me exactly what I needed and what programs may be the best fit for what I wanted to do.
Was the application process hard?
No, I don’t think it was hard. I choose five schools and applied through UCAS. Each school received my personal statement along with my references. From there it was a waiting game. The hardest part I would say would be my personal statement and the word limit.
What was the Visa Application Process like?
This was a bit harder, but not to fear! It was not extremely hard. My best piece of advice I can say is to get it done early! Once again, from talking with Hannah I knew exactly what I needed. The biggest thing you need is your CAS number which will come once you have accepted your position to the in which you wish to attend. Everything that you need is listed online for documentation purpose. From there, everything was done online. Then it was a day trip to Toronto where I met with the Visa officer and sent in my passport with my application. I say get this done early because they take your passport. You can expect it to be done in 3-5 weeks they say, however, mine came back in about a week and a half. DO NOT FRET! You give your e-mail and phone number in which they contact you by letting you know the status of your Visa application. Once I received my passport back, it had my temporary visa inside. Once I got to Glasgow, I had to go to the post office to pick up my actual physical Visa card which is my ID while over here. I had 28 days to get it when I arrived. I will say that on my first trip to Glasgow I had a huge file folder (which was probably overkill) of documents to show the customs agent, including my residence contract.
Is the program hard?
The program can be challenging at times, and I feel like my brain is being worked. There are a lot of research and readings which need to be done in order to complement the lectures. Because you are doing a degree in two years it is jammed packed. Some weeks I am crazy busy with school work and assignments, and other weeks they are a bit better. It all depends on when your tutorials and assignments are. My biggest piece of advice for this is to stay organized, know when your tutorials are, when your assignments are due and start early! The assignments are ones where you need to do some research and digest the information that you have found. Everyone finds school different and has different methods for studying and doing assignments. I myself, find that if I stay organized and on top of everything, then I know what needs to be done and for when.
How is Glasgow? Was it hard getting used to everything?
When I first arrived, getting used to the accent was the first challenge. My poor friends, in the first few weeks of getting to know me it was a lot of “so sorry, but what did you say?”. Now I find it quite easy to understand. Glasgow, in general, is a lovely city to be in. I am originally from the countryside in a small town, so getting used to the city life was quite different. Google maps was a big help when I first arrived. Once you know where everything was, it became easy to navigate. Anywhere you move to, it takes some adjusting too. But I can honestly say that now I have my favourite spots to go to in Glasgow.
What is your support system like? Do you get homesick?
I am a pretty independent person. I went to Halifax for my undergrad, so I was away from home a lot. I was lucky enough to have some extended family in Halifax which made it easier. I was always with family for Easter and Thanksgiving, along with birthdays. This experience has been different. I do get homesick yes, I miss my family and friends back home, however I have to say that I have been extremely lucky out here. I have friends out here who I now consider to be some of my best friends who have supported me a lot. Two of my best friends from high school; Julie and Nicki came out to visit this summer. It was so amazing for them to come out and see my world out here. Truly made for some unforgettable memories.
And lastly, the ones out here. The best friends such as Holly, Luke, and others from the Strathclyde Law Society who have become people I cannot imagine having this experience without. They are the ones who are there through the large amounts of coffee, the late nights at the library, and who keep me sane during exams. I am lucky to have the family that I have, we make time for phone calls and skype calls. So overall, I have an amazing support system through and through. Both out here in Scotland, and back in Canada.
How has this experience changed you?
This experience has changed me for the better. I have really grown into my own person out here, and have become passionate about my career and my future path in it. It has taught me a great deal about the world and being a Canadian (mostly how proud I am to be one).
I hope that this helped everyone who is thinking about studying abroad. In all honesty, it is a very rewarding experience and one I would highly recommend.