By Seán Lynch
Like a YouTube playlist that seems to never end, I’m back with my second Erasmus update of the semester. In case you missed the last episode…err, I mean article, I am a third year journalism student, on Erasmus for this semester in the University of the West of Scotland.
So, after weeks of planning I was due to fly to Glasgow at the end of January. This was my first time flying, so I felt like the smallest country mouse you could imagine. Thankfully the plane was just about as up in the air as my Erasmus planning. (Pause for laughter at the lame pun attempt.)
The town where I would be living and studying for the semester, Ayr, was 50 minutes south-west of Glasgow city on a train, so it was quite a trek to get from the airport to the town. Although I ended up getting extremely lost in the town, some lovely Scottish policemen pointed me in the right direction. I was eventually able to move into my new apartment, although we won’t talk about the state of the kitchen with full bin bags lying on the floor and the sink clogged with all sorts of food.
Despite the fairly poor exchange rate, shopping isn’t too expensive here. With plenty of supermarkets in the town like Aldi and Morrisons, weekly shops never cost more than £15, with regular price discounts. There are plenty of shopping centres nearby, but Ayr Central really has all the essential student shops: Poundland, Subway, Costa, River Island and, most importantly, Primark. Having Poundland so close meant that I could buy all the toiletries, pots and other essentials there, while Primark meant that I could buy enough scarves to replace the ones I had to leave at home.
Undoubtedly the most traumatising time of my Erasmus so far was first the 24 hours where I had no Wi-Fi or internet access. The university requires students to go through enrolment and register before getting a username and password to log into the Wi-Fi. Since I was too lazy to walk to McDonalds, I just watched the box-sets of Will & Grace and Keeping Up Appearances that I thankfully brought along with me. The next day, I managed to log into the Eduroam Wi-Fi, using my UL login details. If those 24 hours without internet access showed me anything, it’s that I would not make it in an apocalypse without Twitter.
Once I was able to register my modules I was added to the student Wi-Fi list, so I have more options for internet access here than I did in UL. Just in terms of modules, because the university here has such a great sports journalism programme and as I never took the chance to study that in UL, I’m taking modules in Sports Feature Writing, Global Issues in Sport and Global Perspectives.
Anyone who knows me will probably be a little bit surprised that I am taking so many pass/fail sports modules, but I have already been able to write about transgender participation in sport and the feminist theories behind clothing women are forced to wear in some sports, which are exactly the kind of things that fascinate me.
I had planned on getting a UK sim for my phone for the time I am here, but since I would only ever use it for online data, which I would only need when I’m not in the university, or apartment, and for calling home, I decided to keep using my Irish sim.
I also planned on opening a new bank account in Scotland, but since they offer free withdrawals at most ATMs here and also from my own student account in Ireland, I decided not to bother, since I’ll only have to pay for the conversion from Euro to Pound Sterling.
Anyway, now that I’ve been here three weeks, I’ve easily taken a million and one photos for Instagram of the town and some of its beautiful spots: the river, beach, paths, bridges and architecture. I have plans to go to the upcoming Glasgow v. Munster rugby match and hopefully going to see some of the acts in the Glasgow Comedy Festival. Those are just some of my plans, but there’s plenty of time left for exploring and experiencing what Scotland has to offer.
I’m planning my first trip back to Ireland to vote in the election, mainly because return tickets only cost £20 when booked in advance. But, that’s it for my second update on my Erasmus experience. I have to say that time is genuinely flying by over here; I’ve been here almost a month now. It won’t be too long until I’m back in UL!
If you want to keep up to date on my Erasmus banter, or have any questions to fire my way, you can follow me on Twitter at the amazingly creative name: @seanlynch96.