University of Aberdeen, Scotland – Spring 2020

Coming into college, studying abroad had never crossed my mind. The thought of leaving the U.S. for four months and venturing into the unknown alone made me nervous to even think about. However, I am so grateful I decided to take the leap into what turned into an unforgettable
adventure full of cherished memories, unique learning, and lifelong friendships. Even though my semester abroad was cut short by a month due to COVID-19, I wouldn’t have traded the program
for anything. I met some of my best friends for life. I also grew as a person, pushing myself to do something I originally thought was out of my comfort zone.


The process was simple, thanks to the Cal Lutheran Office of Education Abroad, which helped every step of the way…starting with deciding what international program would be best for my major and my personal preferences. The office kept students on track with completing necessary documents, arranging travel, getting health insurance, finalizing finances, and having academic
credits transferred back to CLU. A few weeks before the semester abroad begins there is a pre-departure dinner that allows students to interact with alums of their programs for last minute tips.

Also, The University of Aberdeen has fantastic staff who kept in touch every step of the way with advice for admittance, travel, living, and academics. They were also on call once on site for any concerns, large or small.

On January 1, 2020, I left LAX for the journey of a lifetime…through London to Aberdeen, Scotland. I immediately felt relieved that Aberdeen is friendly, comfortable, and easy to navigate. There were taxis in a queue to transport folks to residences, all easy to arrange. I personally arrived in Aberdeen a few days early and stayed in a small hotel in the city first, to overcome any jetlag, but also to familiarize myself with my new home. I noticed that because of the latitude, in early January it became dark about 3:30 p.m., but as the semester went on, the days became longer and more beautiful.

– Wow! The flats (dorms) were so nice! Each unit had a shared kitchen and living room with five single bedrooms, each with a full bed, desk, shelf, and private bathroom!
– The University of Aberdeen conducts a one-day orientation for meeting fellow international students. There is a full day of information, activities, and social events.
– Walking and taking the bus are main modes of transportation. I liked the 20-30 minute walk to class through a park filled with other students. However, the bus is also convenient: students show their ID and transport to campus is free! After hours bus service to town has a fee, but it is minimal and can be arranged through a prepaid app.
– If you want to join a gym the University of Aberdeen has a great gym with a pool, tons of cardio
machines, free weights, machines and classes!

Because I was a sophomore, I took mostly Core 21 courses. There were many, many choices, but I ended up taking “How Should One Live?” (Philosophy), “Death” (Archeology), “Scottish Folklore” (Literature), and “Humans and Animals” (elective). However, there were also more specialized courses for those further along in their programs. The class structure in the U.K is a bit different than at Cal Lutheran: there are fewer assignments, each counting for a larger portion of the final grade. Even though that took some adjustment, I appreciated being pushed to learn in new ways.

I loved living so close to a safe city and being able to enjoy many aspects of Aberdeen by walking. My favorite memory (which I 100% suggest) was a weekend trip farther north to Inverness,
Scotland, home of the (famous but never seen) Loch Ness monster. I and some friends took a 12-
hour bus trip around Inverness the Isle of Skye. Not only was the scenery breathtaking but we
got to feed hairy “coos”, view castles, eat fish and chips, and explore the beautiful coutrysides. From Aberdeen it is simple to visit other locations in Europe, and I took short trips to Milan, Italy and Budapest, Hungary. That said, I would have been just as happy exploring friendly, beautiful Scotland!

Aberdeen Specifically
1. Groceries: Lidl grocery store is right down the hill from the dorms and quite reasonable.
2. Fish! For fish lovers, Scotland is home to inexpensive and fresh salmon!
3. Bedding and clothes: In Aberdeen city, Primark has bedding and other room necessities at decent prices. For Californians who do not have winter wear, this is also a good spot.
4. Phone plan: I went to the Aberdeen mall and chose the cheapest phone plan I found: 20GB a month for 15 pounds.
5. Finances: I did not get a European bank account; instead, I used a Capital One Student Journey card (just look for a credit card that does NOT have foreign transaction fees because those add up!) I also suggest (if possible) getting a credit card with the tap feature because it easier for buses.
6. What to pack: I recommend bringing no toiletries (except of course necessary medicine). Most toiletries can be easily purchased at pharmacies such as Boots.
7. Sundays: Most establishments are closed on Sundays (in Aberdeen and throughout Europe).

General Thoughts for Anyone Going Abroad
1. Go alone → you WILL make new friends (everyone abroad is looking for friends. Push
yourself and get ready to meet new friends who will become best friends very quickly). Traveling with someone from your home university can limit your outreach to new people.
2. Budget! → Money WILL go fast. Budgeting will help you stay on track. That said, allow yourself to budget for fun activities too 🙂 Live like the Europeans and buy food for one or two days only so none goes to waste. Also, spend money on experiences and not stuff.
3. Explore your host country → I regret not venturing into Scotland more; I hope to return one day and finish my journey
4. It is possible financially Don’t rule out studying abroad because you are afraid of the cost. Cal Lutheran’s Office of Education Abroad can help with resources and guidance.

It will be the BEST decision you ever made. Thereare many people who look back years later and are sorry they never studied abroad in college. BE the person who took the chance!

By: Kristina McGee

Thoughts Before Moving to Scotland

My name is Kristina McGee. I am a sophomore at Cal Lutheran and I will be leaving in 10 days for University of Aberdeen, Scotland! What a New Year’s experience…My flight will take off from LAX on New Year’s Day, 2020, and I will be abroad until June… a long time. (The Aberdeen program for Spring 2020 is from January 4th – May 15 I just wanted to have some extra time to explore Europe after finals.) When I started college last year, the thought of studying abroad did not even cross my mind. However, the one phrase I kept hearing from friends and my family about their college experience was, “The one thing I regret about college is not studying abroad.” Therefore, I took their advice to heart. I did not want to continue the trend of having regrets.

Right now, two weeks pre-departure, I admit I am a little anxious. At the end of the last semester, it was sad saying goodbye to friends at Cal Lutheran, but I know I’ll see them again and we can stay in touch throughout my travels. Also, in terms of preparation for the trip and study experience, study abroad offices at Cal Lutheran and University of Aberdeen have been amazingly helpful. Therefore, I already know my class selections and my housing arrangement. 

Even so, I won’t know how I feel until I am there. I do know I’ll be nervous about flying 10 hours, away from my home and family. However, to help calm my nerves I remember that when I started at Cal Lutheran I lived in a town outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania called Swarthmore. Coming all the way to California was a big step, and it all ended up for the best.

The one thing I am definitely prepared to face is the dark, damp, and chilly weather of Scotland. As a Pennsylvania native, I am used to brutal winters (below freezing on many days), so am not as uneasy about the weather as some Southern California students. Also, Cal Lutheran students who studied previously at the University of Aberdeen were helpful in terms of packing advice, recommending that I pack light and buy what I need when I arrive, from clothes to bedding supplies, kitchen necessities for the dorm, to textbooks. Therefore, I will carry one large checked suitcase, one carry-on, and a backpack. I do know that I will need my raincoat, rain boots, and umbrella for the misty Aberdeen climate, so into the suitcase they will go

Aside from the early jitters, I am very excited to be in another country and to experience another college system. I can’t wait to explore Aberdeen, the rest of the U.K., and even other European countries. A lot of that, I realize, will be stepping out of my comfort zone: becoming enmeshed in other cultures, trying new foods, learning about other traditions, and making friends from around the world. 

My plan for when I first arrive in Aberdeen (after getting over jet lag!) is to explore the city of Aberdeen—not just the tourist areas, but also the local neighborhoods. This is so I will soon be comfortable calling Aberdeen…now just a dot on the map…my home for the next 5 months. 

Overall, I am extremely excited for Aberdeen. I thank University of Aberdeen for the opportunity, and am grateful to Cal Lutheran for the information, help, and encouragement. I can’t wait to make new friends, explore, and create memories for a lifetime. Other Cal Lutheran students who attended the University of Aberdeen in prior semesters have nothing but positive comments about every aspect of their experiences. I will be eager to share my stories when I return and pass along my adventures and advice…hopefully, wiser and looking forward to even more experiences as a citizen of the world!

By: Kristina Mcgee

Meet Sophie

Hi, my name is Sophie and I am a Political Science Major from the UK. I am a sophomore here at Cal Lutheran 🙂

I initially wanted to come to CalLu because my brother was already a student here and I saw how much he enjoyed it. However, I also realized how different Cal Lu was from my other options. It’s a smaller school and therefore, I felt like it would be easier to settle here and make friends more quickly. It also felt like it would be less overwhelming especially since I am coming from so far away!

My favorite part would have to be how connected everything feels, from the class sizes to the interaction you get with the professors, students, etc. You truly feel like you are not a number here, but a person. That’s really special!

There have been many cultural differences that I have experienced here. Some of the funniest and perhaps, most memorable ones include tipping servers in restaurants (and how much), the different words people use for certain things, the obsession for coffee over tea, also how far everything is from one place to the next! However in terms of culture, California isn’t too different from the UK except for the much better weather and beaches.

By: Sophie Davies