Exchange Diaries: Through Maple Leaf Coloured Glasses

By Cole Meagher (ArtSci ’14)
Contributor

I have officially been living in Scotland for one month. While it feels like I’ve been here for quite some time, in reality this will only be a small portion of my exchange duration. Nevertheless, I have experienced a lot thus far and have come to appreciate the many differences between Scotland, Canada and other parts of the world.

It has been really cool to see what the other exchange students I live with think of living in Glasgow compared to my view. While I am still getting to know a lot of other foreigners (it sounds really weird to call myself a foreigner, but I guess it holds true), we have been able to discuss universal things that everyone has in common.

The relationships I have with other students are still budding, and as a result the topics of conversation are still quite pedestrian (while no one would ever go out and offend anyone, people certainly hold off on expressing what may be seen as a controversial point of view until they get a chance to know the other person).

An example that I can’t help but bring up is the weather. I absolutely hate talking about it — to me it’s a copout conversation. The reason people talk about it all the time is because it’s something everyone experiences and you can’t really offend anyone with your opinion. Hence the weather comes up quite often. Coming from a place that is regularly negative 20 on a winter day and talking to someone from New Zealand (where temperatures are warm and sunny), we will have very polar opinions of a gloomy 6 degrees in Glasgow.

The weather is just one example of the differences in students’ backgrounds and experience. Many other physical discrepancies between Glasgow and everyone’s homeland have arisen as well. Things such as the price of food, alcohol and tobacco (less expensive than Canada but greater than other parts of Europe), the age of the buildings (much older than I am used to, but Glasgow is seen as a young city to most of Europe) and the nightlife (music, cost of a night out, post bar meals) have varied greatly.

While these may be menial topics, I am keen to learn and get into deeper conversations with others as these relationships grow. Through getting to know each other I have found out there are many differences in points of view, even with those close to home. For example, an American student I met asked me “So if your Walmart doesn’t sell guns, what does it have?” This may be an extreme case, but it highlights the difference in what we’re regularly exposed to. By learning about other’s cultures and lifestyles I hope to become more understanding and relatable with others.

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