Life of International Student in Aberdeen, ‘The Energy Capital of Europe’

I did my under-graduation in Petroleum Engineering from India and was working for one of the largest service provider in Oil Industry in 2010. After two years of a normal routine at office work, it was when I thought of pursuing higher education, but only wish I had was that I would pursue Masters from abroad. That was the time when I started searching for a good reputed university with specialized courses in petroleum sector. After a long search and by method of elimination of courses I chose to do my masters from Aberdeen, which is also known as ‘The Energy Capital of Europe’.

Aberdeen’s two universities, including the prestigious University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon University, both have post-graduation courses in Petroleum engineering. However, I chose and finally took admission in Robert Gordon University (RGU) which is a most dynamic, modern place to study with an international reputation for providing high quality education.
After two years of work, it was difficult for an average student like me who is a die-hard foodie and likes travelling, photography and partying a lot to get back into academics. I was worrying about how to adjust in an unknown country with no friends and family around, but believe me, my all tensions and worries vanished when RGU assigned me a student buddy, that too a girl (woowww ) even when I was undergoing through the admission process. I asked all sort of questions and she did her best to answer my stupid questions to me comfortable. During this phase she told so many beautiful and interesting facts about university, the Aberdeen city and things to do in Scotland that I started looking forward to fly to Aberdeen at earliest. Finally in September 2012 when I was in my first international flight to United Kingdom, I wasn’t scared at all, in fact, I had a long list of things to do on my bucket list during my stay in Aberdeen.

Aberdeen is a small cosmopolitan city on Scotland’s beautiful west coast but one of the richest and costliest cities in United Kingdom. It’s known for its historic old quarter and signature grey architecture, because of which the city has nickname of ‘The Granite City’. Flying from a hot country like India, I literally took the Aberdeen climate very lightly. I was wrong, as soon as I stepped out of airbus at Aberdeen airport, I kind of got froze. Strong winds and chillness in atmosphere that too in bright sunny day was how I was welcomed by Aberdeen. But this was one day and sixteen months later when I was returning to India, I was missing the beautiful weather and clean air of lovely city of Aberdeen.
Anyways, I reached the university accommodation and after completing all the necessary formalities at reception, I was allocated a private room in a flat to share with five other inmates. That was my first experience and introduction to world’s diversity as I was sharing the flat with Germans, Nigerians and mate from Kenya. Another thing which was new for me and entirely different from the hostel accommodations in India was that everything in university accommodation at Woolmanhill had to be done by self, be it cleaning of room or washrooms; grocery shopping or cooking and cleaning utensils; or washing and ironing clothes . No maid service or mess/canteen system as it’s in India. Literally starting few weeks was like undergoing graduation in daily chores of life. But those experiences were amazing and I enjoyed every bit of the time.

In my research about the Aberdeen city, I knew that there are a number of things that make Aberdeen an amazing city for students. One aspect that surprised me when I first got to Aberdeen is the great nightlife. There are plenty of cool bars, nightclubs, casinos and gentlemen clubs in the city that are all in walking distance of each other in the city center or Union Street. Luckily, my university accommodation was located in the prime location of the city. So, one can imagine how the rest of my stay in city would had been. It started with a week-long Fresher’s Week for new students and university students organized by the RGU at one of best nightclub and pub of the city. Every day, was a new theme party with unlimited booze, crazy music and amazing boys and girls on the dance floor from every corner of the world. Literally I was in hangover for the entire week, because if late night parties at nightclubs weren’t enough, the parties and booze continued at house-warming gatherings after returning from the clubs. It was the time when I made some really good friends.

After working in industry for two years, getting back to student life was refreshing. University curriculum was designed such that it gave enough time in starting of the course for international students to get familiar with city and student’s lifestyle that one experience before getting packed with assignments, workshops and exams. As such the Fresher’s Week was not enough, at the start of the academic year the student’s association organized a Fresher’s Fair which gave me a chance to get to know all the clubs and societies in university. It was a perfect induction for a person like me who is more interested in extra-curricular activities rather than the classroom studies or spending time at libraries. I got to know the various sport and/or hobby clubs I had all my life, or something I had never done before. For example, I have had the opportunity to get to know the wine tasting society and the Nordic society; and there are so many more. It was lively and very different introduction to students’ life as compared to Indian mindset of attending any post-graduation university.

The most lovable thing for any international student like me was that the locals Aberdonians had been great. Initially I certainly had to get used to the accent, though. Believe it is very different from normal English people. They are always interested to hear about my home country and never treated me like I was not welcome. It is very easy to get to meet Aberdonians either in the pubs or at the events of the local performance theatres. The possibilities are endless!
There are many places as well as restaurants and shops, which offer great opportunities for part-time employment if students wish to earn some extra money. Like every other Indian student who goes to study abroad I was also keen to get part-time job as soon as possible to fund my living and spend them without giving a second thought on my leisure activities. To my luck, I was the first student in batch of sixty students who got the part-time job at a Chinese restaurant. This solved my two problems, firstly I was again employed and earning my own living and secondly, I hadn’t had to worry about my dinner and daily booze anymore.

Apart from restaurants, shopping complexes, and nightlife to first-rated sport and leisure facilities, Aberdeen is lively, full of history and culture in abundance and an amazing place for international students. Based on the North East Coast of Scotland, Aberdeen finds itself in the perfect location for mixing colorful city life with exploring miles of surrounding countryside. If anyone is into hillwalking, climbing and mountaineering, it is a great place for them. Personally, I really enjoyed the newly opened Aberdeen Sports Centre which offers state of the art gym facilities and Olympic standard badminton courts. There is also the aquatics center which houses an Olympic size pool, a sauna, a steam-room, and much more. However, I enjoyed the beach and its boulevard that offer great place for jogging and even surfing.

One can experience Aberdeen’s enthralling history at the award-winning Maritime Museum. Meanwhile, the beautifully preserved 17th century Tolbooth Prison Museum offers fully interactive displays, models and exhibits. It is one of Scotland’s most culturally important cities. It has a thriving theatre scene, hosting ballet, drama and opera performances at His Majesty’s Theatre throughout the year. Aberdeen is also well known for its first-class literature events and comedy nights. I was fortunate see Her Majesty ‘Queen Elizabeth´ on her visit to Aberdeen to inaugurate the City Library at the City Council. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life.

Another fact which I had researched about Scotland was that it hosts most number of castles, forts and palaces in the world, and Aberdeen has plenty of them in its surroundings and nearby towns and cities. For travel lovers outside the city, Aberdeen provides ample options of day-trips or weekend outings without bunking the university. To top it off, if anyone is studying in Scotland travel links are excellent, which means getting around the rest of Scotland and the UK is easy. As said earlier I like travelling a lot, it became routine for me that every month I used to travel on one such destination to explore the Scotland and Highlands. From visits to some amazingly scenically beautiful places such as Cruden Bay; Stonehaven; St. Andrews; Fortross; Inverness and Lochness to day trips to some of ghostliest or loneliest castles like Dunnottar, Craigievar, Huntly and Old Slains were the best trips I had ever done. A tour of Balmoral Castle was mesmerizing and it got even special for me when I came to that it is the second home of Royal Family of United Kingdom during the summers in London. One trip which is very close to my heart is when I visited the homeland of James Bond. Oh yeah, a road trip and camping with flat mates and friends to The Isle of Skye, situated off the West Coast of Scotland. It felt like I was one of the characters from Skyfall movie.

Frankly speaking, if I go on sharing a students’ life at Aberdeen, it will be endless. The exposure, experiences, comfort and friendly atmosphere the city and university has to offer is unmatchable. Simply great! I just didn’t study in an awesome university under guidance of highly knowledgeable and experienced professors and industry professionals, but also established and groomed myself in overall personality development. From highs and lows in studies and exams to responsibilities of working as a restaurant staff to unforgettable nightlife, parties and hangouts to incredible hiking and road trips, Aberdeen has to offer a great student experience for international students.

A vibrant, compact city with a buoyant local economy Aberdeen is isolated from other cities, but it has everything that other cities has – shopping centers, theatres, cinemas, bars, casinos, clubs, a beach and lots more – so the isolation doesn’t matter. I loved my time there.

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