Hello everyone! My name is Nadine Agius and I am a third year undergraduate student studying Psychology at the University of Malta.
Applying for a semester abroad back in January 2021 sounded like a crazy idea, however, I decided to shoot my shot and applied for an Erasmus exchange to the University of Stirling in Scotland. The cold weather and the beautiful highlands were a stark difference to the sunny and coastal island I’m used to, but if I were to be honest, I was getting fed up of feeling sweaty at the beach so this change was more than welcome!
Christmas of 2021 felt a bit surreal, as I was dining with my family, I knew that in two weeks I was leaving them to live abroad. Moving out at 19 years old in Malta is far from common, so it was a bit shocking for my parents that I would leave for a semester, however I am thankful that they helped me throughout my time in Scotland and did not hinder me at all during this experience.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, classes at the University of Stirling were held in a hybrid method. This allowed me to have the best of both worlds. The campus in Stirling is stunning, with Loch Airthrey passing through and overlooking Dumyat Mountain and the Wallace monument, attending in-person classes was definitely not an inconvenience. Online classes then, helped me foster a close bond with my roommates, as we could all attend our classes simultaneously and keep each other company. Apart from that, remote learning allowed me to travel all over Scotland without missing a single class!
I had three elective units which I found were organized really well and allowed for a lot of flexibility. The lecturers would post online videos explaining the material at the beginning of the week, then on Friday we had an hour of hybrid lecturing for each unit, where an overview would be given, followed by interactive scenarios and finally, a Kahoot quiz. Personally, I found that this method worked for me, as I could watch the videos whenever and wherever I could, pausing it and rewinding it as needed, whilst also having the time to go over the material and interact with it with my fellow peers and lecturers. Additionally, the lecturing staff at the university were beyond friendly and understanding, they definitely relieved our stress during examination period since they were always there when we needed help.
Furthermore, each unit had an assignment which was worth 50% of the final grade, with the other 50% being the exam at the end of the semester. The assignment was given in the middle of the semester, and I found this to be helpful, as I could balance the time allotted to working on the assignment and going over lecturing content. What I especially liked about these assignments was that they were interactive in nature, as two of them included taking part in an experiment, and the other was a research essay. This also made me less panicked during exam season, as I knew that half my grade was already settled in the assignment, the grades of which were published before the exams.
It goes without saying that Scotland is a beautiful country. As such I spent most of my free time outdoors, whether it was taking a walk in the Stirling countryside or going on a three-day excursion to the Isle of Skye. Of course, I did not do these activities alone, I have made friends along the way, including my roommates, classmates, and people I randomly bumped into in the library.
All of these made leaving four months later a bittersweet moment. I was happy to see my family (and dog) again, but I knew I was going to miss the new connections I made, and the picturesque place I was living in. Today, I am grateful for this experience, and it has taught me many valuable things, but most importantly it taught me independence. I am not the same person now than when I left at the beginning of the year, and as cheesy as it sounds, it is true! Living abroad has shown me that I am capable of living and studying alone, and in fact it is something I am looking into for my master’s study.
Although it may sound daunting, I found that studying abroad has helped my self-esteem, confidence, and independence. I would recommend anyone who has to opportunity to further their studies abroad to do so, it’s definitely something not to be missed!