How is the University of Aberdeen

One semester at the University of Aberdeen

Education

As a master's student in geoecology at the University of Potsdam, I was only able to apply for a bachelor's degree at the University of Aberdeen and was enrolled in geology. As it turned out on site, that was not worth considering, since the geography is housed in the same department and the choice of course was not affected. I had to take at least 50% of the courses from this department and actually these should be bachelor courses. However, through a lot of persistence, direct discussions with the respective lecturers and the very helpful Erasmus coordination group in Aberdeen, I was ultimately able to take courses from the master’s “Geographical Information Systems”. The difficulty was that only the tutor or someone from the Erasmus team could change the course selection in the system, which made the whole process very tedious. In addition, there are often systematic problems when courses overlap. Even if the exercise times are variable or courses actually take place on a different day and time than are stored in the system. These timetable clashes meant that I could not take courses and that I was only officially enrolled for the course I wanted to do most with a lot of persistence at the end of the semester. Regarding the choice of course, it should be said that a semester is again divided into two parts and some courses only take place in one of the two halves and others e.g. my master’s courses for the whole semester. This is confusing at first, because when searching for a course in the Catalog of Courses it is only noted under the description of the course under Further Information & Notes. The first sub session, on the other hand, relates to the winter semester, the second sub session to the semester from January.

Overall, I got the impression that there is a large selection of courses when you look at all of the departments and degree programs. I found the offers of the "Sixth Century Courses" particularly interesting. These are interdisciplinary courses, of which "normal" Bachelor students have to take at least 3. The topics are very diverse, e.g. "Worlds of Food", "Oceans and Society" or "Sustainability" and are examined from different perspectives.

The last thing to say about the course system is that 2 Aberdeen credits correspond to one ECTS in Potsdam. So you should choose 4 courses with 15 credits each in order to get 30 ECTS per semester.

Overall, I found my courses interesting and was able to deepen myself more in a direction (GIS) that wasn't directly offered in Potsdam.

University life

I found the campus (Old Aberdeen) particularly beautiful, on which, in addition to the large, more modern university buildings, there are also some old one-story houses with gardens and there are a few of these typically old beautiful university buildings. The library is only a few years old and well equipped with group workstations with large screens, computer rooms, comfortable reading sofas and workstations with a view of the sea. You could take it there. The only drawback I found was that there was no real cafeteria, just a hall in which there were various snacks.
The University of Aberdeen has a very international flair, it feels like 70% of the students come from other countries to study there. This is probably because the tuition fees are cheap compared to England. How things will continue after Brexit, however, was on everyone's lips. The societies are a good opportunity to simply try something new. There are sports societies to try different things from hillwalking to Quidditch. And there are the other societies, where there is sure to be something for everyone from circus, Scottish dance to the whiskey society. There are so many different groups that it is almost difficult to choose. I was at the Swing Society and got to know very good people through it. In the end I danced 3 times a week and was able to take part in the Hop Potato workshop. That was a very great and enriching weekend with great teachers from Portugal and California and a familiar and nice atmosphere!

 

Living

First of all, it should be said that as an Erasmus student you can definitely apply for a dormitory place as soon as you have your registration number and have been guaranteed a place. There are different residences with different sizes and prices (£ 99-142 / month). Hillhead is the largest area with a variety of homes and facilities. It is around 10 minutes' walk from the campus through Seaton Park. The path around the park is recommended at night as there is no lighting and is a little further. Since I didn't live there myself and was only there to visit, I can't say much about it. It is, however, the case that you have a bed and furniture in the dormitories, but you have to get blankets, pillows, dishes etc. There are also private dormitories, e.g. unit students, with prices between £ 99 - £ 139 / week, but these also looked a lot more modern than the university dormitories. Overall, however, it was clear to me in advance that I wanted to try to find accommodation privately, not least because the university dormitories are quite expensive. To be on the safe side, I applied for a place in a dormitory quite late, so I had a week before I had to close or cancel the room, in order to then look for something privately on site or to assess what the private housing situation was like.
The search for a flat share turned out to be a bit different from what I know from Germany, where the roommates usually choose someone and show you the apartment. In Aberdeen, this was done exclusively through the landlord, which is why the potential roommates were usually not seen or only by chance. There is also no relevant website on which you can search, e.g. wg-searched. I mainly searched on the following pages:
- Spareroom.co.uk
- Gumtree.co.uk
- Easyroommate.co.uk
In addition, I posted on the Facebook pages of the societies that I would like to take part in, whether someone knew something about a cheap room. Finally, after a week and a half, I found a room in a 3-person shared apartment via the AUSA Marketplace, which was right next to the university and was £ 250 plus ancillary costs (£ 40). The average for private rooms was around £ 340 / month (warm). When looking for an apartment, I also found it difficult that rooms were often rented for at least 6 months, which would have been too long for me. The Council Tax is often referred to, but (full-time) students, including Erasmus students, do not have to! You have to submit your certificate of enrollment to the city, which you can have in the Infohub. This is always charged for an apartment as soon as someone works in the apartment. Therefore, it is easiest if only students live in an apartment. Furthermore, there is sometimes talk of an existing HMO license. This is a license for shared apartments of 3 or more people and means that the apartment meets certain city standards. Furthermore, the advertisements differentiate between single and double rooms, which in my experience only relates to the size of the bed. If you have any questions about the rental agreement or similar, you can always contact the AUSA in the Infohub opposite the Erasmus office.

On road

Overall, walking is good in Aberdeen. It takes about 20 minutes from the campus to the city center.If you want to deal with left-hand traffic and somewhat brazen bus drivers, you can of course get around faster by bike. The bus network is well developed overall. However, it is helpful to know that there are two bus companies. While you always have to have the exact amount of cash with you on the First buses (change will be donated to a good cause), this is not the case with Stagecoach. In addition, the (day) tickets at Stagecoach are cheaper, especially as a student with a student ID. Stagecoach has a network that extends beyond Aberdeen, which is also a good way of getting to the Cairngorms National Park, Stonehaven or Inverness, for example. For longer journeys, e.g. to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness or even London, it is worth checking out Megabus.com early on, as you can travel there very cheaply (£ 1). There are also discounts on trains if you book early. Unfortunately, there is no real lift. Sometimes it can also be cheaper to rent a car, especially if you want to go to less accessible corners, for example to go hiking.
Anyone who enjoys hiking or hillwalking, as the Scots say, is sure to get lost in the thousand routes for all of Scotland that can be found on walkhighlands.co.uk. Overall, Scotland is super nice for hiking as long as you can cope with the fact that hiking trails are not necessarily signposted and your feet can sometimes get a bit wet or muddy. Everyone's right applies, so you can run cross-country and camp wild for up to 3 nights; even on the royal estates, e.g. at Loch Muik, but please be "very sensitive and respectful" if Prince Charles happens to be residing at Balmoral Castle.
There are many beautiful corners in Scotland and the west coast also differs significantly from the more agricultural, flatter but milder east coast with higher mountains and beautiful valleys (e.g. Glen Affric, Glen Coe). If you have a little more time, you should, for example, walk the Skyetrail on the Isle of Skye - very, very beautiful! - or a detour to the Outer Hebrides Haris and Lewis turn into turquoise blue, lonely beaches. The Assynt region, north of Ullapool, is also very varied. In Edinburgh you shouldn't miss the National Museum, where you can stay for 2 days or take a look at every rain shower, as it's free.

 

Special tips in Aberdeen

In addition to the Shared Planet Café (once a week vegan lunch), the Shared Planet Society also runs the Food Corner, a small unpackaged shop with the option of ordering a VegBag once a week (£ 6). This contains fruit and vegetables, mostly from a farmer near Aberdeen or from organic farming. The Food Corner can be found together with the Swap Shop on the 1st floor of the hub. The swap shop is similar to the redistributor in Potsdam, where you can find clothes, bedding, books, bags and all kinds of things and take them with you or hand them in at the end of the semester if your suitcase is too full. So it is worth taking a look at the beginning of the semester, if one thing or the other is missing that you don't necessarily want to buy new for a semester.

BeCyCle is another society that has a bicycle repair shop on the High Street and rents out bicycles there for a full semester for a deposit of around £ 20. However, you probably have to be quick to get a really good one or you will have fun repairing yourself and tinkering your own bike from various individual parts.
A detour to the botanical garden behind the Zoology Building is definitely recommended if you are looking for a quiet place on campus. The best thing to do is get a delicious coffee from Kilau on the High Street beforehand.
If you would like to try whiskey, you should consider joining the Whiskey Society or only occasionally going to their whiskey tastings. Otherwise, you can go to Bar Gills on Union Street, where you will probably lower the average age.
A nice café and second-hand bookstore is Books & Beans on Belmont Street (student discount) and on Fridays the Swing Society organizes social dancing on the 1st floor of the Coffeehouse: open to everyone and usually with half an hour at the beginning, including the one Basic steps are shown. The Coffeehouse is a cozy café, where there is also live music on Fridays and you also get student discounts on drinks and food.
And if you would like to see dolphins, you should take binoculars with you and look from the southern side of the harbor to the lighthouse on the other side of the harbor. On the other hand, there is a good chance of seeing seals at the mouth of the River Ythan near Newburgh north of Aberdeen.

Subject: Geoecology

Length of stay: 01/2017 - 05/2017

Host university:University of Aberdeen

Host country:Great Britain