Lena Points #6: Cool Graffiti in the City

Some times I wonder what we would do in Glasgow without Lena. Student Tours Scotland has teamed up with Lena (from France) and each week we bring you Lena pointing at something awesome or weird in our wonderful city. This week Lena is pointing at some really cool graffiti on Argyle Street in the Anderston region of Glasgow. Hidden on the west side of Central Station, Anderston was all but destroyed in the 1960's when the motorway was pushed through Glasgow. Many run down shops and empty units lie all over the place. Recently an artist was commissioned to make the area look nicer with this set of cool graffiti. We think it's pretty awesome and Student Tours Scotland knows all about awesome. So thank you Lena - we look forward to seeing you point at something else very soon!

Life After Erasmus #01: Coming Home

Welcome to Robin Graham, our newest regular blogger. Robin studies at Glasgow Caledonian University and has recently returned from a one-year Erasmus exchange in Rouen, France. He's going to be blogging about the weird and wonderful life after returning home. It's a kind of reverse culture shock in many ways. In his own words, here is Robin telling us what the return was like for him.

"A question that has been posed a thousand times to me since I have returned home from exchange in Rouen, France: how was it? I am still looking for the appropriate words, which might shed light on the life-changing experience. Maybe writing things down will help.

So why did I choose to go on exchange? I decided to leave home at the tender age of 19, having had a girlfriend for 3 years, something that isn’t very common! I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn another language and maybe gain some kind of advantage in the job market. I had dreamt of studying abroad since I started high school and I would not let anything take that away from me.

What I didn’t anticipate is that the Erasmus experience would change me forever.

After travelling through the continent, to 10 different countries in as many months, seeing some of the most beautiful paintings, sculptures, buildings, people and landscapes in the world. I can safely say it was the most enriching thing I could ever have done. And, I made so many friends whom I will keep forever!!

I did learn the language and even another one, since some of my best friends are Spanish, Mexican and Argentinean. It has made me want to travel the world, experience as many cultures as I can, and learn more languages than I thought were possible. However, there is one thing I cannot do. Sum up the life that I lived for 10 months in any way that makes sense or even in a succinct enough way that would interest people.

Would I suggest it to anyone else? Of course, and I would suggest they switch places with me so I can experience it again!

Waking up in a foreign country, in a place so magical, surrounded by friends whom after only a short time become absolutely everything to you is the best feeling I have ever felt, certainly. Studying with people from all walks of life, from every continent in the world really allows you to absorb their cultures and improve the way you live in as many ways as possible.

I went to Cologne for carnival and saw some of the happiest people on the planet whilst dressed as the most ridiculous things! I shared hostels and tiny single beds with people. I ate typical German food and slept for 5 hours a night. It was amazing.

Around 40 people from my Erasmus program in Rouen travelled together to Budapest, Hungary just because we found flights for €15. We rented a whole apartment block and had Palenka shots until we couldn’t stand any more. The sun shone like it never does in Glasgow and we spent 8 hours soaking in the traditional Hungarian bath houses with the locals.

I have seen more places and people than most people my age and I am so grateful that I am lucky enough to have experienced it. I have friends from the 4 corners of the globe whom I have visited or will visit soon, allowing me to see even more!

Some people find it difficult to be away from home, they get homesick; they miss their families and other halves. Relationships do take some strain, understandably. However the ones that matter flourish. Living away from home has made me appreciate how lucky I am to have some of the people around me, like my parents. Moving away also let me move on from some people I was stuck around in Glasgow, it allowed me to fall in love, with someone I never knew existed 2 weeks before.

Living on exchange is a dream, the most colourful, enriching and lucid dream you can ever have. And you never want it to finish.

However, you have to wake up at some point. For me, I woke up on a Sunday morning at home, having to say goodbye to my (newish) girlfriend at Glasgow International Airport who was flying back to Argentina after travelling here to visit me. I drove her to the airport and spent 2 hours just sitting in an embrace, which would be stepping on a plane shortly afterwards. Tears were hard to control and for me, they still are.

For me, the only negative aspect of life on exchange was coming home. Saying goodbye forever to some of the most amazing people you will ever meet. Saying goodbye to girlfriends/boyfriends who chances are you will never see again. Saying goodbye to a city that has widened your horizon. Saying goodbye to a life of which you had dreamt of for years and will only be allowed to dream of again.

I hope this short story of my exchange finally answers those people who ask, how was it? I don’t think I’ll ever be able to answer it completely. It is something that has to be lived in order to understand just how incredible it is. I think I have run out of the appropriate adjectives when speaking to friends or family, but I think they can understand. Just as I hope you can understand. Erasmus was magical."

Pizza Cones In Glasgow

Student Tours Scotland is proud to have so many connections across the city and the world. In Glasgow one of our regulars has launched his own business. We asked Dags to tell us a little bit more about the back story to Pizza Cones and what led him to launch it. So here, for your reading pleasure, is Dags and the legend of Pizza Cones.

"An entrepreneur at heart, Dags has always had the vision to create his own future and make his own decisions. Authority never sat well with Dags as his creative mind wandered and in his own words he ‘wanted to do what he wanted, when he wanted’.

Two years ago, when he was a student at University, Dags studied International Retail Marketing. However, struggling to pay fees and bills, he took time off from his studies to put full focus in to starting his own business.

Dags trusted his ‘gut feeling’ when he came across Pizza Cones. He seized the opportunity to become the first and only distributor of the innovative Pizza Cones in the UK.

‘Having always wanted to be in a retail business, I jumped at the chance to work with Pizza Cones. I used to sell computers from my bedroom when I was 13 years old – I thought this was chance to have a business that my mum would approve of!’

Getting inspiration from successful business leaders really drove Dags’ passion, from Eminem to Steve Jobs these people have been the positive influences needed to spark his enthusiasm. Dags has also benefited from the support of Entrepreneurial Spark, Glasgow’s business incubator.

‘Thanks to Entrepreneurial-Spark I now have people around me that give positive encouragement and support. They have looked at my business from many different angles, and the fact they see the much needed entrepreneurial mindset in me just makes me all the more determined, and sharing an office with likeminded individuals is a first’

Pizza Cones is launching this Monday in Glasgow Caledonian University. Head over and see them for yourself!

Where Are They Now? #006 Lars (Germany)

Student Tours Scotland tries to keep in touch with our former students. Each one is somewhere exciting in the world doing something awesome with their lives. Today we catch up with Lars and find out what he's been up to since leaving Glasgow five years ago.

Student Tours Scotland (STS):  Hey Lars! Thanks for being one of our first Where Are They Now interviewees. It's been around five years since you started studying in Glasgow, Scotland. Introduce yourself for us: name, where you are from and one random fact about yourself.


STS: What do you miss the most about Glasgow and Scotland?

Lars: First question and already a tough one: What I miss the most must be the incredible group of people I got to spend my time with, mostly exchange students from all different backgrounds who turned even a simple trip to the supermarket into an event. "Right", you are probably thinking, "but that can happen anywhere". So when it came to Scotland in particular, it has got to be the incredible nature that was a short train ride away from the city.

STS: What one place in Scotland was your favourite?



Lars: I don't even remember how we ever found out about the Isle of Arran, but it was by far the most impressive place I went to during my time in Scotland. Somebody had described it as "All of Scotland, condensed in an island" and I find that description quite accurate: Snow-covered mountains, lush green fields, muddy valleys in which my bike constantly got stuck… and all that amazing close to Glasgow.

STS: Do you think it's important to get out and about in Glasgow and Scotland when you study here?

Lars: For the first part of my stay, the weather was so terrible that the aforementioned trip to the supermarket was about all the traveling I ever got done. Yet once spring came around, I spent what feels like almost every other weekend heading further and further North: Loch Lomond, the Isle of Skye, the Shetlands… It is really pretty straightforward: I believe that in order to really get to know the country, one should try and see as much of it as possible.

STS: But enough about Scotland. What are you doing with yourself now?

Lars: While I was in Scotland, I was still enrolled as a student in The Netherlands. After finishing my studies there, I moved back to my native Germany and found a job as a magazine editor in Berlin. I am now spending my days writing, editing and trying to squeeze information out of all kinds of smart people.

STS: Have you been back in Scotland since you first left?

Lars: Unfortunately not. Must be the fact that 99% of the people I knew there left at the same time as I did.

STS: If you could offer any one piece of survival advice to someone about to study in Scotland what would it be?

Lars: Go to flickr.com, type in whatever Scottish city you live in, filter by interestingness, marvel at all those places you haven't yet seen and go exploring. Oh, and no ball games.

STS: Cheers for taking the time to chat with us Lars. All the best.


Erasmus en Escocia #01 - First Days in Glasgow Scotland

First Glimpses of Erasmus life in Glasgow

As I write this, it’s not even my first week here in Glasgow. I’ve just been kicked out from ‘Walkabout’ bar and I have the feeling this is going to happen quite often. I called Freddy (my friend) and we went into ‘Lauders’ bar, and this is where it all starts.

So finally we were in Scotland. The first thing you notice here in Glasgow is that there's no sun anymore. Probably it is gone forever, I’m wondering about that. Afterwards, you'll get your first baptism with Sco(tt)ish rain and the Sco(tt)ish accent which actually, sounds like a little bit my city, strange, isn’t it?.
So the Spanish team (coming from Zaragoza) arrive in a city where people are calling themselves ‘Glescae’ or something like that. We were ready to have fun for a whole year. We were wet, not ge(tt)ing a s**t of what people were talking about, got a huge rip-off at ‘Saintsbury’s’ supermarket near Buchanan Street, but three hours later, we went into this bar called ‘Lauders’, had some Sco(tt)ish beers and we started loving the place.

The first night wasn’t that good - except for the beers. We took a bedding pack from Glasgow Caledonian University Accommodation (Caledonian Court) guys, and it felt like paper. I had the feeling I was putting myself in an envelope, about to be shipped back to Spain. But hey, what did you expect for fifteen pounds? The next day we spent about triple to buy a new ‘Ikea’ bedding pack. Nevermind about the bedding stuff, the room felt like a palace, there were some iron marks on the floor (you can iron your stuff on the floor apparently and it will be perfectly ok except for the fitted carpet) but apart from that, after a week I’m like at home in there. Wonderful place this "Caley Court".

And then (and I don’t know why we keep signing up for his walk tours), Gary appeared. First time you meet him and he tells you that the most important rule you should follow is "just don’t die" you’ll think, "this guy is absolutely wasted, i now understand many things going on in here". But, you know, he's the kind of guy you’ll consider a member of your family with only knowing him for a day or so. So we kept coming to his walks and the more you see about the city, the more you like it. Weather is awful and drinking is expensive, but people are trying to help you out at their most, even if they can’t. So that is much appreciated guys. You really make people feel like home.

The third day, i ran this ‘Great Sco(tt)ish Run’. I love running and I signed up two months ago for the half marathon. Listening to the anthem of Scotland live while you are running is awesome. You feel just so motivated to run. That will fade out when you’ve run for one hour and a half and you’ll hate yourself for enrolling in the race. I was visiting the toilet quite often this week - so ‘just don’t run’, I’ve discovered drinking is much more fun than doing any kind of sports, and you always meet new people!

Afterwards, we visited the River Clyde and Glasgow Green, and after some hours we went out.

I shall say that going out in Glasgow is kind of unpredictable. I’ve only been in the city for a week, and I’ve already be asked for gay sex (twice), for money (they only wanted a quarter pound, not any more) and kicked out from a pub because i was calmly drinking a beer on the dancefloor and apparently, that is not allowed. My arm was out of the dancefloor and I was in, but the huge security guy from ‘Walkabout’ didn’t get that.

So after a whole week (and a day - hangover day) in Glasgow I already love this city. People are just so nice, guys from my flat in Caledonian Court (Eldon) are amazingly cool (we even knew the guy that used to be in my room, he got a tattoo which says "Eldon FTW), parties in the kitchen are becoming legendary again (although Tesco didn’t want to deliver the one hundred beers we asked for but we had a really good time partying on Wednesday here anyway) and it seems it’s going to be a really good year here in Glasgow!

Thanks for all, Glasgow!

Welcoming Everyone to Glasgow

I Think I'll Go On A Walkabout

Student Tours Scotland has had the pleasure of welcoming new students to Glasgow. It's always exciting showing people this fine city. Although we've been really lucky with the weather, it's the people that make the place so good.  We've had a little TMI from some folk - don't ask what colour of underwear you have on as an icebreaker - but it's been a great day. We chilled in Garnethill Park and even got to see a few weird Glaswegians. I'm sure you'd recognise them yourselves.

Walking in Glasgow is important when you're a student. It's a cheap and easy way of getting around. The city is huge and without the odd walkabout you'd never seen anything. So join us on our next walkabout as we head off into the unknown. You're guaranteed to enjoy it.

Where Are They Now? #005 Aleksi (Finland)

Welcome to the latest installment of Where Are They Now? This time we track down Aleksi from Finland to find out what he's been up to over the last five years since leaving Glasgow.

Student Tours Scotland (STS): Can you introduce yourself and give us one random fact about yourself?

Aleksi: My name is Aleksi Lehtovaara and I´m from Lahti, Finland. Random fact: I love chili nuts.

STS: What do you miss the most about Glasgow and Scotland?

Aleksi: I miss the great venues in Glasgow that offers so much good live music. I also miss the beautiful landscapes in the highlands that are so easy to reach from Glasgow. Another thing is hearing the awesome Scottish accent. I don't get to hear it here in Finland almost at all.

STS: What one place in Scotland was your favourite?

Aleksi: I have to admit that I saw only a fraction of Scotland while being there and there's so many places still to see. I can't say one place. I really liked the beauty of Edinburgh historical center. I love all the parks in Glasgow. There was so many great pubs in Glasgow that I don't even start to name those.

STS: Do you think it's important to get out and about in Glasgow and Scotland when you study here?

Aleksi: It is very important. I found that the best memories you get are when you just go and see places. You don't have to plan too much before going. You can pick some place to go but don't pick the shortest route and just get rid of the map sometimes. It is so safe in Scotland that you can go pretty much everywhere but of course you have to use common sense.

STS: But enough about Scotland. What are you doing with yourself now?

Aleksi: I work as a design engineer in a small company called C-Advice. We're involved in different kind of bigger customer projects. I still live in Lahti. I like being here for some reason but I also like traveling out occasionally.

STS: Have you been back in Scotland since you first left?

Aleksi: I haven't been there since I left. I'm sure that I'm going to Scotland in some point. I would like to do a longer trip to highlands and of course I need to go to Glasgow.

STS: If you could offer any one piece of survival advice to someone about to study in Scotland what would it be?

Aleksi: First of all you need to get some proper raincoat or umbrella. It's really safe to live there and people are usually friendly. I felt that Scottish people are really laid back. You just need to be yourself and stay honest to other people. Well I guess that is pretty much how you can get along anywhere. Many people like to drink Irn Bru so it could be a great way to break the ice by offering it.

STS: Cheers for taking the time to chat with us Aleksi. All the best and good idea with the Irn Bru!

Aleksi: My pleasure.

Welcome to Our New Regular Blogger

Victor from Zaragoza, Spain

Student Tours Scotland would like to give a massive Scottish welcome to our new regular blogger, Victor from Spain. Victor will be blogging his experiences in Glasgow from his own perspective over the next year. So watch this space for some highs and lows of life as an ERASMUS Student. He's already got stuck into life here. On Sunday he took part in the Great Scottish Run. Welcome aboard the Student Tours Scotland team Victor. Happy to have you.

Lena Points #5: Candleriggs Carpark, Merchant City, Glasgow

Scary Old Ladies in Glasgow

Lena is back with Student Tours Scotland and this time she is pointing at a cool car park sign that most folk in Glasgow have never even noticed. The car park is on the Candleriggs Street in the Glasgow Merchant City. Recently it was modernised and given a huge make over. Before the upgrade it was a pretty scary place after dark. Now it's really safe.

However, there are stories in Glasgow of an old lady who appears in your locked car when you go to head home. She fakes an illness and then asks you drive her to the hospital. On the way she makes you take a back road. After a while she gets you to stop the car and kills you with an axe hidden under your car seat.

The story is apparently told across the world in different forms but even now I get a chill down my spine whenever I park in Candleriggs.