Find out what being a student at the University of Aberdeen is like by reading the blogs from our current students. 

Journey from Ghana to Aberdeen

Our imaginations can often run wild and free! And for a first time traveller, your guess is as good as mine, especially travelling from a developing country to a developed country. I was excited and scared and full of wonder about the new place I was going to call home!

What I was told

Even before I made up my mind to do my MSc at the University of Aberdeen, I had heard and read a lot about the United Kingdom. The way of life there, the never-depreciating currency, the transport system, the food and the enviable British Accent! 

I mean the stories spanned from tangibles to abstract, but one thing that was common throughout all the stories was the unique Scottish weather and for that matter Aberdeen and how I needed to come prepared. But just as I hinted earlier, I did my own personal research and only God knows how many times I read about life in Aberdeen! Well you can call me Aber-newbie!  

The Journey to Aberdeen 

On 11th of September 2018, at around 5pm, I made my way to the Kotoka International Airport in Ghana and finally made it through all the security checks without any hustle or bustle. My flight was scheduled to depart at around 11pm. Fast forward, the time came for us to board. Somewhere in between being civilised and ‘posh’ like I had always seen in the movies and trying not to look like I had no clue, I managed to keep my cool and anxiety levels down. Remember the old saying ‘do not follow the crowd?’ Well I shunned that saying and followed the crowd this time and located my seat. Seated in between a matured looking man and a woman who could pass as my mum, and in high spirit, I clicked a selfie for the family and friends who were praying for safe travels back home. 

Finally made it to the Schiphol airport in Amsterdam after about six hours in the air, again made it through the necessary checks and at about 11am in the morning after a 3 hour layover I boarded my next flight to Aberdeen! 

Aberdeen alas!

I got to Aberdeen in high spirits ready to make friends and make the most of the opportunity, however the Aberdeen weather had different plans for me, how chee-kay? (Written in my full-fledged accent lol). Well honestly, for a first timer, I would say I was not adequately dressed, how sad! As I strut confidently out of the plane and took my first step, the weather was breezy I thought to myself, did the plane have a special way of saying goodbye to me?!

It was finally when I got on the ground that I realised that I was in Aberdeen, the most amazing city in Scotland and I was completely under dressed.... made it through security and amidst getting used to a new climate, guess what I did? I had to pose in front of the Dyce Airport for a final picture.

Whilst you read this and your imagination gets a good hold of you, don’t forget to pack warm clothing. It will take a little time to adjust to the British weather!! This is not African heat but instead something new and exciting. I now love the weather and purchased a few new warmer items of clothing here. For a first time traveller always have a good jacket for your journey....other than that, just so you know, Aberdeen is a lovely and calm city and the University of Aberdeen is even Lovelier! 

By Abigail Boakye

The Career Service At The University Of Aberdeen

I started studying at The University of Aberdeen in September 2018. I had just concluded my first degree in Hungary. During the Fresher’s week, I attended a lot of events for new students and I found out about the Careers Service. The career’s service at the University of Aberdeen offers advice and support to students and graduates of the university. The Career Service helps students to explore all career options in order to make a well-informed career choice. Through workshops and seminars, the service aims to help students to develop their skills and gain confidence in their potential. 

As a student of the university, I have attended a number of workshops hosted by the Career service and I found every one of them to be very enlightening and helpful. To help you understand how amazing it is, I will describe a timeline of my involvement with the Career service.

Step 1: After finding out about the Career service during Fresher’s week, I booked an appointment to speak to one of the advisors. In order to get the most out of the meeting, I went along with a copy of my CV. The first meeting was basically an introduction to the service. After this brief introduction, the advisor took a quick look at my CV and told me everything that was wrong with it while offering advice on a few adjustments to make. I found this very helpful and I made all the corrections he suggested. I also signed up to receive alerts of part-time jobs available at the University and that was how I got my first part-time student job!

Step 2: After my first meeting with an advisor, I frequently attended other seminars organized by the Career service. During one of such seminars, I learnt how to use the networking site: LinkedIn. During this session, I also got a professional head-shot picture taken for my LinkedIn profile for free! I know! It was such a huge bonus. After the seminar, I was able to set up my LinkedIn page and I have been connecting with important people in my professional field ever since!

Step 3: During my second semester at the university, I attended a series of workshops aimed at helping students to develop core skills which job recruiters often look for. I attended workshops on leadership, time management and networking. It was an amazing experience and after the workshops, I felt a lot more confident in myself and in my skills.

Step 4: I am currently involved in a Career Mentorship program. Let me explain it; so I have been paired with a well-established career mentor and we have meetings every two weeks. This program is run by the Career service and it aims to give students a sort of hands-on experience with their chosen career. You get to speak to someone who already has your dream job and they give you advice on the proper steps to take before and after graduation. I have found my mentor to be very helpful and very inspiring. I am very grateful to the Career service for this opportunity.

As new students, it is often so confusing and stressful to move to a new city and you probably have no idea of what you’re going to do when you graduate, but that’s what the Career service is there for. The advisors are very helpful and amazing! All you have to do is book an appointment and show up and get all the necessary help that you need, all for free!

By Oluwafayokemi Tijani

Exciting Opportunities for International Students

As a Postgraduate International Student from Ghana, I have had quite a number of exciting experiences in Aberdeen barely 7 months since I got here. From meeting people with diverse backgrounds and making lifelong friendships and experiencing different cultures has been one of the many things i will carry with me wherever I go.

Over my short stay here, if there’s one thing I am more convinced about is that the University of Aberdeen offers more than just an education, it is part of the reasons most of us have travelled far and near to be a part of this great University, no wonder we were adjudged the 2019 Scottish University of the year, a bragging right I have over my friends who are in other universities.

As a Masters student studying International Relations, I have been so keen on leadership opportunities such that, right from the beginning of my course I was given a fair opportunity to be a class representative and not just that, but given the requisite skills to be able to deliver my duties as a class rep.

As if that was not enough, the election window for Aberdeen University Students Association opened for students to participate in a free and fair elections where I got the opportunity to stand as Education Officer together with other competitors and again, I was given the requisite training and support to enable me go through the process smoothly without fear.

Whilst the experience was challenging it has by far been one of my most exciting experiences in the University of Aberdeen I must say! All the other competitors running for various positions were given equal play field and support! Something that is somewhat rare from where I come from. 

Through that, I met so many amazing people and learnt a great deal and I strongly believe all the experiences I gathered from campaigning and talking and explaining my policies to people will be used and shared somewhere along my career path. 

Whilst my opponent won by just ninety-four votes, I am grateful for this exciting experience that I probably would not have had if I had not come to the University of Aberdeen and I am so certain I would do it again if given this same opportunity in my next life.

By Abigail Boakye

Working Part-time in Aberdeen

As an international student with a limited income from a scholarship, it is sometimes necessary to find an additional source of revenue. Thankfully, the Tier 4 student visa allows us to work up to 20 hours per week during term time and full-time during holidays.

I came to Aberdeen to do a masters and decided to stay for my PhD as well. During my masters I did not work as I felt I would be unable to take on a job while adjusting to living in the UK. However, I had some free time after lectures and assignments that I could have very well spent earning money instead of drinking it. Once I finished my masters and while waiting for the PhD to start, I got my first part-time job in Aberdeen.

I applied for several jobs I found listed on Indeed and was rejected by most of them or didn’t get a response. I remember feeling particularly terrible when I was rejected by McDonalds. I mean, why would I not be qualified to work a cash register or flip burgers having just attained a masters degree!? Nevertheless, I continued looking for options and I finally started working at COSMO Aberdeen as floor staff (i.e. waitressing and cleaning) mid-October 2016. Shortly after I got another job as a Biology and Maths tutor for Nat 5 and Higher students. 

I got into COSMO because I had a friend working there who recommended me to the manager. I handed in my focused CV and had a short interview. Here’s where I learnt you should have a different CV depending on the job you are applying for. In the CV I handed in to COSMO, I made emphasis on my hospitality experience and on the skills which were relevant to the job (i.e. cleaning, agreeableness, attention to detail, team work etc.). I also mentioned my academic qualifications but did not go into detail as they would not be relevant for a waitressing job. 

I had a look at Aberdeen University’s job listings page and found an advert for a tutoring job at Homework Help (UK) Ltd. I prepared another CV to apply for this job which focused on my academic qualifications. I mentioned relevant courses I had covered which would make me the ideal candidate to tutor biology and maths. For this job I also wrote a cover letter, which is important as it gives you the opportunity to explain why you are interested in the job and why you think you’d be an ideal candidate. I had a short Skype interview for this job and had my first pupil shortly after. 

I had both jobs when I started my PhD. Halfway through my first year, I decided to drop one of the jobs because it was becoming too overwhelming. I kept the waitressing job as I got more hours, it required less moving around and no preparation. Having started my third year, I decided it was time to get a different job and once again turned to the University’s job listings and found my current job as an International Student Ambassador. 

Working and studying may seem like very hard work and sometimes it is. However, the experiences you share and the friends you make along the way are very much worth it. 

By Yolanda Muñoz Balbontín

The Mexican Community and Celebrations in Aberdeen

When I first thought of coming to Aberdeen, I thought I would be the only Mexican in my course and one of the few in the campus. I was dead wrong. 

When I was planning and getting all the paperwork ready to come to Aberdeen, I stumbled across a few other Mexicans in a live chat event carried out by the University and we formed a WhatsApp group. In this chat I met a Mexican girl who was coming to study the same course as me and who later became my best friend. She helped me out before coming to Aberdeen and when I arrived, she let me stay with her while I sorted out where I would live. In this same chat I met a Mexican guy who came to do a PhD and I ended up sharing a flat with him for three years.

Having settled in, I met many other lovely Mexicans and we soon formed a tight group. We got together for field trips and celebrated holidays together. We also had barbecues and parties to mix it up during the weekends. Overall, we were around 30 Mexicans that year. The next year our numbers grew to around 50 and currently there are over 100 Mexican students at Aberdeen University. When the time came to part ways, we were there for each other at the graduation ceremonies. It was an amazing experience and being able to share it with such great people made it even more so. We still keep in touch and some of us have attended weddings of friend’s who met their match in Aberdeen!  

Given our growing community, this year the Mexican Society was created to assist and support Mexican students in Aberdeen University. This new society seeks to organise integration and informative events to promote socialisation and make professional contacts. 

As for Mexican celebrations in Aberdeen, the holiday that has gained the most popularity in recent years is the Day of the Dead. The first ever Day of the Dead festival in Aberdeen took place in November, 2017. The festival featured Latin dance music, face-painting and a lively performance of traditional Mexican songs.

If you are interested, feel free to have a look at the Mexican Society Facebook page

By: Yolanda Munoz Balbontín

Getting around Aberdeen city and shire

Aberdeen is a small city compared to Glasgow or Edinburgh but no less busy for its nightlife and places to go. Moving about the city centre and hotspot sites is quite easy as everything is about a 5-35 min walk at most. Old Aberdeen campus is only a 20-30 min walk from the city centre, however, if you are not a big fan of walking there are plenty of bus routes to get you around as well. 

First and Stagecoach are the two main bus companies in Aberdeen city. The former is slightly more costly than the latter but covers the whole city. As students, we are entitled to a student discount on the day-ticket, which allows you to move around buses for the day. All you must do is show your student ID when purchasing the ticket on the bus. 

Some routes to take a note of are First route 20, which takes you from the city centre, through Aberdeen University’s (AU) Old Aberdeen campus, to Hillhead Student Village; First routes 1 and 2, which take you to from AU Old Aberdeen campus, through the city centre, to Robert Gordon University (RGU) and Deeside; First routes 3 and 8 and Stagecoach route 59, which take you from the city centre to  Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (ARI) and AU Foresterhill health campus; and Stagecoach Jet 727 route which takes you from the city centre to Aberdeen Dyce airport.  

If you are the adventure-seeking type, Aberdeen and its shire are the place for you. With over 250 castles in the area, Aberdeenshire is considered ‘Scotland’s castle county’ and getting around is no problem. Stagecoach dominates over First in coverage of Aberdeenshire and nearby towns and chalets. Several bus routes drop you off very close to the biggest castles around Aberdeenshire. Alternatively, you may also take the train. 

Exploring Aberdeenshire does not necessarily mean getting a bus. You can take your bicycle around in one of the many cycling routes around Aberdeen and the shire. Deeside way is part of the National Cycle Network and goes from Duthie park in Aberdeen city to Ballater in Aberdeenshire. This trail follows the former Deeside railway ending in Ballater railway station, which was the closest station to Balmoral castle, home of queen Victoria in the 1800s. 

Another remarkable trail is the North Sea cycle route, which takes you along the coastline of Aberdeen, the shire and beyond. This is an international route for more experienced cyclists. Nonetheless, you may follow the route along Aberdeenshire for a shorter trip. On this route, you may see the coastal town of Stonehaven and close-by Dunottar castle, which was captured by William Wallace in 1297. Stonehaven is famous for The Bay Fish & Chips and Aunty Betty’s ice-cream shops (both which I highly recommend). You may also take a train or Stagecoach route 7B from Aberdeen city centre to Stonehaven and then hike for 30-40 min from Stonehaven harbour to the castle. It’s a great day trip!

As an international student, you will need to work hard to ace your programme. But all work and no play make a student stray. Taking some time off to explore the city and its surroundings with your new friends will enhance your international experience and refresh you for your studies. 

Created by Yolanda Muñoz Balbontín

You can walk everywhere! University of Aberdeen Campus

Hello! I am Guillermo, I am from Mexico and I am studying a Master’s degree in International Law and International Relations at the University of Aberdeen. In this occasion, I want to tell you about a part of my experience in this beautiful city that no one talks about, but that I think is useful for you who are planning to come to study here.

One of the greatest things about my experience in Aberdeen is that it is a walkable city where you can go to everywhere without worrying about security and without having to spend your money in public transport, which is good because you will be able to use in more important stuff, depending on your interests. In fact, Aberdeen is a very secure city where you can return to your home walking even at late night, it is ranked as one of the most secure cities in the United Kingdom, among London, Edinburgh and Glasgow.  

In my case, I loved the fact that I could go to any place walking, but most importantly, that I could go to places of my interest in no more than 20 minutes. For example, I live practically within the University, behind the Starbucks. If you want to go to the City Centre, you just need to walk, get out through the Harry Potter’s entrance (It is not per se Harry Potter’s entrance but it feels that way–see picture), turn right in College Bounds and continue walking straight 20 minutes until you get to Union Street. Union Street is the street where you can find all types of stores, cloth stores, bars, clubs, libraries, restaurants, jewellery stores, banks, gift shops, pharmacies, videogame stores, cash multicurrency stores, among other things. I love going there because there is a lot of variety of restaurants and bars where you can just go to clear your mind from the sometimes-stressful studies.

Moreover, one of the great things about walking to the City Centre is that you can experience great views of the City. For a person that is not used to live in a grey city, would find it with a medieval sense that makes it cosy.

Another amazing thing about walking in this City is that all the Supermarkets are 10 to 15 minutes walking. My favourite one is Lidl, and it is very near my home. I just go through the Harry Potter’s entrance, go to the left in College bounds, and continue straight 15 minutes and I am there. If I want to go to the gym I can just cross the University, and I get there in 5 minutes. If you want to enjoy a great spring view, you can always walk to Seaton Park, which is 5 minutes walking from the University, and you will see the contrasts of the different types of shades that the trees have to offer here in Aberdeen. 

Finally, the City will always give you surprises, like this beautiful passage near the University, full of beautiful flowers, where you could be able to read a book and grab a cup of coffee in Kilau coffee shop or Starbucks, which are one minute walking from the University.

Hope you could come to an unforgettable experience in a city full of contrasts. 

By Guillermo Diaz

My Hobbies in Aberdeen

It’s always a nice idea to relax after a long day at University. Many studies have shown that a balanced work and relaxation life is essential for a healthy life. I always try to make time for my hobbies between school work and my part time job. Since moving to Aberdeen, I have also picked up a number of new hobbies and I must say, I am getting really good at all of them. 

My oldest and probably the least fascinating hobby is running. I started running in high school and used to compete in a number of relay races. I often run for about 1.8 miles on stressful days. I have found that the feel of the breeze on my face makes me feel relaxed and free. Plus it’s a really great way to keep in shape. I also enjoy taking long walks on the beach while listening to Claire de Lune. The ideal time for these walks is in the evening so I can watch the sun set. This is something I think everyone should definitely try in their lifetime because it just brings a form of calm that can’t really be explained with words and another bonus is the beauty of the sun itself as it sets for the day. 

I have always enjoyed reading since I was a child. One of the first stores I visited when I moved to Aberdeen was the bookshop in a mall about 10 minutes away from my apartment. Since moving here, I have acquired a large number of books which I read on the weekends while enjoying a cup of tea. I also enjoy reading some of the classics over again like Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice. I find out new things every single time I read these books. 

Since moving to Aberdeen, I have taken up Zumba, an exercise program which involves moving along to fast or slow rhythmic Latin-American songs as a form of cardio. I have gotten so good at it that I currently teach a number of classes at the gym. I also attend a number of fitness classes at the gym on most evenings when I’m not out running. I have met so many people who are as committed to fitness as I am and it’s been amazing so far. I have recently signed up for a number of teaching classes at the Aberdeen Sports Village for the summer. I am really looking forward to learning how to swim again. 

I also enjoy taking photography classes at the Apple store during my free weekends. I have taken a few of these and I can proudly state that my photography skills have improved greatly! I also do some volunteer work with AberGreen which mainly involves speaking to people about the dangers of climate change and how to conserve energy in their homes. 

Aberdeen is a lively city and there are so many things to do here and many clubs to join at the university too!

Weather in Aberdeen

Looking at a map of Scotland, you might notice that Aberdeen is quite far north. You might be thinking that you’ll experience extreme weather or feel cold most of the time, but it’s quite the opposite. As the sunniest city in Scotland, we experience far less rain than other cities in Scotland, and our temperatures are quite mild. Temperatures in the winter usually do not drop below freezing, staying around an average of 7 degrees Celsius during the day and 1 degree Celsius at night. Occasionally it will get cold enough to snow a few days, but nothing too unmanageable. 

With a warm winter coat, a hat and some gloves, you will do just fine in Aberdonian winter. 

While it rains less than other cities in Scotland, Aberdeen is still in the UK so you will still get your fair share of rain. Coming from a city that rains less than Aberdeen, I am quite used to a rainy climate and yet never seem to have an umbrella. If you’re from a sunnier city it might be something you’re not used to, but a rain jacket is an essential in the UK. Rain tends to be quite sporadic and can sometimes come out of nowhere, so be prepared for the unexpected shower here and there. Rain or shine however, it is a great place to be.

Springtime in Aberdeen you never really know what to expect. It can be perfectly sunny one day and rainy the next. As we get closer to summer, the weather warms up and the rain lessens. Average summer temperatures will reach a high of about 20 degrees Celsius and a low of about 10.

After a while in Aberdeen, you will get used to sporadic changes in weather and be prepared for whatever nature throws at you. I find a stormy walk on the beach quite therapeutic and peaceful, so do not let a bit of rain spoil your plans. 

Overall, we are quite lucky in Aberdeen with having a mild climate. Without extreme cold or heat, and not a large fluctuation in temperature between winter and summer it’s a great place to live.
 

Places to visit and shop

Aberdeen is one of the most diverse and multi-cultural cities I have ever lived in. The city is commonly called the ‘granite city’ because this rock can be found in abundance in this city. In fact, many structures in Aberdeen were constructed using granite. 

Aberdeen has been voted as one of the safest cities in Britain to live. This is such a huge deal because this city is the home to many students and it is very important that they can move around without the fear of being harmed. To ensure the safety of students, the University of Aberdeen also has a free app called ‘SafeZone’. This amazing app can be used to call for help in any area of the university. So, if you’re walking home from the library late at night and you think someone is following you, you could just call for help for free using the app and someone will track your location using the app and come to your aid. It’s amazing! 

Another impressive thing that the university does is that they provide support to students in bad situations. For example, if you go out partying and maybe your wallet gets stolen along with all your money, you could just call a taxi and show them your student card and you’d get a free ride to your apartment or hostel. All you must do is refund the money to the student union at your earliest convenience. 

Aberdeen has two huge malls: The Union Square shopping centre and the Bon Accord centre. These malls contain various stores like Zara, New Look, River Island, Deichmann, H&M, Michael Kors and many restaurants like Nando’s, Burger King, Starbucks and many others. The Union Square mall has a cinema which shows several movies and is the most comfortable cinema I have ever been to! Both malls have Boots stores and pharmacies, so you could buy cosmetics or even fill in your prescription. My favourite place to shop is at John Lewis in the Bon Accord shopping centre. They have a huge range of designer clothes and they always have a sale going on. In addition to that, they do something called a ‘price match’, where if you see a product at a cheaper price at another store, they would sell it to you at that price irrespective of how much they have labelled that product in their store. Another one of my favourite places to shop is at New Look. The customer service at their stores is very impressive and all students get a discount too! 

There are many places to shop for groceries in Aberdeen. Some of these places include: Lidl, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Tesco, Aldi and Coop. My favourite place to buy groceries from is Lidl because they have a lot of stuff and their prices are very affordable. (See the blog on ‘Which supermarkets are cheaper?)

As a new student in Aberdeen, one of the places you must visit is the beach. The beach is my favourite place in the city. It’s the best place to go to have a quiet walk to think or even to have a quick run. I enjoy watching the sunset from the edge of the water. It is simply serene and beautiful. 

Another beautiful place to visit is the Duthie Park Winter Gardens. This place is simply beautiful! There are many colourful plants and flowers. It would simply make a good addition to your Instagram feed! 

The Seaton Park is one of the largest parks in Aberdeen. It is located close to the Hillhead halls of residence, so it is a great place to unwind after a stressful day. The view of the park is breath-taking and serene.  A visit to the Aberdeen Maritime museum is a great way to learn about the history of the maritime industry in the city. It is a perfect way to spend a Saturday with family or friends. The University of Aberdeen’s Zoology museum is another lovely place to visit. Entry to this museum is free and it has a large collection of zoology specimens. It is a great place to visit even if you’re not into that sort of stuff. 

The King’s College chapel is in the heart of the Old Aberdeen campus. It is an old and beautiful building that is open to students during the semester to meditate or pray. It is a great place to visit. 

Aberdeen is a very beautiful city and you can get around the city on foot, so you don’t have to spend a lot of money on transportation. 

As a new student, moving to a new city is stressful and you’d have many worries but rest assured, you will enjoy your time in Aberdeen because I certainly have!

By: Oluwafayokemi Tijani

African shops in Aberdeen

Change can be difficult sometimes and even more difficult when the change is with food. Our taste buds are unique and not easily adaptable to other tastes especially for International students like us who are predominately used to our local dishes, hence finding what you love in a different environment becomes really important! But the good news is that, the world has become a global village that makes it possible to find whatever traditional cuisine you want, whether you are thinking of a sit-in restaurant or a place to buy your local and traditional ingredients.

Finding a place to shop for foods and other groceries is more easy-breezy in Aberdeen than you can imagine. Even though the city seems to be geographically far, and you will not readily think of finding your common local spice or food stuff, however the city offers a vastly diversified cultural setting for anyone visiting or planning to study in Aberdeen for the first time. In lieu of the cultural diversity, there’re lots of continental shops available in Aberdeen.

African shops are around in the city. Popular amongst them are described below:

Famous among the shops is ‘Rice n Spice’ at 175 King street, AB24 5AE. Fifty metres after Morrison shopping centre on Kings Street, when heading towards Union Street from University of Aberdeen. It’s about 15 minutes’ walk from the University to the shop. Rice n Spice has two shops on Kings Street facing each other. The shop has most if not all African foods and spices you can think of. Foods like; gari, plantain, cassava, vegetables, garden eggs, onion, ogbono (for my Nigerian friends), palm oil, fufu mixes, banku and pap flour among others.

Another good place to get your groceries is ‘Harmonie Ventures On’ at 555 George Street, AB25 3XX. Here, you can get most of your West African foods and spices, especially for those from Ghana and Nigeria, it’s a great shop to buy food stuff. 

Also at 542 George Street, AB25 3XJ, is ‘De-Glory shop’ which deals in all African food stuffs, cosmetics and has a hair salon.

‘World Spice’ is another shop you get African groceries. It’s an international shop that deals majorly in Asian, African and Filipino groceries. You can locate the shop at 489 George Street, AB25 3YB.

All these shops are opened seven days a week usually from 9am to 8pm on average except De-Glory which closes on Sundays. You’re sure to get fresh vegetables, fresh halal meat, African snacks at all of these shops.

For those of us who don’t want to cook, there are African restaurants available to eat from. Some of the famous African restaurants include; Metiyo African Restaurant and Tasty T’s – all of which are on George Street.

So, rest assured, whether you are home or abroad, whilst you study in the University of Aberdeen and spend a year or more in this ancient city, your food preferences will always be guaranteed.

By Augustine Appiah

Castles to visit in Scotland

Scotland is blessed with many castles which have been around for many years. Every year, a large number of tourists visit these castles in hopes of catching a glimpse of what it was like many years ago when these castles were inhabited by lords, noble men and their families. 

I once heard a tour guide say that there are about 3,000 castles in Scotland. This means you totally get to study in a fairy-tale country! 

Crathes Castle

I went on a day trip with some of my friends from the university. First, we visited Crathes castle, which is located in Banchory - a town about 29km from Aberdeen. This beautiful castle belonged to the Burnett of Leys family before it was handed off to the National Trust for Scotland for maintenance. The castle is built on the land which was given to the family by King Robert the Bruce in 1323 after the war. The castle takes up only a small portion of the land. There is also a lovely garden on the grounds with breathtakingly beautiful plants and flowers. 

Balmoral Castle

After leaving Crathes castle, we visited Balmoral castle. It is commonly referred to as the Scottish holiday home to the Royal family. The castle has belonged to the British Royal family since 1852 and the Queen often spends her summer vacations there. During that time, the castle will be closed to the public. Balmoral welcomes many tourists from around the world hoping to catch a glimpse of a royal or two during their visit. There is an audio guide tour which is available in a number of languages so you can walk around the castle at your own pace. Interesting fact- during our visit, my mates and I got to meet Prince Charles. It was such a huge surprise to us because we had only just joked about running into Prince Harry or Meghan Markle when we saw the prince walk by. He chatted with us for a short time before moving on. That was definitely one of the most memorable days of this year! 

Edinburgh Castle

This is the most famous castle in Scotland. It is located in Edinburgh, which is only a 2-3 hour bus ride away from Aberdeen. Edinburgh castle is of a huge historic significance because it has been involved in a huge number of sieges – about 26 in total. Making it the most attacked castle in the world. There is also an audio guide tour so you can move around the castle at your own pace. During my visit, there were so many tourists and it was a great way to meet new people from different parts of the world. 

Scotland is one of the most beautiful places I have ever lived in. Organizing day trips to castles with your mates is one great way to unwind during the semester or holidays. These are only a few castles I have visited. As I mentioned earlier, there are more castles in Scotland and I look forward to visiting more in the future. 

By Oluwafayokemi Tijani

Which supermarkets are cheaper?

As a new international student, it is always useful to know which supermarkets are the friendliest for your limited student budget. Knowing this before hand might save you some money when you do your first grocery run. 

Lidl

Starting with their slogan “Big on Quality, Lidl on Price” you may already have an idea of their prices. This is where is usually do my grocery shopping. 

In my opinion, the best thing about Lidl is their glorious bakery. They have a wide range of freshly baked breads, cookies, mini pizzas, croissants and baked treats to delight your nKermose and taste buds. And most, if not all, are a fraction of a pound per piece.

I usually spend around £20 per week on groceries shopping here. This includes eggs, milk, some sort of meat (fish, beef or chicken), cheese, ham, bacon, at least 3 to 4 different veggies, at least two different fruits, oatcakes and/or biscuits, box bread, pasta or rice, cereal, and 2 to 5 snack treats from the bakery (of course).

Occasionally, I spend around £30 if I purchase toilet roll, kitchen roll, cleaning products etc.  But it is hard to spend more than this per week unless you get fancy.

Another advantage of Lidl is their location. There is a new Lidl very close to the city centre and about a 15 min walk from Old Aberdeen University campus. There is also one at Bridge of Don, a 10 min walk from Old Aberdeen.
The downside of shopping at Lidl is that you might not find exotic ingredients (like chillies, spices, specialty cheese) or certain brand products.

ALDI

To be honest, I’ve only been to ALDI once. Nonetheless, I’ve heard from acquaintances and friends it is also cheap. My experience corroborated this, however, there is no bakery and there is less product variety. Also, there is no ALDI close to Old Aberdeen campus, so a bus ride would be involved unless you fancy a 40 min walk. If you are based at Foresterhill Health Campus, you are in luck! There is an ALDI at Cornhill Shopping Arcade 15 minutes walking from there. 

Morrisons

This is the middle ground. You can find almost everything here at a reasonable price. I did my first shopping in a Morrison’s and spent around £60, including cleaning products and hygiene basics. After that, a weekly grocery run would come to around £30 per week. The advantage of Morrison’s is its central location (almost at the city centre and a 20 min walk from campus), making it easy to move around other close-by shops to complete your shopping or have a wander. You can also find a wider variety of specialty and brand products. Another advantage is their delivery service (incurs a fee).

Other supermarkets

TESCO, ASDA, The Coop, and Sainsbury’s are other supermarkets. These are usually a bit more expensive unless you hunt for offers at the end of the day. The advantage of shopping in these places are they are usually larger, and you can find anything from specialty import products to clothes, and basic kitchen appliances. Most also have delivery services straight to your door.

Carrier bag charge at shops

As a newcomer who isn’t used to how things are done in the UK, it might be surprising to be charged for carrier bags in supermarkets and corner shops. I was unaware of this when I first arrived and bought carrier bags without knowing during my first month here until a friend pointed out the charge. This charge is usually 4 to 5 pence per bag, which might seem like very little but once you do the math it turns out you could’ve bought yourself a pint or two at the pub with all the bags you’ve bought throughout your time in the UK. Also, think of the plastic waste!

A good practice is to make a one-time purchase of durable shopping bags and take them with you to do your shopping every time. I like to carry one with me all the time, just in case.  

Also, most supermarkets will replace a “bag for life” if it is torn or ripped, free of charge!

How to ask for biodegradable food waste bags from the City Council

Another surprise was obtaining biodegradable bin liners for green caddies or bins (for organic food waste). These are special compostable bags provided by Aberdeen City Council. They can be picked up (for free!) from the following locations around the city:

  • Marischal College Customer Service Centre
  • Kincorth Customer Access Point
  • Mastrick Customer Access Point
  • Woodside Customer Access Point
  • Your local library
  • Altens East Recycling, Resource and Recovery Facility
  • Most community centres and learning centres

Wherever you live, be sure you will find a green caddy or a large green bin. So, remember to pick up your biodegradable bags!

By: Yolanda Munoz Balbontin

Nightlife in Aberdeen

Whether you are a library mouse or a party animal, we all need to blow off some steam once in a while. Aberdeen has plenty of options to offer, ranging from fine dining to pubs and clubs, and there’s plenty to satisfy even the most demanding. 

Dining out

Aberdeen may be a small city, but is has a wide variety of foods to offer from all over the world. From American and Mexican food to European and Asian food. If you are into fine dining, Trip Advisor’s top three restaurants are The Marcliff, The Silver Darling and XI Restaurant, all offering fine British and European food. I would personally recommend The Silver Darling for its fresh seafood and lovely view of Aberdeen harbour, perfect for date night or an important celebration. 

If you are more into Asian food, Chaophraya, the Manchurian restaurant and Rishi’s Indian Aroma offer traditional Thai, Chinese, and Indian food, respectively, and at affordable prices too! Or if you fancy that all-in-one place, COSMO restaurant offers an all you can eat buffet that includes foods from India, China, Thailand, Italy and the Mediterranean. It also has barbecue and Tepanyaki grills and a chocolate fountain!

Pubs, clubs and more!

My first year in Aberdeen, I tried to go to as many different pubs as possible. I had a blast with my new friends and tried all sorts of beers and drinks. I also went to some clubs to dance my legs off and later got some comfort food to finally go home for a good rest. There are different places for everyone. If you are into student pubs, The Bobbin is the place for you. At the Bobbin you will find it all: food, drinks, board games, pool, table hockey and televised sports. This was the usual meeting place before going to the club as it is conveniently located right in front of Old Aberdeen campus. 

If you are in the mood for a more traditional place, The Archibald Simpson and The Old Blackfriars are the places for you. Archie Simpson (Wetherspoon) is right at the corner of Aberdeen’s largest streets in the city centre and is a great place to go if you have a tight budget. If you are craving some traditional Scottish food, the Old Blackfriars has haggis and the famous deep-fried Mars bar as well as a good whisky selection and other beloved British foods and a drinks. These two are in front of each other so it’s very convenient if you fancy some bar hopping. 

If you are more into craft-beers, cocktails or consider yourself a whiskey connoisseur, Brewdog, The Bridge Street Social Club and CASC are the places for you. Brewdog is an Aberdeenshire craft brewery that offers excellent quality beer and has two pubs in the city centre. The Bridge Street Social Club is famous for its great cocktails and is conveniently located close to the most popular clubs in Aberdeen. CASC is a bar at the heart of the city centre that specialises in scotch whisky, craft beer, and cigars. It even has a humidor. 

If you are a party animal, there are a few clubs where you can go to blow off the stress from Uni. My personal favourite is Underground, mainly because it has two dancefloors and you can alternate between rock and R&B depending on your mood. If you are in the mood for some salsa dancing and Caribbean cocktails, Revolucion de Cuba is the place for you. If you fancy some electronic music and a more fancy-looking place, Espionage and NOX are the places for you. 

By Yolanda Muñoz Balbontín