By: Julia Marmora
A major pressure during exchange is trying to make the most of this new community that you will be calling home for the next few months. Here are five tips that I found incredibly helpful when trying to familiarize myself with my host community, Glasgow.
1. Switch up your routine
Once you are settled in your host community you will start to find your favourite places where you go to get groceries or just grab a coffee. During my exchange, I would often switch around the walking route I took when doing these everyday activities, even if that meant adding an extra 15 minutes to my regular 5-minute walk. This allowed me to see other parts of the city that I may not have explored had I stayed on the same path all the time.
2. Free! Free! Free!
Take advantage of any free entertainment offered by your host community! Visit local parks, free museums, art galleries, and/or any historic sites within your area. These make for perfect weekend activities. Not only can entertainment like this be free (which is a huge bonus) but it allows you to experience the cultural side of your host community as you see what people are interested in. When I was in Glasgow, they had a free modern art gallery, which showcased the work of local artists!
3. Student Friendly Tour Companies
In order to get a more authentic and local point of view towards your host country, inquire with your university if they are partnered with any tour companies. These tours are usually run by locals and can be more cost-effective while providing greater detail as well as an immersive perspective on your host community. The international student department at your new school may also conduct these excursions too!
4. Local over Commercial Chains
If you want to #treatyourself, try an independently owned local café or restaurant as opposed to a chain. These spots may offer more favoured or traditional food items; a great way to engage with your host community is through the stomach! While sitting in a cozy café full of locals you will get to experience the vibe of your new community, something which can get lost in chain restaurants.
5. Student Events Through Your Host University
Don’t forget to check out the student clubs within your new school. These can be run by the international student department or be a part of your faculty, etc. I actually joined the international students club at my university on an exchange where I got to meet a bunch of local and international students!
As I look back on my exchange, these were the five major things I did to make the most out of my time in Glasgow. Travelling around is great fun, but really getting to know your host community is important too! From everyday basics to fun excursions, I hope these tips give you some inspiration on how to get to know your host community.
Julia Marmora is student in English and Cultural Studies, faculty of Humanities, at McMaster University. She studied for a single term at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland.