Hey everyone! I’m now in my 13th week studying Game Design at Abertay, and today I want to cover what I do in my free time here. It isn’t terribly hard trying to find ways to spend free time here in the UK, especially since everything is new to me. One fun thing Abertay does is have trivia nights in their bar just about every Friday and I personally like spending my Wednesdays in the Student Activities basement at the Table Top Society playing board games. However, I spend most of my free time in Dundee at the Odeon here. Odeon is a movie theater and I found out that it’s one of the big UK movie theater franchises, so it is most like Regal Entertainment or AMC for us.
Truthfully I spend more time at the theater than anywhere else because of my friend group, particularly my best friend, here. We have a lot in common in movie taste and so we often go together in a group. Fun tip: popcorn is normally sweet here so ask for salty if you want more American-esque popcorn. You can also add toppings to your popcorn, my favorite here is Smarties, which are pretty much M&Ms and in the UK specifically, the orange ones are flavored orange and chocolate.
Aside from frequenting the theater and watching movies, I wouldn’t have watched in the US, such as Slaughterhouse Rulez, I also did a bit of traveling. Before my parents left we saw a castle up near Stonehaven and drove along the countryside. Since I don’t know how to drive and my friends don’t have cars, my travels are limited to places I can travel to by train or bus. But that is not limiting at all when it comes to cities.
I once took a week trip to London with a friend I made here from Hong Kong. Since we both came from far away we wanted to visit someplace we wouldn’t have an opportunity to see later. So we went to London and stayed in a hostel for 4 days and visited a lot of scary attractions since it was October. London was so much fun, especially since it was easy to get pretty much anywhere with their bus and train system. I personally like the Oyster Card more than the MetroCard. Mainly because it is tap and go and if you’re a little short for a ride it covers the difference for you and you just have to settle the debt before your next use.
London for me felt like home since it had the big city energy I’m so used to and stores I recognized, like Shake Shack, Uniqlo, an M&M Store, and a giant Lego Store. There was also a big Hispanic population in the area where we stayed and that alone comforted me as it was and still is the only place here that I have seen platanos, green plantains, and smelled food like that of home. Word of warning though, London isn’t the cheapest place to be, sometimes it is fairly easy to spread a pound but normally I noticed I was spending way more for things than I was at Dundee. The most outrageous expense, in my opinion, was being charged to use public restrooms in malls and at the train station.
Aside from London, I was able to go to a German Christmas market in Edinburgh which was German enough to make my new best friend from Germany homesick. It was wonderful weather for Scotland, meaning it was lightly raining. Thankfully the Christmas market sold plenty of warm drinks and food to keep us warm. It was very picturesque and thankfully not too far from the Waverly train station so we were able to stay right at the market right up until our train came.
One thing I regret is not traveling more, and now I’m at a point where I’m stuck on campus working on my projects. I lost the window to see more because I chose to spend the majority of my time in Dundee. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing since I was spending time with friends, I know I’m going to regret not going to Ireland. I think my issue here was I befriended people who are staying here for four years, so there wasn’t any rush for them to see the area, but the friend I made from Hong Kong was here for only the semester like me so we saw London and Glasglow together and she’s going to Ireland after the term ends. In the end, studying abroad and how you spend your free time are up to you. The classes I took didn’t give a lot of work so I was able to experience more than I thought I would and I’m grateful for that. My advice is to travel if you can; the experiences I had were wonderful.
—Maya Armas (Game Design ’20, Champlain College) is studying abroad at Abertay University in Dundee, Scotland