Walking off the plane, as I was greeted with fresh air for the first time in 28 hours, a brisk chill struck me. It wasn’t terrible, but jarring because when I left Albuquerque it was in the 90’s. As the excitement of finally arriving kicked in, however, it no longer felt cold.

View descending into Aberdeen


Every night I fall into bed, exhausted but content with the day’s events. My first few days at Aberdeen were a whirlwind filled with new places and faces. Aberdeen is a vibrant city that feels monumental and imposing, yet still retains its sense of friendly community. First established in 1495, the University of Aberdeen is the third oldest university in Scotland and the 5th oldest in the entire United Kingdom. The city is known for its iconic granite architecture, fishing, and oil industries. Walking through the cobblestone streets leaves me in awe of the long history of this city. Of course the city has modern touches, but the most distinct elements of its city center skyline are from its earlier buildings. With this storied city as the backdrop, my first week at Aberdeen officially began with a language lesson, a scavenger hunt, and Ironbru. 

Union Street
Sheriff Court
City Center

The international advisors placed students in “villages,” groups for orientation named for common animals in the region. My village is Echt, an ox-like animal. Our villages are meant to be a life line of people to hang out with, or even just bounce questions off of, here in Aberdeen. Beyond basic orientation protocol, we were given a basic lesson in Doric, which is a type of dialect spoken here in the northwestern part of Scotland. It is different than Gaelic and has some linguistic influences from the Netherlands. Some words like ‘aabody” (everybody) and “aathing” (everything) are relatively straightforward to understand when spoken, others like “dreich” and “fash” are a little trickier. Dreich refers to a cold, windy, rainy day, while fash means trouble. The last part of orientation included a fun ice-breaker challenge that required villages to translate a Doric sentence without the use of the internet, post a visual translation of the phrase to Instagram at an assigned location on campus, and lastly make the trek to Bobbins, a restaurant near campus. The winners of the challenge were to receive a mystery prize. Our team had “Ahin aa ower the back” to be photographed at Elphinstone Lawn.  

After three conversations with native Scots, a few failed Boomerang posts, and a closed Starbucks our team had our post and our translation. “Ahin aa ower the back” means “everything is over the back.” So in reference to a party for instance, one might say “ ahin aa ower the back” to say that the event is behind the building. As straightforward as that translation may seem, it took us a while to get what was really meant by that. So, we then went off to the Bobbin to hear who would win the prize. Unfortunately for us, our team lost, but by the time we got there we were all more concerned with getting some food and hanging out with the new people we met. 

The first week at a new school can be daunting. Here are some quick tips for surviving orientation, whether it be a new city or new school: 

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Find a trusted someone to field questions about the ins and outs of campus, life in the city, etc. 
  2. Make sure to check in with campus safety policies and general city-specific warnings so that you are safer and can be more comfortable. 
  3. Check in with yourself! Meeting new people, navigating a new city and campus, dealing with classes, and keeping up with events on campus is a lot to handle. It’s ok if you need to take a breather and relax by yourself for a bit. 
  4. Don’t be afraid to reach out and make new friends!