Being Scottish at an English University: An exercise in confusion

Being Scottish at an English University radically changes my experience of University

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“Where do you live?”, is a common question to ask when at University. “Edinburgh”, I reply with a slight tinge of hesitancy waiting for what people will say back to me.

“Oh really, Scotland, you don’t really sound like you’re from there”, they’ll reply hastily as if to infer that people know I don’t exactly sound like a proud Scotsman.

The initial platitudes normally flow like that when I first meet someone new. From the perspective of any person at University, it seems like a completely normal conversation. However, it reflects the way that a subtle change of nationality can have an impact on everyday life. Especially in my general experience of being at an English university while being from across the border in Scotland.

There are many ways that being Scottish, Welsh, Irish or an international student can mean that the journey through university can be dramatically different. But, I will just pick on the main ones that I think are the most important for me: my accent, formals and sports events such as the Six Nations.

The first divisive part of being Scottish at an English university is my accent. The people that know me realise that I sound like the least Scottish sounding manchild they have ever met. For people when they first meet me, they normally assume I’m from the South of England with a lovely silky smooth received pronunciation accent that would be the accent used in a Richard Curtis film like Notting Hill, or by the lead role of the chief bumbling Mr Darcy figure.

When I say I’m Scottish, I always get a look of baffled and bamboozled confusion as some people think I should either sound like Kevin Bridges or someone from Trainspotting with a thick Scottish twang that makes no one understand a bloody thing you say. Because I don’t sound like a native of Bonnie Scotland, confusion ensues. On the other hand, as I get to know people and they get to know me, it leads onto the next confusion, formal situations like balls, 21sts and parties.

Well, as most of you guys understand from the stereotypes, people from Scotland wear kilts, “those little dress things” as it is often joked about down here across the border. I wear tartan either in the form of tartan troos (like Toni Kroos but tartan as the prefix) or a kilt to formals. Of course, it’s nice when people compliment me and say “oh, I like those” and “those look lovely, don’t they”. However, sometimes the normal confusion erupts with people just staring blankly at them as if I’m wearing a clown costume, instead of something from my home that are the usual fare at formals in Scotland. Nonetheless, the muddle continues at parties, as a couple of friends have had to down whisky because they are Scottish and well, of course, that’s what we do isn’t it. Now, I can get over formals as they last a night and mostly end up with me drunk, boiling with a kilt jacket on and having difficulty removing the troos when I get home.

But, by far, the most significantly different part of being Scottish at an English university is watching sports events, especially the Six Nations. Along with all the stereotypes of whisky, bagpipes, haggis and Tenants.Supporting Scotland means the painful “oh so close” chance of qualification or the chance of winning a match only to lose at the last moment to a random Lithuanian footballer or an English rugby player. However, as Bob Dylan says, “The Times They Are A-changin”, with the Scottish Andy Murray winning the fabled British tournament Wimbledon; home of the marvellous wombles. In addition, Scotland won the Calcutta Cup in rugby for the first time in ten years.

Being Scottish at an English university like York is different for me than it is for most English people, let alone for someone from somewhere like Nigeria. However, we all have a slightly individual experience at uni, and what I have mentioned are just some of the blaring differences for me, being from the auld enemy of course.

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