Supermarkets, clubs and everything else you’ll know if you moved to uni from a tiny island

They have how many supermarkets here?


Leaving home to go to university is a big step for anyone, especially when you’re coming from a small town to live in the city for the first time. Imagine that small town is surrounded on all sides by water and is lacking in many of the things you take for granted on the mainland.

In 2015, I moved from an island on Scotland’s west coast to study in Dundee. Obviously I had been off the island pretty regularly, but never for good. I knew not one person in Dundee, so it was practically a fresh start.

Here’s everything you’ll relate to if you moved to the real world.

Barely anyone knew where you were from

Remember that Gaelic sign that said “Welcome to Bute” but really translated as “Welcome to Penis Island”? That was us. Oh, you don’t know it? Never mind then.

Can you spot the spelling error? No, me neither – it’s in Gaelic

It takes you as long to get home as some international students

Okay, so five hours isn’t really that long a journey, but when I got to know some international students I realised that in the same amount of time – and for a pretty similar price – I could go somewhere much nicer than the rainy west coast.

The nightlife is better. Duh

The mainland has actual, real life nightclubs. And – get this – they’re open till late! This was probably the first change to hit me, going straight into Freshers’ Week after getting there. Coming from a place with just a few pubs, I took full advantage of this new phenomenon, though I’ll admit being found sleeping on my feet on the dance floor was not my finest moment.

Ah, the simpler days of first year Freshers’ Week

There are a lot of supermarkets here

It’s not difficult to improve on two Co-Ops, but the sheer volume of choice was almost frightening. Couple that with 24hr supermarkets, shopping delivered direct to your door, and self-service – “where do I put the money again?” – and my head was ready to explode.

There is actual fast food

There are takeaways at home, of course, but no real fast food chains – what a revelation. Bored in the middle of the night? McDonald’s. Not defrosted anything for dinner? Subway. Life’s falling apart? Get yourself the biggest, greasiest thing you can think of. Problem solved. Now, where did all my money go…?

The scenery was better at home

It’s not all sunshine and roses in the city. For one thing, there’s a distinct lack of countryside, and there’s only so much you can do with office buildings to make them look appealing. Yeah, there might be a hill with a view but it’s just different, not better.

The dating pool got 100 times bigger

Going from a retirement town of 6,000 to a city with 20,000 students, does this one really need explaining?

Your journeys no longer started with ‘getting the boat’

The ability to go places whenever I wanted quickly became normal, and it’s something I now take for granted until I go home and realise I can only leave at certain times. Oh – and only if it’s not too windy, and there are no “technical difficulties” with the boats…

You could do whatever you wanted

I didn’t know anyone here, and they didn’t know me. Like any fresher, I made a fool of myself on countless occasions, but at least it wasn’t going to get back to my mum. I was finally free from the vicious small-town rumour-mill of home and it was glorious.