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E-Pao! Education - The Scottish Fresh Talent Scheme and Studying in Scotland

The Scottish Fresh Talent Scheme and Studying in Scotland

By: Yaiphabi Chanu Thoudam *



If you had enjoyed the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and mesmerised by the magical steam train that transports Harry Potter to the wizard school of Hogwarts-cutting through spectacular countryside, that is an actual train line in western Scotland.

It passes through some scenery including Ben Nevis (Scotland's highest peak) and lakes and rugged countryside of Glen Nevis. Steal Falls, the waterfall at the base of the mountain, is the locale where Harry Potter battled with a dragon for the Triwizard Tournament in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Apart from the scenic beauty and Harry Potter's origin and the Bagpipers wooing your senses with the music, there are lots of other things that will make your choice of studying in Scotland a completely satisfying one. I share with you one of the most important and life-changing experience of my life.

Being a student here myself I had also battled the tough decision to chose the "right" place where I would want to pursue my higher studies and the University that I want to put an eleven thousand pounds and my career at stake… tough one, yeah, but fortunately my big brothers came for my rescue helping me choose and pick and decide on what is to be done.

One of the main reasons why I chose Scotland was because of its fairly new scheme known as the "Fresh Talent Initiative". Much has been said about this famous scheme which can be found on the internet by just typing the key words, but for those who are unaware of it, I am trying to provide you with some information based on personal experience to lure you to come down to Scotland and be a part of the gang !!!

The Aim of the Fresh Talent

Keeping in mind the increasing rate of immigration from the member states of the European Union, getting into this country from a non-European state is becoming a tough nut to crack. Scotland however, is encouraging talented, skilled non-European Economic Area (EEA) nationals to pursue careers in Scotland.

Accordingly, Graduates of Scottish educational institutions that have successfully completed a degree in Scotland will be able to remain in Scotland and work for two years after completing their studies. Students are allowed to remain in Scotland and seek any kind of work during this time and after two years or earlier, graduates can switch into work permit or employment or other legal migration routes whichever they qualify for.

While IT and Medicine has been the major area of job-immigration so far, this scheme provides opportunity to a broader area of study including Bio-Sciences, Humanities and Social-Sciences etc.

To be granted leave under the scheme you must:

  1. Have been awarded a UK recognised undergraduate, Master's or a PhD degree by a Scottish institution of Higher Education.
  2. Have lived in Scotland for an appropriate period whilst the period of the study
  3. Intend to work in Scotland during the period of leave granted under the scheme
  4. Be able to maintain and accommodate yourself and any dependants without recourse to public funds
  5. Intend to leave the UK at the end of your stay, unless granted leave as a work permit holder, highly skilled migrant, business person or innovator.

While the scheme sounds fairly encouraging, let's keep in mind that the expansion of the European Union has lead to the overflowing of immigrants from the neighbouring member-countries like Poland, Czech Republic etc ( where labour is fairly cheaper) to the UK, making the competition in the labour market quite intense.

An employer's first choice would be a national of this country, and then comes a candidate from the European Union and then would they seek to employ a national from other countries like India and others.

The Universities

There are a number of world renowned universities in Scotland. These universities produced a number of famous academicians and scholars in the past. Like in other parts of the country, every university has got its own areas of specialization.

However speaking broadly in terms of the reputation of the facilities, staff, funding and recruitment the following universities are considered to be the best in Scotland:
  1. The University Of Strathclyde in Glasgow
  2. The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh
  3. University of Glasgow
  4. University of Paisley, Glasgow
  5. University of Aberdeen
  6. University of Dundee
  7. Heriot-Watt University
  8. Glasgow Caledonian University

Choosing the right university is as important as your decision to come to study in Scotland. You need to spend lots of time researching about the university that you are planning to go. The ranking of the university for the subject you are pursuing is a good, but not conclusive, indicator of how good a university is.

The relevant university website will also contain useful information about the university which will help you in the decision making process. Speaking to friends, your overseas educational counsellor and the university alumni may sometime go a long way in making the right choice of university.

About Scotland - The People and The Place

I reached London with a bagful of dreams and handful of experience. Seeing my brothers in the airport soothed my nerves and I started to believe that I can thrive and survive in this country. My brothers came up with the adventurous idea to drive down to Scotland from Reading (my brother's place in England).

Leaving the adventurous bit apart, it was quite a challenge to drive down 500 miles and what's more, it was only my elder brother who has got the license to drive. It also meant that we drive all through the night and take petty breaks in between and sleep in the car. We headed off about midnight after being drugged with heavy Manipuri meal.

There was nothing much to admire about in the dark except for the twinkling lights and the fact that I realised how rigid the traffic rules were and how efficient the systems are in this country. We were driving at about 80 miles/hour in the big broad highway. I was actually the sole audience listening to my brothers telling me about the lifestyles, cultures and tradition of the modern day UK, which I am particularly very glad about.

Dawn broke in and we entered the border of Scotland and I was given a special welcome by the breathtaking scenic beauty and the greenery which was interrupted by what looked like white cotton balls, and only a closer look confirmed it to be the tiny sheep gazing and lazing in the bright day-light.

We stopped by a small travel inn to freshen up a bit and I was then introduced to the stinging breeze of the cold Scottish wind…… anyways we reached our destinations and if you liked rain, think again, because you wont like it a bit after you are here.

The weather was not at its best and I was surprised how it changed from a sunny one to a cloudy and rainy one in just a short while. No wonder why "how is the weather?" is such a famous form of greeting in this country, just like our "Chak- charabro?"!!!

I had to suffer the rain and the cold and the wind all at the same time. What shall I say, forget about the mission I came here for, I started to doubt the very essence of my survival in a weather like that!!!

Thankfully, it didn't take me much time to adjust my body with the weather and surprisingly I showed some signs of recovery. The most important thing for me now was to find a place to stay as I didn't get the University accommodation due to late submission of application (a mistake you can learn from!).

It was an anxious day for me, meeting and dealing with the people here face to face. We went to the University's library and we found many advertisements about the houses and rooms on rent. Mobile phones came in handy and my brothers dialled quite a few numbers and we visited and saw number of places and finally we decided to take up a small yet decent house somewhere close to my University.

Unlike the popular concept in India, it is quite normal to share a place with a male housemate. So when I broke the news to my Mum that I am going to share the house with a guy, she gasped "Nupa-ga?" A well-furnished flat includes everything, starting from the cutleries to bedcovers.

Somewhere you could just dash in and start living without having to buy anything of your own. Depending upon what you can afford, you get houses ranging from £250-300 or above each month. You would perhaps be bound by a contract for at least 6 months or above and deposit for a month.

That being settled, half the battle is over and tomorrow I look forward to meet my new classmates and new friends. The first difficult thing I encountered was, understanding their accent. Thanks to my brief call centre experience, it was not all that bad and I am fairly lucky that people over here are patient enough to repeat themselves until they make themselves understood by the listener.

The day I attended the first lecture, I knew they expects a lot from us. We were not there to be told or to be taught. We were there to share and experience and argue and discuss our views and come to a conclusion.

It was something which was quite different from what I had experience in my three years of college life in Mount Carmel College, Bangalore. Nevertheless, I enjoy every bit of freedom we were given; I transformed from a computer-illiterate to a fairly competent one in a short span of time.

Means of Transportation

Compared to the size and population of India, Scotland is minute. I don't know why, but I see certain similarities between Edinburgh and Bangalore- the not so broad roads, the clustered shopping centres, the local pubs etc. But again due to very efficient traffic rules, I have rarely seen any traffic jams in Edinburgh.

Being a student here, my main means of transport is the bus, and apparently it is the most preferred means of transportation for the majority of the people over here. Please don't be surprised if you can't find a conductor in the buses, because there are none.

There are automatic doors controlled by the drivers and at the entrance we have to put the fare in a tiny metal box and the driver gives the ticket. Once a friend of mine shared her first experience of getting into a bus- she walked in the bus without putting the coin in the box searching for the conductor to get her the tickets and all her fellow passengers gave her the stunned look!!!

Another means of transportation is the trains. Scotland doesn't have tubes, unlike London but the trains are equally nice. And even when I don't reserve a seat, I have always found myself one, without having to grease the TT's palms!

Small little tips I gathered came in handy. My brother's friend told me that, if you don't know, you watch how other people do it; "observation" will go a long way in helping you get used to the cultures.

It has saved me from facing embarrassments in many occasions. Shall I also say, if you don't know, please 'ask'. I have never been disappointed when I approached someone, sometimes even with the most stupid question which made me laugh later on.

On one occasion, when I asked for directions, a man came along with me half a mile to lead to the place I wanted to go!!! Do I need to mention that depending on the good experiences, we should not have the blind faith- its always safe to be safe!

I map-book that I bought for £5 pounds is always in my hand-bag besides my lip-gloss and yes- I remember what number to dial or call when I am in an emergency. Fortunately, I never had to use that number so far.

Health Care

I am blessed with good-health (thank God), however, this country provides free medical services to one and all. The University you are with will provide you with the facility and you are provided health care for free. Buying of medicines will be possible only after producing a General Practitioner's (Doctor) prescription, something all Mums back at home would be very glad about!!!

But if you are someone who wears glasses, I would suggest get couple of pairs as it is comparatively cheaper back at home. Let's also not forget that dental-care and eye-care are not free, so if you want those 32 watts to keep glowing fix that appointment with the dentist when you are there.

Those who love being in shape, can be a member of the University gym for about £80 a year, if you think that's an expensive price, running in the parks is a great option.

Part-Time Jobs

Every one of us would want to be financially independent and going for part-time jobs is more than a good option. As students we would be allowed to work up to 20 hours a week and the minimum wage of this country has increased to £5.05/hour.

Get hold of a good CV and half the battle is won. However, the University career services will assist you with any of your queries regarding job-hunting and writing a good CV as well. There are also links sponsored by the University updating you on any latest vacancies including part-time, full-time and vacation jobs.

Typically, walking into a shop and asking for the application forms have also worked for many job-hunters. There is no place for racism and this country promises to give equal opportunity to one and all, being a foreigner is not a disadvantage in getting you jobs.

Foods

I am big fan of Manipuri dishes and I can't live without rice. So when I thought of eating bread and butter and potatoes after coming here, it made me quite depressed.

But hey, the world is round- I walked into a Thai- shop and I saw them selling 'Nakuppi', 'Awa-phadigom', 'Lok-lei', 'Pong-hawai', 'Yong-chak' seeds; not really 'Shoibum', but something very similar made of bamboo-shoots.

How delighted I was? You can see Indian (or Pakistani) corner-shops in every corner and that's the place we go for our necessary ingredients like rice, lentils, spices typically used in Manipuri dishes.

I feel completely at home here when it comes to food. Whats more, I use my ration of dried and smoked fish my Mum packed for me when I came here and I must say that the supply never stopped, bless my luck. We had always had the supply from someone or the other from the small yet well-knitted Manipuri community we have over here.

And if you are someone who hates cooking there is enough choices of canned and ready to eat food-packets you can pick-up from any shops. Aha, I should also say that 'take-aways' are also a great option. Indian and Chinese take-aways are very famous and much loved here.

Shopping

Most of the famous shopping complex and brands are clubbed in the Prince's Street. Famous and familiar brands like Levis, Gucci, Tommy Hilfiger are all here for you.

Fashion trend is not quite different here. But if you are someone who likes to set the trend I would say this is the right place as people hardly would say anything to what you wear- people dress up the way they want to and they don't even give a second look. A decent fashion sense will do.

Movies and entertainment

If you never missed the well known TV series back at home, there is nothing to worry about missing them here. Remember the "oh-so-famous" kyunki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi and the rest of the K-series serials?

You can still watch them here...there are also plenty of shops which rent out DVDs of Hindi blockbusters and they can be rented at affordable prices. Going to the cinema for a movie is a luxury I indulge only once in a while, so most of the time I rely on movies downloaded from the internet!!! (Ooopss!).

Like I mentioned before, this piece is based entirely on my personal experience and how I believed things to be. No two person's experience and concept of things can be similar, so any disagreement with my view is expected and welcomed.

Studying in Scotland is a dream come true for me and I have come here to gain knowledge but more than knowledge from books and lectures, the knowledge I gained from my experiences is something I am going to carry all my life with pride.

I had taken pride in walking down Princes Street in Edinburgh wearing our beloved 'Meetei Phanek' and I felt the same sense of pride when I saw my Mum coming out of the 'Hithero' airport in London wearing the Meetei 'Mapan-naibi' and 'Rani-phee'.

I take great pleasure in watching the 'Lidici-ge Gulap' and 'Lallibadi eini' and enjoying the video-albums at the comfort of my apartment.

I take immense pride when I downloaded the Manipuri songs from e-pao and if I had not listened to it before;

I do and hum 'Khomlang lamann shingamloi nangee…' by Pahari and 'Thapla-thaplaga…..' by Dinesh.

References

1 Edinburgh Castle
2 Gene Openshaw, "Harry Potter Film Sights"
3 University of Edinburgh


Yaiphabi Chanu Thoudam contributes for the first time to e-pao.net
She is currently pursuing her Masters in Internation Business at University Of Edinburgh in Scotland
This article was webcasted on September 05th, 2006.


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