Student Spotlight: Cecilia Li – Glasgow Science Summer School Q&A

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If one of the main reasons you’re holding off on studying abroad is because of the amount of time you’d have to spend away from your home campus, a summer abroad may be the perfect program for you! Cecilia Li, a UCLA student, is currently spending her summer in Glasgow to fulfil her physics requirements.

Cecilia has been documenting her time in Scotland on a day-to-day basis on her blog, which you can find linked here. Read the Q&A session below to get a feel for her experience in the program so far!



  1. Could you introduce yourself briefly?

My name is Cecilia Li, and I just finished up my first year at UCLA. I am currently Undeclared Life Science, and I’m getting my physics pre-requisites done at the University of Glasgow’s International Science Summer School.

  1. Why did you choose to study abroad? What do you hope you’ll gain from your experience?

I chose to study abroad because I wanted to learn both inside and outside of the classroom. In Glasgow, I have the opportunity to learn physics, but I also have the opportunity to learn about the culture and politics of Scotland as well. I really hope to gain experience as a worldly person. In today’s day and age, it is very helpful to be well-travelled and well-rounded to create new connections and expand social circles and networking.

  1. Did you have any preconceived notions about Glasgow or Scotland before coming over? Have those notions changed since you’ve been here?

To be honest, I had no real knowledge about Glasgow, or even Scotland as a whole. I just thought of kilts and bagpipes and terriers and accents… And that’s just from the limited exposure I have to Scotland from movies that depict the country stereotypically. Since I’ve arrived, I feel like I’ve learned and seen so much more than what people see in movies. This country is so full of history and culture that I feel like I’ve learned just as much about the country as I have in the physics course! My favorite thing that I’ve learned is the fact that the national animal of Scotland is a unicorn. Does it get any cooler than that?

  1. What was your first impression of the city and the university? How do you feel you’ve settled in so far in your time here?

My first impression of the city was that it looked really gloomy and sad all the time, since it’s almost always cloudy or raining. However, as I continued exploring the city, Glasgow seemed to grow on me. I realized that the city is absolutely beautiful in the gloominess. In fact, the first time that the sun appeared, I almost thought that it felt out of place, like it didn’t belong. The university is gorgeous. Did you know that J.K. Rowling got her inspiration for Hogwarts from the University of Glasgow? I’m not saying that’s the reason why I came… But it definitely helped me decide! However, I have gotten lost a couple times walking around campus. All the buildings look so regal and important! I’ll think, “Wow, this is a castle!” But in reality it’s just the campus gift shop or something.

  1. How have you been finding the course? What are the key differences between the course here and the courses back in California? (i.e. teaching style, grading system, etc.)

The course is incredibly accelerated, and that’s coming from a quarter system student. But if you think about it, it makes sense: we have to cover an entire year’s worth of physics in eight weeks. Each week, we have four days to learn the material and one day for testing. With about five or six chapters of material to cover every week, we have to master two or three chapter’s worth of material every two days. It is a very rushed process. Another key difference here is the flipped classroom style of teaching, as opposed to the traditional, lecture-based classroom. Instead of lectures from the professor, students are split up into small groups of six or seven with a tutor to go over concepts and questions. It is very self-motivated, which works out really well for some people who prefer to work at their own pace.

  1. What has been the most challenging part about your time in Glasgow so far? What has been the most rewarding?

The most challenging part about my time in Glasgow has been trying to keep up with the accelerated pace of the physics program. My most rewarding experience has been bonding with students from the UC system and creating friends from strangers. I like to think the two are related; we bond over our common struggle with physics!