“Happiness never lays its finger on its pulse.” This is the quote from the famous Scottish Economist, Adam Smith, that inspired 21-year-old Christopher Siakkas to leave Greece and come to study Economics in Scotland.
Siakkas was born and raised in Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece. There he attended elementary and an American high school before he decided to do his undergraduate degree in Scotland, at his dream university – the University of Glasgow.
“The educational system in the UK is exceptional and it’s something I really wanted to take advantage of. There are also more career opportunities in economics and political science here,” Siakkas says, “Plus my hero, Adam Smith, had been a professor here. I couldn’t turn down this opportunity. It was too tempting!”
Siakkas had been to the UK a few times but this time he was leaving behind the world he was familiar with and substituting it to experience Scotland as a student.
“I was a Greek student coming to Scotland and I was impressed, that was my first reaction. The very first thing I noticed was the people themselves, the people at the airport, the first friends I made. They were hospitable and I could see myself easily adapting to this new world.
Greece is warm, sunny and has endless beautiful beaches. Scotland is a tad different. But not just in terms of weather and places to visit – also culturally.
“The country has not just opened its doors for me academically, but also creatively. I love Scotland!”
“The culture is of course different. From the accent, to the things you’ll find in the supermarket. I was lucky enough to have been to the UK before, so I had some idea. But being a student was quite a different experience. It makes you much more mature and responsible. You have to do your own grocery shopping, cook for yourself – and you know, that’s a big shock, especially when you come from a Greek family!”
When I ask him how he learnt to understand the Scottish accent, Chris admits it took a bit of time to get used to it and he shares a funny encounter.
“I remember being in a taxi soon after arriving in Scotland and the driver was asking me questions. Being friendly, as the Scots are! But I wasn’t sure what he was saying. I had to ask again and again, until I got it! It was…a bit embarrassing to have to ask him to repeat himself so many times, but he was friendly and didn’t seem to mind.”
Chris also mentioned that in Scotland, the word “wee” – which means a bit – is used in almost every sentence. Or “cheers” – a word that has several meanings, from a casual way to say ‘bye’ to ‘thanks’ to ‘here’s to you’. And according to Chris, “indeed the word you are likely to hear most often in Scotland.”
University of Glasgow
As a recent graduate from the University of Glasgow, Chris advises other international students to get involved in student life as much as possible, whether that be through joining clubs and societies or, as in his case, setting one up.
Chris set-up the Glasgow Economic Forum, which started off as an informal meet-up for his friends to discuss economic topics that had not been covered in lectures. The forum has now been running for two years and is popular amongst academics, innovators and journalists.