Geneva College

Semester in Scotland

Frequently Asked Questions


Q. Where is Airdrie, Scotland?

A. Airdrie is a town of 40,000 people located in North Lanarkshire, Scotland, and founded in 1150. It adjoins directly onto the neighbouring town of Coatbridge to the west, and lies approximately 17 miles to the east of Glasgow city centre and is the last major town in the Greater Glasgow metropolitan area on the eastern route towards Edinburgh.

Q. What kind of town is Airdrie?
A. Formerly a mining community, Airdrie is now a chiefly residential town. Founded by monks in the 12th century (hence the area still known today as Monklands), the town flourished on the weaving and mining industries in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today Airdrie is a working class town though becoming increasingly popular as a commuter base for both Glasgow and Edinburgh (37 miles).
There is a swimming pool (The John Smith Pool), two gyms, a track, and several football fields, as well as one basketball court. Airdrie has its own football team - Airdrie United. There are also 2 golf courses (Airdrie Golf Club and Easter Moffat)

The main district General Hospital in Airdrie is Monklands DGH in Monkscourt Avenue. Several doctor's offices are available also.

Airdrie has a good transport network of services, especially to Glasgow. The main bus terminal situated in the town centre has services to all surrounding districts, but to go further afield, it is usually necessary to travel to Hamilton (6 miles from Airdrie) to board inter-city routes. There is a local train service to Glasgow Queen Street (every 20 minutes) and again, all mainline services tend to go from Glasgow throughout the UK. Several taxi firms operate in the town.

Morrisons and Somerfield are the main supermarkets along with Aldi, Lidl, Farmfoods, Iceland, and several fruit and veg shops, bakers, and butchers. There are several clothing shops, hairdressers, card and gift shops, a Woolworth’s, a couple of charity shops (thrift stores), and a small retail park (Focus DIY, Curry’s, Argos, Lidl). Many locals will make the trip to Glasgow for any major shopping trips as the city offers the second best shopping outside of London.

There are several restaurants and takeaways in Airdrie, one hotel, and a couple of B&Bs. For more on Airdrie, see the town website at

Q. Why is Airdrie called Airdrie?
A. Although still controversial, some say it derives from the Gaelic “ard ruith” meaning a level height or high pasture land. Others say it derives from Arderyth, the scene of the battle in 577AD between the armies of Aeddam, King of Kintyre, and Rydderych the Bountiful, King of Strathclyde. Possibly another suggestion could be that it was taken from the Gaelic “Airidh” meaning a sheiling or wayside town.

Q. What is the history of Airdrie?
A. Airdrie was predominantly a market town where travelers would stop off on their way to Glasgow or Edinburgh. As with much of Scotland, mining and weaving was prevalent, but the mines are long gone, although some can still be found filled in but apparent as hillocks around the town.

Very little is known of Airdrie before written records dating from 1162-1164AD. Lands were held by the Hamiltons. One very important aspect of the Town's history were the Monks. The area that Airdrie is situated in is known as Monklands, hence the name of the local hospital. The “monks” were the founding fathers of the town.
Airdrie first came to prominence for it's weaving industry. Airdrie Weavers Society was founded in 1781 and flax was being grown in 16 farms in and around the burgh. In the last decade of the eighteenth century, coal mining was in progress and around 25 -30 colliers were employed.
In 1824 it was decided to build the Town House (a local landmark). This is now known as the “town clock.” In 1832 the Town House was used as a Hospital due to the cholera outbreak of this year.

There was an influx of residents from the Highlands and predominantly Ireland. This followed the Potato famine of the mid 1840's and also reflected the change from cottage industry to heavy industry in the area. Most of the Irish immigrant population were involved with mining and labouring.
This led to an increase in ironwork foundries around the area. Because of this explosion in industry, railway links were soon established (circa 1830) and by 1862, the Airdrie and Bathgate Junction Railway provided a direct link to Edinburgh with Airdrie South Station providing the starting point for trains to Glasgow.
Around the mid 1800's, several local newspapers began appearing and notably the Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser, which is still the most popular local paper today. Also at this time, football and cricket began to emerge as popular sports.

At the end of the First World War, Airdrie was hard hit with many casualties from the war and also many inhabitants emigrated. The depression years had made a great impact on the town and several well known manufacturers ceased to exist and few replaced them.
Conditions in the town did not really improve until well after the Second World War but in 1949 a major pharmaceutical company (Boots Pure Drug Co. Ltd) and Banner Textiles Ltd were attracted to the town (between them employing 1200). With this impetus, new companies began to consider Airdrie as a viable option for business and in 1958 Pye Scottish Communications Ltd opened employing over 1000 people. The emergence of industrial estates was also prevalent around this time. For more of Airdrie's history see

Q. How safe is Airdrie?
A. As far as violent crime goes, Airdrie is below the national average. Other crime such as car theft and vandalism though is quite high. Common sense should be used in all situations.

Q. What if there is an emergency or terrorist activity while I am in Scotland?
A. In the unlikely event of a national emergency, we would work closely with the U.S. Embassy to get you back home. In the event of a personal emergency, we would work through with you the options for returning home. The United States travel advisories can be found here The United States has a consulate general office in Edinburgh.

Q. What about certain kinds of flu?
A. For the State Department fact sheet on health click here.

Q. Do I need a visa?
A. No, you are entering as a student visitor, as long as you will be in the UK fewer than six months. If you will be traveling in the UK directly after your program so that your total time in the UK is greater than six months, you will need to apply for a visa. You will be sent a letter confirming that you are enrolled in the Semester in Scotland programme that you can present to immigration authorities.

Q. Where do I get my passport?
A. To apply for a passport visit the State Department website for application forms and instructions.

Q. How do I arrange to get to Scotland?
A. You are responsible for arranging your own transport to Scotland. For more information and websites to help you, please see the Travel Info page.

Q. How will I get from the airport to Airdrie?
A. Someone from SIS will be in touch with you prior to your arrival and will pick you up and transport you to Airdrie.

Q. How can my parents contact me?
A. Your accommodation will be equipped with a phone and internet access (though no computer - you will need to bring your own), so they will be able to mail, email, and phone you. You will also be given mobile phones during your stay in Airdrie in case of emergency.

Q. How do I get around in Airdrie?
A. You will be living in walking distance to the church where your classes are held and to the town centre and hospital. Buses, taxis, and trains are also available. For more info on public transport see: Scottish Citylink and First Scotrail

Q. May I obtain my address before arrival?
A. Yes, we can send it to you.

Q. What type of accommodation is available?
A. You will be housed in either a house or flat in Airdrie. Accommodation has bedrooms, bathrooms (with showers), fully equipped kitchen, washer and tumble dryer, and living area and is in easy walking distance of the church. Your rent and utilities, including phone, have already been transferred to SIS by Geneva College.

Q. Do I need to bring bed linen and towels?
A. No, those will be provided.

Q. How much will I receive for food each month?
A. You will receive around $350 dollars/ £175 pounds for food each month.

Q. Is there access to the internet in my accommodation?
A. Yes.

Q. Should I bring my laptop computer?
A. Yes, it will be helpful for your studies, and your housing has no computer, but you will need a converter and adapter.

Q. Does Scotland have a different voltage from the United States?
A. Yes. The standard electrical voltage in Britain is 240 v AC, 50HZ. A three square pronged adapter plug and/or electric converter for American appliances like laptops, hairdryers, curling irons, alarm clocks, etc. is required.

Q. What is the money system?
A. British money is based on the decimal system; there are one hundred pence to each pound sterling (£). Notes are issued to the value of £50, £20, £10 and £5. Scottish £1 notes are still in circulation in Scotland. Coins are issued to the value of £2, £1, 50p, 20p, 10p, 5p, 2p, and 1p. Scottish banks issue their own bank notes in all denominations. These differ in design from English notes, but are of the same value and are accepted elsewhere in the UK (although you are best to change £1 notes for £1 coins before you leave Scotland). English notes are accepted in Scotland.

Q. What is the best form of currency to bring - traveler's cheques, ATM cards, credit cards?
A. All three of these will work in Scotland. You need to make sure your traveler's' cheques are made out in pounds sterling. Most of the greater tourist destinations will accept these cheques, but the shops in Airdrie might not, so it's a good idea to bring other forms of currency as well. ATM machines will take American debit cards and VISA and Mastercard are also widely used.

Q. Where should I change my money from dollars to pounds sterling?
A. There are currency exchange booths in airports, but you can also exchange your money (with no commission being charged) at the Airdrie post office. Exchange rates are notoriously poor, and by far the most up-to-date and best exchange rate comes when you use your debit card to withdraw money at an ATM.

Q. What is the exchange rate of dollars to pounds sterling?
A. This varies from day to day. For an up-to-the minute exchange rate see Currency Converter

Q. What is VAT?
A. Value Added Tax (VAT) at 20% is applied to goods and services. Non-EU visitors to Scotland can reclaim it on goods only, by using the Foreign Exchange Tax Free Shopping arrangements. You can reclaim VAT at participating stores. A Tax Free Shopping form is obtained and completed at the shop where you must also show your passport. The form has to be presented to HM Customs and Excise, as you leave the UK.

Q. What is the time difference in Scotland?
A. Scotland is 5 hours ahead of Eastern Time Zone, 6 hours ahead of Central Time Zone, 7 hours ahead of Mountain Time Zone, and 8 hours ahead of Pacific Time Zone. Clocks go forward 1 hour at 0100hrs on 26 March and go back 1 hour at 0100hrs on 29 October.

Q. What is the weather like in Scotland?
A. 'Varied' describes Scotland's climate perfectly. There are wide variations in climate over small distances, and a sunny day will often as not be followed by a rainy one. Although the country nudges the Arctic Circle, the Gulf Stream winds keep the temperature mild (well, relatively mild). The Highlands, however, can have extreme weather at any time. The east coast tends to be cool and dry, with winter temperatures rarely dropping below freezing (but watch out for the bone-chilling winds off the North Sea). The west coast is milder and wetter, with average summer highs of 19°C (66°F). May and June are the driest months; July and August the warmest. In the north the summer sun barely sets; the winter sun barely rises.

Q. What clothes should I bring?
A. Whatever the season, the British weather is liable to change from day to day, so if you're wondering what to pack, a good idea is to bring layers, a waterproof coat or jacket and an umbrella. Good, sturdy walking shoes are essential. You'll find the temperature inside colder than you are used to, so if you get cold easily, pack lots of warm clothes.

Q. What happens if I get sick in Scotland?
A. We can arrange an appointment with the doctor and for more serious matters take you to the emergency room of the local hospital.

Q. Do I need special vaccinations for going to Scotland?
A. No.

Q. Do I need health insurance for coming to Scotland?
A. Yes. Please make sure your health insurance plan covers you while you are overseas.

Q. What is there to do on Saturdays?
A. There are many places to explore in Scotland. If you enjoy shopping, Glasgow is one of the best places to shop outside of London. If you prefer museums and art galleries, both Edinburgh and Glasgow are in easy distance for day trips. There are many castles and historic homes throughout Scotland. If you love being in the great outdoors, there are plenty of opportunities to visit the lochs and mountains of Scotland. For more information visit the Scottish Tourist Board or National Trust for Scotland or Historic Scotland

Q. Where and with whom will my classes be held?
A. Your classes will be held in the Airdrie Reformed Presbyterian Church. Other SIS students will be taking the classes with you.

Q. How will I get to class?
A. You will be able to walk to class from your accommodation.

Q. How much should I budget for books?
A. Your books are paid for by Geneva College. You do not need to pay anything.

Q. Are there gyms in Airdrie?
A. There are two gyms and one swimming pool in Airdrie.

Q. Where can I find out more information about Scotland?
A. The following websites might be useful: VisitScotland; BritainUSA; Visit Britain