Scotland may be well known for its Harry Potter-style buildings and beautiful scenery, but the region has much more to offer than that. At the recent British Council education fair in Hong Kong, Scottish pavilions were set up for the first time, and the booths always packed with interested students and parents.
"Scotland is a small country of five to six million people," said Mhairi Macfarlane, Senior International Officer (East Asia) of the University of Glasgow. "The Scottish have a strong cultural identity, with some people speaking Gaelic."
Gaelic was a language introduced to Scotland from Ireland in the fifth century and remained the main language in most rural areas until the early 17th century. Even though the most common language in Scotland today is English, "there are signs in Gaelic and English, but only a small part of Scotland speak Gaelic," Macfarlane said.
Having a unique cultural heritage doesn't build barriers, but instead adds friendliness to the place.
Though Glasgow may be the largest city in Scotland, students at the university said they find the city very friendly and welcoming.
"They often tell me that when they are lost, the people not just help, but take them to the place," Macfarlane said, adding that Glasgow was voted as the friendliest city by Rough Guides in 2016.
The university is surrounded by a green, safe environment with large museums and cafes around.
"The city is also well known for being the city of music," Macfarlane said. She added that aside from the environment, the academic standards have attracted students from around the world.
"We have around 36 percent of international students coming from around 140 countries," mostly from the United States and China, she said.
Veterinary science and medicine are the most popular undergraduate degrees offered at the university, which ranked 69th in the latest QS World University Rankings.
"Our vet program is ranked first in the UK," Macfarlane said, pointing out that the university is one of four vet schools in Europe that have accredited status from the American Veterinary Medical Association for its undergraduate programs.
The five-year program devotes its first two years to the basics and the following three years for a practical experience. "Right from year one, they will get animal handling experience. Year three onwards they will be mainly based in the small animal hospital treating animals, including those from the public," Macfarlane said.
Situated only 15 minutes away from the main campus, the hospital allows convenient access to gain practical experience.
Being widely accredited, the vet school has high entrance requirements. "There are 50 places for international students. They have to have good grades and work experiences, as well as prepare for an interview," Macfarlane said.
As it may be difficult for international students to get related experience, she suggested they do at least a few days of job shadowing with a vet. "They want to see you are trying get as much as experience with animals and animal handling as well," she said.
Meanwhile, the university's degree in medicine program is also very competitive. "Usually, we intake around 18 places for international students," Macfarlane said.
The University of Glasgow's medical school is one of the largest in Britain, with its undergraduates exposed to research leaders and teachers in clinical and basic science.
"There is a new Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, which is a large teaching space to do case based learning," she said.
A variety of teaching methods for the general five-year degree, it applies. "Like spiral learning, students will not lose what they learn in the first year, as the coming years will be continuous," she said.
Graduates of the two degree programs are usually sought after. "In Britain, there are not enough doctors and vets, so even for international students, it is usually possible for them to stay."
Macfarlane noted while most graduates usually embark on a professional career, some would continue conducting research.
She reminded students who are interested to apply by January for the general courses, even though the deadline for applications would be June.
Being among the top universities in Britain, the University of Glasgow seeks student applicants with high academic achievement.
"They may have to do some additional things, like interviews and additional tests for some courses," Macfarlane said, adding that personal statements are required to state the reasons for wanting to study the particular subject.
For Hong Kong students, HKDSE results are acceptable, but the requirements vary among courses. "In general, the minimum requirement is IELTS 6.5, or HKDSE English level four," she said.