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Go Higher: Scotland and Northern Ireland - A social life less ordi nary

From films to football, there's a rich sporting and cultural life for students in Scotland and Northern Ireland
SOMETIMES THE constant diet of lectures, study, tutorials and union excursions can just get too much. So what is there for students to do in Scotland and Northern Ireland when lectures are over?

Cinema is more popular than ever, and, as you might expect, choices abound. The older chain cinemas (Odeon, ABC, etc) remain in most towns and cities, with increasing numbers of Virgin, UCI and Warner Brothers out-of-town complexes springing up all the time. The variety of these vast cinema complexes makes them a tempting option for a night out, but they are often too far out of the way for students who are dependent on public transport.

For an alternative, and the opportunity to see more left-field and foreign films alongside classic and cult movies, try the GFT in Glasgow, Belfast's QFT, or The Filmhouse in Edinburgh. Many universities and colleges, including Queens' in Belfast, Stirling and St Andrews have film societies with their own screenings, often in campus screening rooms, where you have access to a wide range of films at discount prices. Other cinemas offer student discounts, but these may depend on the time of day and seats booked.

Theatre is steadily growing in popularity, with students in both Scotland and Northern Ireland well served for theatrical venues and companies.

Belfast's Lyric Theatre is the main Ulster venue for new drama and comedy, with many productions playing to full houses.

Edinburgh has a wealth of theatres, with The Traverse, Scotland's new writing theatre, leading the pack. Glasgow is represented by The Citizens, a gorgeous Victorian theatre in the Gorbals district with an awesome reputation across the world for its companies' productions. Dundee Rep has a growing reputation, bolstered by last year's sell-out success of their touring production of Brecht's Mr Puntilla and His Man Matti.

All theatres offer substantial student discounts, with many supplementary offers on quieter mid-week evenings, and also special performances with discussions or talks by actors, directors, and sometimes the writers themselves.

Wherever you are in Scotland you are close enough to a football ground. Though football is as popular in Northern Ireland as it is everywhere else in the world, many fans support Glasgow's Celtic or Rangers and often make the pilgrimage across the Irish Sea. Premiership, regional and local league matches are all fairly easy to access, with many bus services provided by supporters clubs and local teams. Ticket prices can be high for bigger matches, but aren't that pricey when compared to many English grounds. However, the atmosphere is worth the admission price alone.

Football may have been invented in England, but in Scotland it has come to represent the roving, warring clans of the country, and nothing inspires such passion and loyalty in its people. It's truly moving to see thousands of Partick Thistle fans singing proudly as they face yet another defeat!