On a normal Tuesday morning during the spring of 2018, sitting in Historical Geology with Dr. Ann E Holmes, I made a really important decision that changed how I view my place in the world. Dr. Holmes walked in to class a few minutes late, arms full of papers—per usual—but rather than jumping into lecture she starts class off by announcing some students dropped out of a field experience course, and there were a few open spaces if anyone was interested. I whole-heartedly was. I didn’t know where I was going to get the money to make it happen but I knew I absolutely had to. How often does the chance to go on a field trip to a different country come up?
I told Dr. Holmes after class that day that I needed to be on that trip. I didn’t feel like I had enough experience in geology to justify going to Scotland to study it, but Dr. Holmes assured me it would be fine. I added the class, and a geology minor to my Biology major that day. I didn’t think I was going to have a good time with the class in Scotland, but I was still excited to go. The plane ride was kind of horrible and the jet lag threw everyone for a loop, but through extreme sleep deprivation and castle touring in Edinburgh I made friends quickly with my classmates. I realized then that this was going to be the trip of a lifetime. And it absolutely was.
From the earlier part of the trip, my favorite location was the Isle of Arran by far. The hostel was comfortable, the locals were welcoming, the hikes were gorgeous and the views were overall phenomenal. The views everywhere in Scotland were phenomenal though, to be fair. En route to the Isle of Skye we stopped in Glencoe. We were standing in the belly of a collapsed magma chamber, I’m shivering from the cold, everyone is bundled up and taking pictures. And then this man in a kilt steps out of a vehicle and starts playing the fiddle very appropriately for the setting. It was the wildest thing.
Everything on this trip through ISA and UTC was planned out. When we would eat, where we would get food, where we were staying and how we would get there. Our ISA guide personally arranged taxis and Ubers for us, and it really took the stress out of traveling. It was also really wonderful to get to know our guide, who is an American that has been living in Scotland with his family for several years now. If I ever travel through ISA again I sincerely hope I would get our guide again, though I’m sure all ISA guides are exceptional people.
Seeing Scotland and learning about its rocks was so amazing. I spent more time than I should have looking at the plants, but as a biologist nothing more should have been expected from me. I loved the hands on approach to learning about the Earth, though. I believe I will remember more of what I learned from this field experience than anything I’ve learned in any classroom. And I’ll cherish the memories from this trip more than any other educational experience, probably. If I could go again, I would go ten more times.
Jade Harry is majoring in Biology with a minor in Geology. She participated in a faculty-led trip to Scotland through the Geology Department in July, 2018. Jade had the following to say about her study abroad experience, “If the opportunity to travel like this falls into your lap I think everyone owes it to themselves to make it happen.”
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