Going somewhere you have never been, where everyone is a stranger, into a culture of unknown is the best way to understand the roots of who you are. I took the plunge on my own into the small town of Stirling, Scotland fall 2018.

My first impression of Scotland was awe. I was alone, with luggage that weighed more than two of me. My flat was located at the top of nine flights of stairs. In many ways moving my luggage up those stairs symbolized my study abroad experience. I faced challenges I never thought possible, one staircase at a time.

My ancestors were from Dundee, Scotland, just northeast of Stirling. I found the fascinating history of my family clan and even was able to visit the grave of a famous member of my descendant’s clan, Rob Roy Macgregor. Another very awakening experience was swimming in Loch Ness in 35-degree weather, not to mention the obvious threat of the Loch Ness monster. It, again, represented a leap into a new view of life and it was invigorating!

I studied abroad through the CISabroad program. The site director in Scotland was one of the kindest individuals I have ever met. She was always available and accessible regardless of the circumstance. The group Highland trip at the start of the semester built an approachable sense of community and was a chance to strengthen our relationships. My roommates used another provider and did not have as many outings, lacked a sight director and did not receive much support. CISabroad made the application process and transition to a new country extremely easy.

Scotland’s history is rich and its people as kind as any place I’ve ever been. Many remarkable intellects are from Scotland including Adam Smith, David Hume and John Knox, just to name a few. The highlands are crisp, scenic and something you just cannot describe. My own university included a gorgeous loch, a hill in the backdrop of campus and forestry surrounding. We had a castle, golf course and a view of the William Wallace monument. How much more Scottish can you get? It was common to see kilted men on strolls around town, wearing their kilts with Scottish pride.  I was happy to be an hour away from the two largest cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh. It made day trips on the train to the city easy, while being able to return to the quietness of Stirling.

The first week I had challenged myself to be as outgoing and involved in my new university as possible. I met so many fascinating individuals and started building bonds with many other international students. I have never felt so comfortable around a group of people. Throughout my studies in Scotland I had many opportunities to travel on weekends to nearby European countries including Belgium, Netherlands, Ireland and Switzerland. The trips were remarkably cheap and memories made priceless. Study abroad. Take the risk, you won’t regret it.

Hannah Black is majoring in Environmental Science (Environmental Policy and Planning). She spent the Fall, 2018 semester studying abroad in Stirling, Scotland through CISabroad. Hannah had the following to say about her time abroad, “Life’s opportunities are too beautiful to let temporary discomforts be anything more than growing pains on the road to who you will become.”

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