Since my freshman year I dreamed of getting to spend a semester abroad. I never actually thought that dream would become a reality. However, in my spring semester of junior year I was lucky enough to study at the University of Stirling in Scotland. Studying abroad was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
When the day finally came for me to start my journey, I don’t think it was possible to feel more different emotions at once. I was excited about seeing more of the world, but also nervous about what was to come. Getting to Scotland was nerve wracking because I had never traveled alone before, and I had two separate lay overs. However, as soon as I arrived in Scotland all those worries melted away and I immediately fell in love with the country. After so much planning and excitement I was finally there.
I think the greatest take away from this experience is the incredible relationships that were formed during my time abroad. I met so many amazing people from all over the world, and really got to learn about different cultures and outlooks on life. I was very nervous about making friends before I left, however I made so many lifelong friends. These friends were who I went to when I was missing home and they always seemed to make me feel better. The relationships you make while studying abroad are truly what makes the experience so great.
Out of all the countries I have visited, Scotland is definitely the most beautiful. Even with the weather, which if you don’t like wait five minutes and it will change. Everywhere you turned there was a new place to visit and see. There were multiple castles within a short bus ride (or even walk) from where I was studying, there was even one on the University’s campus. The city was also full of history and there was always something new to learn. Traveling around Scotland was super easy as well, because of how well their public transport was. The University is also situated directly in between the two biggest cities. Each weekend me and my new friends went to a different city (we went to Edinburgh multiple time, because we just loved it so much). We toured castles, went for 2 km walks to the nearby town, and even got to see the street that J.K. rolling based Diagon Alley on.
Some advice I would give to those who are thinking of or planning on studying abroad would be:
- Studying abroad can be amazing but it can also be incredibly difficult. When you first arrive everything seems so new and exciting. After a few weeks, or days, when things start to become more familiar, you may find yourself missing home. Make time to Facetime your family and friends. Also, I found that bringing something that reminds you of home really helped to conquer this feeling. I brought a few pictures of me and my friends and family so that if there was a time where I couldn’t call them right then, because of time differences, I could look at my photos.
- Learn to become comfortable being with yourself. There will be times while you are abroad where you will need to go somewhere by yourself, and at first this can be really scary, especially when you are in an unknown place. However, after a few times it becomes easier. When you become comfortable with going places alone, in the city you are studying in, you may be able to see and experience things you may have looked past or not noticed when you were with others. I learned this when I took a trip to the store on my own and found a little hole in the wall restaurant that later became my favorite.
- This one is a bit more silly, but it’s one thing I wish I had done differently. When preparing for your time abroad do not over pack. If you think you have the right amount of stuff in your luggage, look at it and take half of it out. I brought way too many clothes from home that I never wore. I ended up buying almost a completely new closet while I was there, and when it was time to go home, I had to get an additional suitcase just to get all my stuff home.
- Never be afraid to ask for help. Getting around can be challenging in a new place. As well as understanding what is going on around you, even if they speak the same language. Nine times out of ten people are more than happy to help you get where you need to be, and help you understand.
- Trust that everything will work out. My semester abroad unfortunately had to come to an early end due to Covid-19. And for a while I was unsure about what was going to happen, or how I was going to get home. I had to trust in myself and those around me to do what was best for mine and everyone else’s safety. There will be times during your study abroad experience, whether it be a global pandemic, school work, or other times, where it may not seem like things will work out, you just have to trust that it will, and that the outcome is what is best for you.
I fell in love with Scotland during my short stay there, and wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity and cannot wait to return to Scotland as soon as I can!!
Samantha Medio is majoring in Psychology and Criminal Justice. Samantha spent part of Spring 2020 studying abroad in Stirling, Scotland through CIS abroad. Samantha had the following to say about studying abroad, “Getting to explore the world and experience life in a different country is the best decision you could make.”
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