Even before I started college, I had always dreamed of studying abroad. For as long as I can remember I have had a longing for adventure and a desire to see all that’s out there. When it came time to decide where I would study, I knew right away I wanted to go to Scotland. I was drawn to the country’s long and fascinating history, unique culture, and astounding natural beauty. I chose to study at the University of St. Andrews in the quaint, seaside town of St. Andrews, Scotland.

The city is lined with charming shops, cafes, bookstores, and picturesque medieval buildings. The university is over 600 years old and looks like Hogwarts. At first, it was scary being so far from home and lonely at times, but I eventually settled in and St. Andrews started to feel like home. Everyone I met was so friendly and welcoming which made the transition all the more easier. I ended up taking two history classes and that was an amazing experience in itself as I was surrounded by the very history I was learning about. I could actually step outside and see where the events we discussed in class took place.

Since I only took two classes, I was able to do a lot of traveling. I ended up going to Edinburgh, Stirling, the Scottish Highlands, York, London, and Oxford. My favorite places were definitely Edinburgh and the Highlands. Edinburgh was a very easy day trip from St. Andrews so I spent many weekends there. Even though I was only able to go to the Highlands once, it was one of the most magical and beautiful places I’ve ever been. All I could see for miles was untouched, wild valleys beneath snow-topped, rocky mountains dotted with flowing waterfalls. It was truly breathtaking.

One thing I didn’t expect before I came to the UK was that traveling is actually fairly cheap and easy. Definitely take advantage of every opportunity you get to travel. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. After I was there for almost exactly two months, I got the devastating news that my program was sending me back to the US due to the coronavirus outbreak. These last couple of weeks I was in Scotland were clouded with uncertainty and anxiety. It was extremely stressful trying to pack, buy plane tickets, and make last preparations to leave. In a way it felt like I had been robbed of my experience abroad. I still had so many things I wanted to do and see. However, I was able to spend my last few days going to my favorite bookstores and cafes in St. Andrews and walk around the school one last time. It was a bittersweet ending.

Although my time abroad was cut short, I’m so grateful for the priceless memories I made and places I got to see. Scotland is a country brimming with history and magic, the kind that fills you with a sense of wonder, mysticism, and sheer awe. Leaving was one of the most heartbreaking and difficult things I had to do. I can definitely say I left my heart in Scotland and I can’t wait to return one day.

Madeline Strom is majoring in History and spent part of Spring 2020 studying abroad in St. Andrews, Scotland through USAC. Madeline had the following to say about studying abroad, “Your life is your own story to write. Open your heart, chase opportunity after opportunity, step out of your comfort zone, and take chances. The world is so wide and full of possibility. Adventure awaits those who are brave enough to seek it.”

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