Education Abroad- My Semester in Edinburgh, Scotland

For my STEP signature project, I studied abroad at the University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, Scotland. While there, I took three classes: two linguistics classes for my major, and a history class. I also had the opportunity to travel throughout the U.K. and the rest of Europe on weekends and in my spare time.
Before I started my 4 months abroad I spent a lot of time researching various aspects of Scotland’s culture and the university I was enrolling in. This was intended to make me feel less nervous before I left, as well as to help me avoid any potential gaffes for when I arrived and it worked out very well. For example, I remember going to a pub quiz, a popular British pastime similar to a trivia night at a bar, during my first week abroad. I had 5 American teammates, yet it was only me and 1 other friend being able to answer the Scottish pop culture and history questions because we had taken the time to do our homework. This may seem like a trivial example of putting my knowledge to use, but it was more important in the bigger picture. After less than 2 weeks I felt almost completely acclimated to my new home, what was expected of me at the university, and I had already begun to travel outside the UK on the weekends. Overall, I felt that I had a smoother and more positive transition into life in Edinburgh than some of my friends.
One maybe “consequence” of this preparation was that my view of the world wasn’t radically changed and I didn’t deal with any huge issues that would have completely transformed my understanding of myself. That being said, this past semester helped to confirm a lot of things I already felt about my personality and let me notice and appreciate the minute differences between American society and British society. For example, my time abroad confirmed that I really relish being independent, as demonstrated by me figuring out how to budget my time and money, as well as planning a ton of trips, including a solo one to Paris. However, this time confirmed that I also really enjoy close friendships, as I was lucky enough to meet some people that I still am in constant contact with. If I plan to spend more time abroad in the future I will have to consider how easy it will be to create some sort of support network, as I believed my time wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable without a few strong friendships.
In terms of cultural learning, I really loved picking up on the small differences between Scottish culture and my own, specifically things you can’t find easily on the internet. One thing that really enhanced this was one of my linguistics courses, entitled Scots and Scottish English. This class was dedicated to the linguistic analysis of Scottish English, which is just regular British English with a Scottish Accent, and Scots, which is considered a divergent dialect of English that is so different that it is quite difficult for even Brits to understand. During one class we specifically talked about the unique accent that comes from Glasgow. A few days later I got dinner with an American friend who brought along her Glaswegian flat mate. Not only did I have a fun time talking to her and learning about her life, my background knowledge of her accent made the conversation so much richer and more interesting. Another example of cultural learning came from some of the weird quirks about Edinburgh and Europe in general. For one, out of all 8 countries I visited, water was never served at a restaurant without you asking for it, and many times you have to buy it, as tap water is not available. Also, I was intrigued to learn that most Brits have super strong opinions on American politics and it was interesting to hear from them what they thought the impact American policy had on the UK. One friend even told me he and his friends got up at 4 am to go to a viewing party at a pub for our presidential election. From the big to the small, it was stuff like this that added important layers of understanding and knowledge to my world view without neccesarily really altering it in a big way.
Overall, my STEP signature project enriched my life in so many ways and I am so grateful I had the opportunity to study abroad. Being at a different university with a completely different academic style really let me weigh all the pros and cons of Ohio State and led me to re-analyze how I was spending my time at Ohio State. I came back with a newfound sense of appreciation for how hands on and accessible the professors here are, but have also noted that a class can be taught successfully without a lot of homework, and OSU tends to be heavy handed on the amount of work due for each class.
One thing I did when I came back was slightly lighten the load of responsibilities I had outside of class. My time abroad led me to realize that I had been unhappy sophomore year because I had spread myself so thin that I had almost no personal time. Having almost no responsibilities outside of my education while abroad led me to ponder the idea of working to live vs. living to work. Since I’ve been back I have been much happier without having to sacrifice too many of the activities that will help me achieve my future goals. This leads to the impact my time in Scotland had on my future plans. Studying abroad did not change my goal of getting my masters to become a speech pathologist. However, it did make me contemplate a gap year after graduation where I could do a lot of traveling but still be productive. This led me to the idea of teaching English abroad after I graduate next spring and that is currently one of the options I am exploring or my future. On top of that, I have this newfound sense of calm that I can thrive anywhere, and that wherever my future takes me, I can adapt and enjoy all the experiences the world has to offer.

Calton Hill, one of many beautiful views in Edinburgh

Some friends, the Scottish highlands, and the Scottish flag.

One of my favorite trips outside Scotland was beautiful Florence, Italy