Scotland’s Ruminants: STEP Education Abroad Experience

Name: Ashley Sindelar

Type of Project: Education Abroad

I had the opportunity to utilize my STEP funds to travel abroad for ten days in Scotland over Spring Break 2019 with the College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences.  The focus of the trip was Scottish ruminants so I had the opportunity to visit a variety of farms as well as the University of Glasgow, a veterinary school in Scotland and partner of Ohio State.  I also had exposure to many cultural sites in my time abroad such as the National Museum of Scotland.

I feel like my experience abroad has truly been transformational on several levels.  Going into the trip I had numerous misconceptions about Scotland and Scottish history, a distaste for history and politics, and minimal involvement in staying up to date on any sort of news- local, national, or global.  My experiences on this trip have cleared up my misconceptions about Scotland as well as actually piqued my interest in history. I am also more interested in politics and try to stay more involved in news. For example, I’m closely following Brexit now.  I barely knew what Brexit was going into this trip. This trip has also led me to see the importance of staying politically involved at home, including doing thorough research on issues and candidates before voting.

Personally, this trip has made me much more comfortable stepping outside of my comfort zone.  Professionally, I have a newfound interest in working with camelids as a veterinarian one day.  I also realized that going to Ohio State for veterinary school is the right choice for me (as opposed to attending the University of Glasgow).  Lastly, I’ve realized that I’m very interested in studying abroad again, or potentially even working abroad one day.

I had the opportunity to visit Edinburgh Castle and the National Museum of Scotland while I was abroad which cleared up some of my misconceptions about Scotland and actually piqued my interest in history.  My only perception of Scotland were the scattered clips of Braveheart I had seen.  On this trip, I learned that William Wallace, Mel Gibson’s character, was nothing like he was portrayed in the movie.  He wasn’t a peasant; he was actually a knight and would have rode into battle with the latest military fashions. The crash course I got on the past 2000 years of Scottish history at the museum was incredible.  I learned about everything from currency to Scottish interactions with the Romans and Vikings to the roots of how Scotland joined the UK and why the Scottish people may be bitter about Brexit today.

My interactions with the Scottish people helped me become more politically engaged and helped me understand the importance of global politics.  I learned about Brexit as well as various Scottish perspectives on the issue from our tour guide at the museum, veterinary professors at the University of Glasgow, and different farmers.  As an aspiring veterinarian, I thought politics, especially global politics, were irrelevant to me, but I was so wrong. Brexit will significantly affect farming in the UK which could lead to changes in the current balance of trade in Europe and beyond.  I learned that the US is actually facing many similar issues that led to Brexit in the UK such as concerns about immigration and migrant workers.

This trip also forced me to step outside of my comfort zone.  I climbed to the top of Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano and the highest point in Edinburgh.  Before this trip, I never would have considered going on more than a relaxing hike. Climbing to the top of Arthur’s Seat was incredibly difficult, but I realized how worth it it was when I saw the view at the top.  I also tried haggis while abroad, not once but twice! Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish made of a sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs, usually boiled in the animal’s stomach. It sounds disgusting, and I had always vowed never to try it, but I actually really enjoyed it!  Lastly, I had always been rather hesitant to speak to people who weren’t from America. Usually it was just a fear of being misunderstood or not being able to understand the other person. I engaged with several native Scots in my time abroad and was able to learn about everything from Brexit to how my tour guide at the museum ended up working there.  

This trip has been incredibly transformational on a professional level as well.  At Velvet Hall Alpacas, I got to interact with alpacas one-on-one. I’ve never had this opportunity before.  Exposure to more species will allow me to be a better vet one day. Everything I learned about alpacas, from social structure of the herd to foot care was fascinating, and the animals themselves had such unique and friendly personalities.  I learned that in Scotland, students only get a few days on alpacas in all 5 years of their veterinary program. All of these aspects combined lead to a newfound professional interest in camelids (camels, llamas, alpacas, etc). Speaking of veterinary school, I decided that Ohio State was the best fit for me.  I visited the University of Glasgow while abroad, and while it would be an incredible experience, I felt like OSU is a better fit for me. This is mainly due to the lack of full animal dissections, lack of a large animal hospital, and decreased access to the teaching hospital for veterinary students at the University of Glasgow.  Lastly, I’m very interested in going abroad again due to this trip. I enjoyed all of the veterinary professionals I met, the food, and the culture in Scotland. On our last night, I went to a pub with some of the other students in my group to watch the Scotland versus England rugby match. The atmosphere was incredible; it was like the Michigan game at OSU.  I want to have more experiences being completely immersed in another culture.

My newfound interests in history and politics is incredibly important as it is allowing me to grow into a more well-rounded and knowledgeable individual.  Having an understanding of how history plays into what is going on now is incredibly important and will help me think more critically about current events and political issues.  I plan to do more research on my own time about history now. I realize now that history and politics are actually still very relevant to me as an aspiring veterinarian. By extension, I’ve realized how important it is for me to be a politically active citizen because local, national, and global politics can and will affect me whether I realize it or not.  

Overall, this trip was an incredible experience that forced me outside of my comfort zone on numerous occasions.  As a result, I feel much more at ease trying new activities or foods and talking to new people that I never would have considered before this trip.  I also developed an interest in possibly specializing in camelids as a veterinarian. I’d actually like to do a rotation on camelids in my fourth year of veterinary school now.  Deciding where to attend veterinary school is also incredibly significant because my time in school will lay the foundation of my entire veterinary career. I’m very interested in going abroad again as well.  I’d like to have more exposure to new cultures and experiences. In the near future, I’d like to study abroad in Thailand with the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine to work with elephants. I’d also like to do a rotation abroad during my fourth year of veterinary school.  Lastly, I’m even considering moving abroad to practice for some time after college now. My trip abroad was far more transformational than I ever could have imagined going in. It wasn’t one discreet change, but rather, a conglomeration of changes that are still ongoing and may very well shape the course of the rest of my life.  I’m so incredibly happy I was able to have this amazing experience.


This is a photo of me in the Scottish Highlands, the northern and more mountainous portion of the country.

This is a photo of me with one of the alpacas at Velvet Hall! Did you know that alpacas actually have pads on their feet similar to dogs as opposed to hooves?