A Study Abroad Interview: Meadow Goes to Scotland
Everything I know I learned in Scotland
By Caitlin McConnell, Marist College
Meet Meadow. She is a junior at Villanova University and last fall she packed up her bags and went to study abroad at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. She was delighted to share her experience with me and give some details on her trip as well as tips of advice for other travelers. I mean, who wouldn’t want to study at the same school where Prince William and Kate Middleton met?
1. Why did you choose this study abroad location? What are the top 5 sites to see?
I chose St. Andrews because I really wanted to go to an English speaking country, but I also wanted an adventure. I had seen pictures of the Highlands of Scotland and was amazed by how beautiful it was!
The top 5 sites to see:
1. Old Course at St. Andrews: St. Andrews is the home of golf and this is one of the oldest golf courses in the world.
2. The Scores: One of the few streets in the small town of St. Andrews that has academic buildings and a beautiful view of the North Sea that leads down to the sands.
3. The Pier: Each week, after mass, students of St Andrews do a traditional “pier walk” where you walk the length of the pier with your friends out onto the North Sea and you have a view of the sands where the running scene from “Chariots of Fire” was filmed.
4. Cathedral Ruins: You can walk to the top of the Cathedral, which was abandoned during the 1500’s, and get a surreal view of the entire town.
5. The Coastal Trail: This path runs along the North Sea and brings you to a beach that has amazing rock formations.
2. How did you live like a local in your study abroad city?
I lived like a local by doing my best to attend events like the “town wide ceilidh,” which is a traditional Scottish dance similar to square dancing. Also, I usually went to mass at the local Catholic Church with the community instead of just attending a student mass. Not to mention, I was a frequent customer of the most popular bakery in town, Fisher & Donaldson, where I indulged in the world’s best creation, also known as, fudge donuts! You have not lived without eating these.
3. What was the most amazing cultural experience you encountered while studying abroad?
My most cultural experience would have to be when I travelled to the Highlands of Scotland. I realized the amazing pride that the Scottish have for their country and their history. Especially when I visited places like Culloden Battlefield, I learned that they have been through a lot as a country and it was really incredible to hear about their struggles and achievements. Next year on September 18th they will be voting to become independent from the United Kingdom.
4. How has studying abroad impacted on your personal growth?
As stereotypical as it sounds, I became more independent. I learned a lot about myself that I never had realized before. I found myself struggling with taking risks at times and had to push myself. I learned that it’s okay to spend time alone and I developed a profound appreciation for the world. The Scottish are warm and welcoming and will treat you like family in less than 5 minutes, which made me believe in the goodness within people. I also gained confidence in myself that I could live on my own and make a life for myself out of virtually nothing. I grew to become more patient because I didn’t really have an option since I was in a new place learning what my purpose was there.
5. What advice/tips would you give to yourself before you went abroad?
I would tell myself to never take naps or watch Netflix, even when it’s rainy, windy or cold outside! I would also say, don’t stress too much. This is the one chance you have to make something of yourself in a foreign place, so do it and don’t hold back. I definitely urge other students to try to connect with locals in their study abroad location. Also, travel whenever you get the chance and take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. There’s a bus going to Stirling Castle with the history society, GO! Another thing: keep the blog that you promised you would and write down everything.
6. Is there a story about a cultural experience that you would like to share?
I visited Glencoe, Scotland, which is in the highlands with other students and the weather conditions were not in our favor! But this did not hold us back, as we jumped off the bus and looked down at the valley ahead of us where this winding road cut through the middle of two mountains. This made me feel so small among these massive landscapes. This was a moment when I really appreciated everything in my life. I feel like study abroad really allowed me to fall in love with the world in an entirely new way. It opened my eyes to different people, cultures and all kinds of beauty. In this moment, I felt entirely connected to Scotland; standing there soaked in the pouring rain, I took it all in and realized how incredibly, overwhelmingly blessed I was.