Experience Study Abroad: I Can Hear the Bagpipes

Studying abroad is an experience unlike anything else; just ask any student who has done it. It is one of those things that can be scary and intimidating, but it is also something that you can basically only do while at college. Since hearing different people’s accounts can help give you the courage to try things yourself, we are featuring Honors Student, Molly Monroe’s, study abroad experience in Glasgow, Scotland, in hopes of encouraging you to face any reservations you may have, and look into studying in a different part of the world.

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“O ye’ll take’ the high road and I’ll take the low road, An’ I’ll be in Scotland afore ye.”

When I think back on my 104 days studying abroad, I am baffled on how to sum up the time. First off, it was not nearly long enough. I want to capture the confusion, the laughter, the communication gaps, the beans on toast and fried Mars bars, the bagpipes, the pints, the kilts, the hills, the rain, the breathtaking nature, the potato waffles, and the lovely, genuine people of Scotland. It seems cumbersome and disconnected as I try and piece the highlights of my travels while paying respect to the vigorous and lively spirit of Glasgow.

I studied abroad at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland for the 2016 Fall semester. While abroad, I visited London, Paris, Amsterdam, Dublin, and many destinations across Scotland. The weeks flew by and before I knew it I was on the plane back to Iowa even though I felt Glasgow had become my new home.

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Of course, I have to acknowledge the education among my many experiences. Academically, I enjoyed being in a new, innovative learning environment. My studies were more independent and self-driven compared to the continuous and evaluated coursework I was accustomed to. Assignments were not on a weekly basis, but rather due at the end of the semester with final exams comprising 50-80% of the class grade. I took three classes, two of which pertained to my business major while one complemented my certificate in writing. In my international business class, I worked with students from Spain, France, Scotland, and Norway to create a business plan for a hypothetical travel company expanding to South America.

Utilizing the strengths of our diverse education experiences, we put together a strong report and helped each other to create an insightful and creative project. In my business finance class, I was challenged to think about business and the financial sector from outside the US perspective. It was fascinating to learn about the UK financial industry as well as considering the impacts of the European Union and how the US is viewed from an international perspective. My creative writing class was a breath of fresh air. We discussed spoken word poetry and wrote flash fiction. Our workshops were intriguing and I looked forward to reading other students’ work and improve on my own.

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I experienced a very unique period for US and UK politics and culture. Following the Brexit vote, I got to hear my Scottish friends discuss the future of their country and the effects of these decisions. There was also a lot of talk about an independence referendum for Scotland. I also was abroad during the US election and gleaned an international perspective on American politics, especially opinions on President Trump. I was often asked about my opinions on hot-topic issues such as gun control, healthcare, refugees, and terrorism. I gained insight on cultural perceptions of Americans and what the United States represents on many levels around the world. I was exposed to the generalizations about my national identity and also had the chance to define it for myself.

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Lastly, as cliché as it may seem, the people are what made my study abroad experience what it was. I used to think that it is a cruel joke that life took me across the Atlantic Ocean to meet my best friends only to leave them in three months. It’s a cruel joke, but also a blessing. I have this odd and comforting feeling to know that across the ocean, I have about thirty of my closest friends that I can’t wait to go back and visit. The popular saying of the city is that “People make Glasgow.” The saying captures my love of the city. The Scottish are proud of their country and wanted me to enjoy my time there. It is amazing how close you can become to people in such a short span of time.

If I think back to my time abroad, I hold no regrets and only the fondest memories. Well, possibly one regret in that I didn’t try haggis, but I’m still young! The experience allows for an escape from the familiar and brought a new vivacity and energy to life. As a scholar, I feel more concerned about the larger picture. I find myself looking at my future career and goals in a new perspective. I want to be able to help others with my career and help to improve systemic issues in society. Discussing education, health care, and political systems with students from all over Europe, I strove to understand the differences worldwide and pose the question of how can we best serve a country’s population.

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What I gained from my experience abroad is invaluable. I have a new and empowering confidence in my ability to travel to a new place, make new friends, and thrive. Although it may be a while before I get on a bike without the fear of falling into a canal in Amsterdam, I have lost the fears of failure and embarrassment I held on to before. The happiness and optimism of the people I met were contagious and I hope it radiates through me no matter where I end up. Travel is an enriching experience alike no other. To anyone considering studying abroad, stop considering and book your trip. Have faith in yourself and be open to the new doors and surprises life has waiting for you.

Just as Molly said, if you have an interest in studying abroad, look into making your dreams a reality. While you just missed the Study Abroad Fair that was held earlier this week, it isn’t too late to visit the Study Abroad Office and discuss the possibility of studying in a different part of the world for a semester. Plus, you can earn Honors Experiential Learning credit, so it’s really a win, win situation.

Written by: Molly Monroe, Honors Student

Molly Monroe is a senior from Davenport, IA. She is studying economics as well as earning a certificate in writing. Molly is a member of the Tippie Judicial Board and Beta Gamma Sigma. In addition to tutoring in the Frank Center, Molly works as the assistant to the Iowa Voyagers program for the University of Iowa Alumni Association. Her future aspirations include attending graduate school and traveling to all seven continents.

Edited by: Chloe Sekhran, Blog Manager

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