Elizabeth Cunningham ’23 studied abroad in Stirling, Scotland during Fall 2022.
I chose Scotland for the beautiful landscape and for the opportunity to study English Literature on the British Isle. So far, my overall experience has been exciting and positive, as my program has given me opportunities to see Scotland outside the classroom. In this blog, I’ll be sharing overall tips about studying abroad that should help any Blue Jay during their time abroad.
Try Something New Every Day
When you’re abroad, you want to go everywhere, see everything, and taste everything. Of course, with taking classes, you may not be able to get off campus every day. I know I started to feel like I wasn’t making the most of the “abroad” experience by the third week. I started to think I was wasting my time by not visiting popular sites every week. One of my friends suggested that I start small.
I came in wanting to try as many different foods as possible while abroad. As a way to start small, I made it my mission to buy different flavored chips every time I went grocery shopping. I’ve expanded to never ordering the same thing twice at a restaurant and even avoiding restaurants I have already gone to. I definitely recommend planning out day trips on the weekends, but don’t feel bad for not doing something major every day.
As daunting as it sounds, the best way to explore your host university, city, or country is to get lost. If you’ve learned to get to your classes one way, pull up your campus map and try to find another way back home. If you walk past a path and have no idea where it goes, take it. In the world of having a map in your phone, you should not be afraid to get lost because you can easily find your way back. I do recommend taking a friend with you if you’re in the city, just to be on the safe side. You never know what you’re going to find on the paths you don’t take!
Ask For Help
This sounds pretty straightforward, but it’s true. Obviously, if you have questions about your assignments and the class, talk to the professor and seek out the resources at the library. I know I struggled with the different writing formats in my classes and needed to talk to different tutors and professors to get the format correct.
More surprisingly, you may have to ask how something works, like the oven or the transportation systems. My flatmates and I (all Americans) had the worse time trying to flush the toilet on the first day. We were debating whether or not the toilet was broken or if we weren’t flushing it correctly. Thankfully and embarrassingly, a staff member came by and showed us how to flush the toilet. Don’t be afraid to ask questions no matter how embarrassing it may be!
The Experience Won’t Always Be Perfect
We all have bad days, and they don’t magically stop occurring in a different country. In the beginning, everything is new and exciting, but it will not stay that way. If something doesn’t go your way, like you missed the bus, forgot your notebook in your flat, or the store was out of your favorite snack, don’t let it control the whole experience. Take a deep breath and let the day go. Make tomorrow better and look back on the good days you had already.
I came down with a cold for two weeks. Of course, I was bummed that I couldn’t go out with friends or visit some of the sites. I didn’t let that stop me from going out once I was better or trying different teas to soothe my sore throat. Bad days come and go, but focusing on the negative can taint the whole experience.
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