Occupational Therapy major Madelyn Box ’23 studied abroad in Stirling, Scotland during the spring of 2022.
Hey! My name is Madelyn Box, and I spent my Spring 2022 semester in Stirling, Scotland, which is about 45 minutes out from Edinburgh. My drive to study abroad was due to my desire to travel outside of the United States. I had grown up only traveling inside the U.S. but knew I wanted to see other countries, and I figured this would be one of the best opportunities to do that. I also thought this experience would help me explore my independence. Since my freshman year of college, this was something that I felt a strong passion for doing, and once I set my mind to something, I can’t change it.
While abroad, I traveled to Italy, the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, and Ireland. I met lifelong friends abroad and made unforgettable memories that made this experience the best thing I have ever done. Even though it was life-changing, there were some difficulties and some things that were not shared with me, so I want to share them with you.
Get used to not using your phone
Wifi will pretty much be the only way for you to use your phone abroad unless you purchase a SIM card to put into your phone. You also have to make sure your phone is unlocked by your provider to even do that. The data charges are outrageous and not worth it if you don’t have to. I learned to love not being on my phone as much and being in the moment, but if you plan to travel alone or need it for emergency purposes, it could be dangerous to not have data to use.
Public transportation sometimes sucks
The bus schedules change a lot, especially since COVID, and there’s a worker shortage that’s been happening across the world. I would sometimes have to wait for up to an hour for the bus, and it would take a large chunk out of my day and cause me to have to alter my plans. Plus, even if it is on time, you have to plan your schedule around making sure you are there on time and have enough time to walk to the bus stop.
You’ll become extremely self-reliant
You move to a completely new environment and your closest family members are thousands of miles away. This teaches you to become very self-reliant quite quickly. The only person you’ll have there at first to fully trust is yourself, so go with your gut in every situation – it’s always right.
Do a currency exchange before you leave the US
If you can convert currencies before you leave the states, do it, especially if you need to use bills while you’re abroad because the ATM withdrawal fees there are extremely high and will add up over time. I also recommend adding your credit or debit card to your phone, if you can, through Apple Pay or Samsung Pay. A lot of European countries prefer contactless pay, so having your card on your phone becomes quite handy. Some countries still require paying mostly with bills. If that is the case, I would recommend taking out an appropriate amount to travel with and then asking your Resident Director for the most affordable way to take out more cash.
No one at home will ever quite understand, and that’s okay
You’ll want to share your stories and your people will want to listen, but they’ll never really understand the impact. You may also end up being that annoying, “when I was abroad..” person and that’s okay. You spent months at a time living in a completely new country by yourself, and you’re allowed to talk about it. The people who truly care will listen.
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