International Business major Gavin O’Brien ’24 studied abroad in Stirling, Scotland in the spring of 2022.
My time abroad was both wonderful and terrifying. I could spend time providing different tips and tricks for the experience, but my biggest takeaway was being open to experiencing something new. I never realized how daunting a task that would be.
I consider myself to be an experienced traveler. I had been fortunate enough to go to over a dozen different countries prior to my time abroad in Scotland. Before leaving, I mistakenly thought it would be no different. However, during my first couple of weeks, I was frustrated. I felt isolated, my phone and bank card were not working due to being overseas, and I was not happy with some of the differences that I was going to be living with for almost four months. To be brutally honest, it was a rough two weeks. But then, something changed for me.
I was trying to mobile order groceries to have them delivered to my flat. Of course, I was not able to get that to work. So, I decided to make the trek in the night by myself to grab some groceries. I hadn’t figured out the bus system yet, so it involved quite a lot of walking. Along the way, I got lost and it started to rain. I thought to myself “this is just my luck.” But then, on the rainy miserable night, something changed my perspective.
A cool thing about Stirling, the Scottish city my university was in, is that they have a huge tower dedicated to William Wallace. Wallace was a Scottish warrior who fought for the country’s independence. The tower is made of tan stone and has lights illuminating it. Despite the pouring rain, my aching feet, and the fact that I had no clue where I was, the sight of that lonely tower illuminated on that dark night filled me with hope. It was beautiful and strong, a monument to what is important to the country. Not just William Wallace, but how much love they hold for their history, their independence, and their identity. That night was the night that I started to fall in love with the country.
That grocery run changed my perspective. I needed to get out of my negative mindset. Yes, things were going to be different, there were going to be things that I missed from my time at home. But that doesn’t mean that my time abroad wasn’t going to be great. I just had to start looking at things in a new way.
Being open to experiences such as traversing the highlands, going on distillery tours, or even climbing to the top of the Wallace Monument made my time in Scotland amazing. And honestly, that’s why the only real piece of advice I can give, the piece of advice that will help you look at things with a new perspective, is to just be open to new experiences. It won’t always be easy, but it is what helped me view my time in Scotland in a much better way.
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