If anyone tries to convince you that study abroad is purely rainbows and sunshine, she’s lying. It’s not. Studying abroad is a serious decision full of serious dangers and serious adjustments and serious challenges. That being said, it is possibly one of the greatest experiences you will get to take advantage of in college. If you decide to study abroad, which you should, you’ll have to leave the safe bosom of the Claremont Colleges and be put into what I like to think of as a much more realistic living situation— complete with accents and foreign languages and a lot of swallowed pride and asking for help.
Before I get to the great parts about being abroad and the fantastic experience overall, I do have to be a little realistic here. Like I said, rainbows and sunshine are lovely; but if you’ve ever met me you know I don’t do niceties. So here goes: the worst part about studying abroad is being a first-year again. It’s the wandering around, looking for classes, trying to find friends to eat and rage with (who you hope you can trust), living out of one suitcase, repeating your name and hometown and not understanding why the hot water runs out in five minutes. All of these things have been manageable and refreshing and I promise you’ll find amazing people to be close with. The biggest shock to me was the size difference. The city of Edinburgh has the population of a little bit less than 500,000 people, but in this city almost 70,000 of those people are students. So while in Claremont, everyone knows someone who knows someone, here you don’t know, you might never know and that’s just part of the whirlwind. The biggest struggle is the eight hour (or more) time difference that makes it rough to talk to family and friends back home. But you manage.
Luckily I decided to come to a country that is essentially college life all the time for all ages. Most of the people here would fit in well at CMC and life generally resembles Pub (except with actual pubs and more clothing because it’s cold). Most nights I can hear a drunken chorus of “Don’t Stop Believing” from the 30 year old Scotsmen spilling out of a pub around 1 a.m. It’s fantastic.
The University of Edinburgh is also a prestigious university with qualified staff, excessive resources and a library so large that I haven’t yet mustered up the courage to go back. While I do look forward to traveling to a few other countries, I’m mainly focusing my attention on falling in love with Scotland and experiencing all I can here. Just in the immediate area, I can go on spectacular hikes, run around several castles, museums, pubs, clubs, cafes and bookstores. Through Scripps’s program with IFSA Butler, I got to do a homestay on a farm in the gorgeous English countryside where I got to milk cows and feed sheep and explore more castle ruins. This weekend we’re off to the Highlands to find Nessie in Loch Ness and go to a Whisky Distillery.
Claremont is safe and fun and comfortable, but I would definitely recommend getting away for a semester. Come somewhere like Scotland where the University has a Hot Air Balloon Society and soar above Edinburgh, or join the Medieval Reenactment Society and bash people with swords and chainmail. This University is almost 200 years older than America itself, and I get to take classes in a remodeled castle. Or hang out in our student center (also a remodeled castle) in the Library Bar and connect with hundreds of international students who are just as intellectual and passionate as one could hope for. So it’s not all rainbows and sunshine, but that’s mostly just because it rains a lot in Edinburgh.