Ever since high school I’ve known I wanted to venture abroad. Not only to see and explore other countries but also to experience different cultures, dialects and ways of life. Last year I began looking at the programs UA Education Abroad offered that catered to my degree, chemical engineering. I knew in my academic schedule for the upcoming summer that I would need to do a unit operations lab, so I scrolled through the programs specifically looking for this lab. To my surprise I found two locations where this lab was being held. One in Edinburgh Scotland and the other in Denmark. The next thing I did was make a list comparing the two locations. The biggest factor for me was the price difference which would influence my parent’s decision on the matter. For this particular lab I could do the lab on campus at Alabama for a summer term, take it for two semesters or take it abroad for a summer term. The choice was simple for me: I was going abroad! Once I got my parents approval I began the process of applying. Applying was a fairly simple process as was the application for financial aid, but the latter was a little bit tedious. Once I had applied and officially been accepted into the program I began looking for scholarships to alleviate some of the financial stress. So, it was amazing news to be awarded a financial scholarship from the Education Abroad office. Now the only thing left to do was pack my bags and prepare for my travels abroad.
After attending the study abroad orientation I made a checklist of things I would have to do, including going on the Centers for Disease Control website to see if I would need to get additional shots before arriving in the UK. This site is also useful to see what kinds of viruses or diseases are prevalent in the country now. A doctor’s checkup was then needed to check my overall health before traveling as well as filling necessary prescriptions. Getting prescriptions beforehand is very critical as it will save you a headache if attempting to fill it in a host country. Not only is it a risk as the pharmacist may not have the medicine but also, it’s difficult to get your home doctor to communicate your needs with the pharmacist abroad. After everything with my health was checked, I then let my bank know that I would be traveling abroad for a period of time so I could still use my cards. This is also extremely important as no one wants to feel stranded when their card gets declined because they forgot to inform their bank. The last step was to start setting out clothes and items I wanted to bring on the trip. While it may seem trivial it was actually very helpful in seeing what I was putting in my suitcase. After clothes it was toiletries which are a bit harder because of the airline restrictions. However, it is much easier to buy the travel containers and fill them up. This saves you from worrying about the weight of a liquid as it is already preset. With everything packed up and ready to go the last step was to get on the plane.
For me, the fact that I was going to study abroad in Scotland felt like a dream. I knew I was going as I had the confirmation and the plane ticket but it still didn’t feel real. It really hit me the night before, when I was double and triple checking my bags and going to sleep in my bed for the last night. The feelings of missing out on family and friend activities started to hit me and I began to think of everything I would miss. Even the most mundane things became important and special. But once I said goodbye to my family the nerves came and I was suddenly rethinking my decision. Everything changed as soon as I went through TSA, because there was no going back. I had a destination and that was Scotland.
While studying in Scotland I have a lot of hopes. One is of course to learn some material critical for my degree and the second is to have a chance to meet some people in the chemical engineering program. The unit operations lab is not going to be easy, it will take work but I am ready to put forth the effort. Another goal is to explore a different English speaking country. Although we speak the same language not everything will be the same. I am very excited to explore even the simplest things, like what kinds of foods are at the grocery stores. I also want to get a better grasp of what makes Scotland tick. From its rich and long history, to the century old Scottish legends, to the meaning behind different sayings or quirks. My goal is to try and immerse myself in the culture and see things from a Scotsman’s eye.