Study Abroad Reflections: Life Lessons You Learn While Studying Abroad
The following is an excerpt from a course I completed in 2014, near the end of my Global Studies Bachelor Program. I’ve included it here because it brings back so many fond memories not only of the places we visited, but of the people I met and grew to love on that incredible adventure. It’s so easy to get caught up in the long, seemingly never-ending bucket-list of historical landmarks while traveling. But for me, traveling is about the people and the stories. It’s people that created those landmarks and made them special. People, with aspirations, goals, and agendas that created the history we as travelers find ourselves fascinated by. Those are the things this excerpt makes me think about as I read it.
During the summer semester of 2013, I traveled with the Tennessee Consortium of International Studies (TnCIS) to Scotland for study abroad. For GS 3010 (Field Experience and Study Abroad), I worked on a creative writing activity where I offer reflection and advice for perspective study abroad students.
. . . An hour passed, our plane arrived, and we boarded. The airline took the liberty of assigning our seats, and I sat next to Jake. The small talk we lacked on the flights did not foreshadow the friendship we acquired on the trip; Jake’s endless energy and constant smile often reminded me of a puppy visiting a dog park for the first time.
After waking early, traveling an hour to the Nashville airport, waiting an hour, flying three hours to New York to await another flight, and flying seven hours to Edinburgh, we thought we had finally arrived at our destination. We could not have been more wrong.
Once in Edinburgh, we assembled as a group for our first instructions: Find our bus. That was an adventure in of itself, but the mission was accomplished successfully. From there, our bus drove us three hours to our home-for-three-days: Berwick-Upon-Tweed, England. That’s right; our first stop on our Scottish adventure was England. I was just as confused as you may be right now until I learned more about the city’s history. As it turns out, Berwick-Upon-Tweed is a charming old town with cobbled roads and crooked buildings only two miles from the Scottish border. It fascinatingly is also one of the few places on earth to have passed back and forth between countries several times; though it has been over 500 years now since Scotland took ownership of the town.
Upon arrival, our bus parked at a precarious angle on the narrowest road I have ever seen in my life, and our program director instructed us to grab our suitcases and head down an alley-way behind a pawn shop. I, clearly, was reluctant. But I was also exhausted after the very long travel and time change, and the lure of a bed awaiting me at the end of that alley won out over my reservations. So down the alley I went, suitcase bouncing loudly off the pebbled street behind me. Around the corner, we entered into a small courtyard. The hostel was to the right, with a gorgeous little sun-room and cozy lobby waiting for us. Initially I was relieved and very proud to have made the trip without sleeping. The anxious chatter for room assignments began, but was quickly deterred by a low blow: Our rooms weren’t ready, nor would they be for another three hours. THREE HOURS! As thrilled as I was to have arrived for the study abroad I’d imagined my entire life, that short sentence was suffocating; I felt like crying.
And this brings us to Life Lessons You Learn While Studying Abroad Number One: Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches and find a plan B when plan A unexpectedly falls through. I took a moment to reassess my current situation: I had arrived safely to my dream trip, and was surrounded by a group of people I already knew I would grow to love. Yes, I was unbelievably tired, but when I looked around, I saw that everyone else was, as well. That was oddly comforting. So I decided the best course of action was to use this three hours as an opportunity to get a sneak peak at the city in which we had arrived, and to talk to a few of the girls in hopes of choosing my own roommates. . .