|Jess (second from right) and friends hike near Loch Lomond.|
When I decided to study abroad at Heriot-Watt in Galashiels, Scotland, I had yet to go on a plane, travel to another country, and be away from my family and friends for any long period of time. Normally PhilaU’s exchange with Heriot-Watt is in the fall, but due to running XC, cross country, I decided to study abroad in the spring and became the only PhilaU student to study there at that time. I ended up being only one of two American students at the Uni for the semester. While my family worried, I was so excited to have the opportunity to dive right into traveling and meeting new people that I would never meet if I went to a school with other American students.
I took four studio classes, Floral Print, Knit, Weave, and CAD. Classes were set up differently as you only had class once a week and work was very independent. We would meet one-on-one with professors and spend the rest of class time freely working. As a textile design major, I thought it was really beneficial to be able to learn in a new way. My professors focused very heavily on research and we kept sketchbooks, research folders, research journals where we would write about our ideas, and created multiple mood/color/research boards for each project. Each class had one semester long project which was nice to focus on one topic and spend a lot of time perfecting our work.
|Jess at Textile Exhibition Show with her semester's work.|
We had a month off for Easter break, and during that time, I was able to travel throughout Europe for a two week trip. I traveled to Paris by myself, I went to London and stayed with my best friend I met at Heriot-Watt, I went to Rome to visit my PhilaU friends who were studying there for the semester, I spent two days in Florence, and I went to Milan with a friend from Heriot-Watt on holiday. For St. Patrick’s Day, the other American student and I went to Dublin and we stayed with some of her family that was living there. I also went on a weekend trip with ISUK and the University of Glasgow to the Isle of Skye and was able to meet a friend from Austria.
The response I received from all the people I met was not only surprising but also heartwarming. People everywhere I went, at the grocery store, in the shops, and at Uni were extremely friendly, helpful, and easy to understand once I grasped out the Scottish lingo and accents. Overwhelmingly the best part of my experience was meeting the couple of girls who I now consider to be some of my best friends in my life. The group of girls who took me in helped me every step of the way to learn what Scottish/English culture was like, what the best food/sweeties were, what type of tea to buy (PG is the best..), and show me around Galashiels, Glasgow, and Edinburgh.
|Jess hiking near Alchmelvich.|
My last ten days in Scotland, my three best friends and I went on a Scottish road trip. One of my local friends had a car so we started in Gala, and spent a night or two at all of our pit stops along the way. We went to Glasgow first to experience the countries best morning rolls (which is basically a flat sausage on a roll with a potato scone), and then stayed in Pitlochery with one of my friend’s family to go hiking. We then went to Inverness to stay with one of my friend’s mom and hiked around Loch Ness. We ate proper roast dinners at a traditional restaurant that is older than America and I was able to try Haggis and Black Pudding. We also went to Chantry Point in Inverness to watch dolphins swim into the bay. After Inverness, we headed up North to Achvelmich and camped out on the beach. We went to Handa Island which is known to have puffins and then spent the night camping under Ben Nevis, which is the tallest mountain in Scotland. The last night we camped and hiked near Loch Lomond before heading back round through Glasgow, to go to Galashiels. Overall, this week was one of the best times of my life, not only because I was experiencing a lot of new things and able to travel and see more of Scotland, but I was also with great friends I never would’ve met if I hadn’t decided to study abroad.
|What a trip in 10 days!|
If I have any advice for other students who want to study abroad, it is to step out of your comfort zone and realize that nothing is weird. Things may be different, but try to be open-minded and willing to adapt to the culture.