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Scotland — Fall 2016

Emily Grace
English Literature Major with a Music Minor

Dunnottar Castle in Stonehaven

There wasn’t a lot of forethought into my choice of Scotland for a place to study abroad prior to doing research my sophomore year; I didn’t come into the Humanities Scholars Program knowing exactly where I wanted to study abroad. I knew that since I was studying English Literature, I would most likely study in the UK, but I didn’t have a specific place in mind until I stumbled across the University of Aberdeen in Scotland and fell in love with both the school and the surrounding city.

I am taking two English Literature courses while I’m here. One is on Contemporary Scottish and Irish Literature, in which we study how national identities are formed, celebrated, and occasionally questioned in poetry and works of fiction. The other focuses on American Literature from 1775 – 1865. I have been exposed to an international range of viewpoints in regards to early American Literature, as well as asked to answer or explain many things that appear in the different texts we read, regardless of how much I know about the topic. I am also taking an Introduction to Anthropology class to count as a Culture GEP class.

King's College Chapel Academically, I am learning more about time management. At UMBC, I had nearly mastered time management when it relates to getting work done while having tons of extracurricular activities or responsibilities; at Aberdeen, I spend much less time in class and there is significantly less time spent in class for big assignments like papers, so my studies and my projects are often left to me. I have gotten better at managing my time when it’s not all taken up, learning that “free time” isn’t really free – there are a lot of other responsibilities of which I need to be aware. I have also learned to adapt to a different style of teaching and working. Doing research and writing papers is the same, but the methods and practices are often different, which occasionally asks me to step outside of my comfort zone or causes me to work harder for something than I would have to at UMBC.

A lot of my personal growth has been similar to the growth I’ve found in my academics. I have to be adaptable, and while the UK isn’t that different from the US, there are little things that ask me to step outside of my comfort zone. Especially at the beginning of the semester when everything was new and slightly overwhelming, there was a lot more responsibility to figure things out, take care of personal needs, or answer questions that at the time seems quite complicated. In comparison, it seems that UMBC (if not most US colleges) takes more of a guiding role for new students, holding their hands and helping ease them into college life. At Aberdeen, problems were solved or things were figured out mainly by figuring out what I needed to do for myself and pooling information with other students studying abroad here. On that topic, I have also gotten practice on making friends again. It’s not something one really forgets, but I have gotten used to my friend group at UMBC, and this felt like starting over – putting myself out there and finding similarities between all of us, eventually coming to have a really close group of friends.

Loch Ness by Urquart CastleThere have been very few times that I have faced cultural experiences that were challenging to solve or overcome, for which I am very grateful. However, I did experience some challenges when first arriving to the University. Upon my arrival, I was quite tired, and since I had an evening flight leaving the US and don’t sleep well on planes, it had been far too long since I had slept. I was hoping to arrive at Aberdeen, get into my dorm, charge my laptop and phone, and take a nap. However, when I went to plug things in, I realized I had brought the wrong power adapters (European ones instead of UK ones). In retrospect, it wasn’t that big of a deal – I had to walk down to a store about 30 minutes away to try and find some, and when they didn’t have any, I had to wait for the campus store to open so I could buy the right ones (luckily, a new friend lent me a charger so I could use my phone while I waited). However, at the time, it seemed like such a problem, and I remember being frustrated with the situation. Some good things came out of it though – I got to explore the city on my first day which I probably wouldn’t have done, made some new friends, and got immediate practice on adaptability which helped me deal with problems later on.