By Henry Molski, Sports Editor
January 23, 2013
Before every study abroad student at High Point University leaves the country, he or she is asked to fill out a survey. I reacted to the requirement of filling out this survey just as I do with any other: reluctant. The survey was long and boring and, at the time, I really thought it was a waste of time.
The study aboard department was trying to gauge how “worldly” I saw myself before heading off to live in a foreign country for four months. Like any other student in the 21st century, I thought that I was quite in tune with the global world that we live in. There was simply no way that I was going to be any more “aware” of my surroundings after another college semester… boy, was I wrong.
From the moment I stepped off my British Airways flight at the Edinburgh International Airport in Scotland, I was tossed into an unfamiliar world. Signs read “way out” instead of “exit;” people were walking up the left side of the hallway; there wasn’t a shop in the airport that I recognized; and I heard about four new languages in 15 minutes.
I thought I had checked my bets when I picked a University in an English-speaking country. Surely, Scotland would make for a comfortable respite in the far north for a semester. However, I would soon find that I had landed in a far more international home than I originally intended.
HPU offers students with the extraordinary opportunity to study at the University of St. Andrews. This university was founded in 1413 and is the oldest in Scotland. It also boasts titles as a top three university in the UK and one of the world’s best universities to study international relations. This makes for St. Andrews to be a VERY global place.
The town of St. Andrews is world renowned for a couple of reasons. In part for the academic accolades I already mentioned and also it is home to the birthplace of golf. Most of the residence halls on the campus are no more than a five minute walk away from the first tee of the Old Course Links at St. Andrews. Oh, and I almost failed to mention that this was where Prince William and Kate Middleton met at university.
Aside from all the glamour that my new home brought me, I was able to make friends from every corner of the globe. My roommate and one of my very best friends was Nico, from Germany. My other friends came from the Highlands of Scotland, Norway, Sweden, London, Hong Kong, Australia, and from just as many states across the U.S. as I could count at HPU.
If you’re thinking about studying abroad some day, pick a place that you know you’re going to meet new people. Make yourself uncomfortable with your choice at first and then have the time of your life! I can honestly say that the most exhilarating part about my study abroad experience was the fact that I was meeting people with stories so unbelievably different than anything I’ll ever hear in the United States.
Of course, study abroad does offer adventures unlike any other, and that is exactly what people want to hear when you return home. I could tell people about my trip to Paris and how I saw all the landmarks, and how I went to London for a week and woke up to seeing Big Ben every day. While those moments were still surreal, nothing was like discovering where I went.
Too often when students go abroad, they are enticed with the opportunity to travel to a different country every weekend. However, the place you may study in some day will be every bit as exciting and different as all of Europe if you choose to turn over a few extra stones.
The stones I chose to flip over are the exciting stories that people want to hear when I returned. One of the great things about the University of St. Andrews was the amount of clubs I was able to join. I went hiking and climbing in the Highlands with the Mountaineering Club. I also went out into the countryside with the Clay Pigeon Shooting Club to work on my aim. I even joined the Scottish Whisky Tasting Society to learn more about Scotland’s third largest export in a professional setting. (In Scotland, it’s spelled whisky versus whiskey). This was just the beginning of what Scotland had in store for me.
I can honestly say I never saw myself enrolling in a bagpiping class for college credit, but there I was. Now I can play a few good tunes on the pipes! I also found myself on the prestigious golf courses several times a week. Playing at the birthplace of golf was a truly surreal experience and a treat unlike any other for even a novice golfer.
However, my true “highlight” of my time abroad came through a connection I made with a friend. My friend, Oscar MacDonald, was kind enough to invite me to his home in the Scottish Highlands for a week, and while I was there I was able to get the real Scottish experience. I tried his mother’s home cooked haggis and his father’s scotch that was older than I was. I went hiking in places I never would have known about and I toured whisky distilleries that have been in business longer than the United States has been a country.
The whole week was capped off with a trip up in his father’s biplane to soar across the mountains and along the seashore. It was a moment I will never forget.
All and all, studying abroad will give you opportunities like this no matter where you end up. However, you need to make the choice to go. Nothing can compare to actually living abroad. After that, the next time you try to think of the greatest time of your life, you won’t have to think hard.