Corrine from the USA shares her experience of studying abroad at Edinburgh Napier University.
A valuable 4 years
At first, I’m sure my friends and family thought I was insane for wanting to get my undergraduate degree at a Scottish university. After what feels like a short four years later, those people closest to me can’t deny how beneficial it was for me to go abroad for my studies. I’ve experienced things that have most definitely changed me for the better. Things that I probably would not have gone through if I stayed at an American university. Below, I’m going to tell you all about the things I’ve seen, experienced, and become accustomed to throughout my time attending Edinburgh Napier University.
Adopting a British palate
Let me begin with describing what radically new activity I’ve become accustomed to and what is probably the most integral cultural practice for the British: a good cuppa. My flatmates had at least two cups of tea throughout the day and they got me hooked. We would take turns making tea for each other. I remember being so anxious about making my first cup of tea, but it’s not even an issue anymore for me. In fact, it’s a relaxing habit I’ve picked up.
I’ve taken up a lot of other seemingly un-American habits regarding food and drink. For instance, I prefer salt and vinegar chips. I like haggis (once in a while) and even like digestive biscuits, but I will never, ever enjoy marmite. That is something I refuse to enjoy.
"I have become a more open-minded person"
My taste buds aren’t the only things to have changed since I moved to Edinburgh. My opinions on political issues have changed throughout the past few years and are more British-minded. Without going into too much detail, I’ll give you one example; I am now strongly opposed to guns. Before I arrived in the UK, a country who has strong gun restrictions, I had no particular view on gun laws in America. I grew up in a society where it was normal for the people around me to have guns. I remember watching the nightly news when I was young and hearing about another person getting shot in Philadelphia. That, unfortunately, was the norm - and a shocker for my Scottish friends to be told about. It wasn't until I moved to Edinburgh and learned about Scotland's gun laws that I reevaluated my stance on gun control. The recent mass shootings throughout America have also forced me to form an opinion on gun legislation. I am now opposed to guns and believe that if America cannot completely ban firearms, that we put in place some restrictions like Scotland has. Although it is something I feel deeply for, I don’t want my stance on gun control to be the main takeaway from this. The point is I have become a more open-minded person since breaking away from my home country. I don’t adopt every cultural practice or (general) collective opinion that I come across, but I am more aware and accepting of them.
Travel outside your comfort zone
Travelling will surprise you like it has for me. You’ll learn so much more about yourself if you quite literally travel outside your comfort zone. For me, I’m constantly amazed at how resourceful I am when I travel on my own. Sure, your parents might be scared the first time you do it, but they’ll also be really proud of you. The moment my mum realised that I was independent was when I was quickly guiding her through the Paris subway. I’m also extremely humbled when I’m a guest in a foreign country – including Scotland.
The opportunity to travel doesn’t come often enough for the majority of us. I can only recommend doing as much as possible. I never even left the East Coast of America before coming to Edinburgh Napier. Now, I try to take short weekend trips to other destinations in Europe throughout the year. If I hadn’t overcome that initial anxiety, I wouldn’t have been able to taste Irn Bru, go to the Cannes Film Festival, take part in an exchange in Hamburg, or touch glaciers in Iceland.
Memories that will last a lifetime
"It’s heartbreaking to say goodbye to such a beautiful place"
When I leave Scotland, I’m leaving far more behind than just an island. My Scottish friends can’t come with me. I can’t work for STV during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival or climb up Arthur's Seat for fireworks. There’s no way I’ll be able to hear flamenco music played by a Spaniard in Philadelphia - at least not anytime soon. I won’t be able to carry the Scottish flag down the high street during an Independence Referendum march or see the flying Trump baby balloon during protests anymore. I am, though, taking with me a degree, a knack for understanding the Scottish accent, and a whole lot of warm memories. It’s heartbreaking to say goodbye to such a beautiful place and a beautiful group of people, but I wouldn’t do it any differently if given the chance.