This past semester, I had the wonderful opportunity to study abroad in Scotland, at the University of St. Andrews. Before moving abroad, I knew I would learn all about my new home and its culture, but I never expected that I would learn and grow from the following five lessons:
1. How to use public transportation
Before coming abroad, I had little exposure to public transportation. In my hometown and university, the main mode of transport is via car. Abroad, that was not an option. To travel around Scotland, I took buses and trains. When I visited other cities, I took trams, buses, and metros. Over the past five months, I took more public transportation than I had in my life, and I loved it! From this, I learned to appreciate the importance of relying on others. Without public transportation, I would never have been able to see and do all that I had.
2. How to travel
Growing up, my parents always handled the logistical side of traveling. Even when I went on my first plane by myself, my mom took care of the planning the flight. Since I was abroad, I booked tickets and hotels, created travel itineraries, and navigated airports around Europe. Through all this, I learned to be a better planner. This is especially true when booking hotels and plane tickets, because I now understand the importance of planning in advance because it not only saves time and money, but also saves my sanity.
3. Being okay with being alone
This is one I have been constantly struggling with. If you had told me last semester that I would go to dinner by myself, I would have never believed you. At home, I am extremely dependent on my friends and prefer to go out in groups. In Scotland, everyone really valued their alone time, even in public. By making myself go to meals in my dorm alone, I learned how great it is to be by myself. This then led to me going to coffee shops alone to do homework, something I never saw myself doing.
4. How to work with people from different backgrounds
Being an education major, I am curious about how people learn. At my home university, my peers have a similar education to myself, so it is easier to see how my peers reach educational conclusions. At St. Andrews, it was completely different world. The education system between the United States of America and the United Kingdom could not be any more different. It was interesting to hear from my new peers what their education growing up was like and how their education is now. From this, I learned to work with people with different backgrounds. This required me to ask questions and gain insight on why others think the way they do, so I can understand the conclusion they have reached, and they did the same with me.
5. How to advocate for myself
Since I try to be in a group, as evident from number three, I rarely nominate myself to ask questions. I am notorious for making my friends ask through. Of course, made friends at St. Andrews, but they were not always with me. Because of this, I learned that I must be the one to advocate for myself. Whether it was meeting professors in office hours to ask questions about assignments or asking complete strangers for directions, I quickly learned to use my voice to make sure I was not being passive about my needs and learned to rely on myself to find answers.