I had the amazing opportunity to study abroad in Dalkeith, Scotland in the fall of 1997. By far it is one of the best, if not THE best, experiences I have had! I was born and raised in Eau Claire, WI and attended UWEC, so, my venture to Scotland was my way of slipping out of the ‘bubble’ and seeing what else was out there. Fortunately, I had amazing parents that liked to travel and did a great job of making our travels for me and my siblings very educational-in the U.S. Now, traveling overseas on my own, along with my best friend from high school, well, it was a whole new adventure. An adventure that I will cherish forever.
During the semester, not only did I learn more about Scottish history and culture by a great Scottish educator, but also had great opportunities to take long weekend trips to Glasgow, the Scottish Highlands and Ireland. On top of that, we had two weeks to travel pretty much anywhere in Europe our heart desired. In two weeks, my best friend, another roommate and I traveled to Paris, Florence, Venice, Munich, Vienna, Salzburg, Innsbruck, and Czechoslovakia to name a few. Of course it was all amazing and very educational but a few destinations that stood out for me were the visit to Dachau Concentration Camp just outside of Munich, The Sound of Music Tour in Salzburg, a hike up to the Olympic Ski Jump in Innsbruck, the teeny tiny chapel where Mozart played his first concert in Vienna, and the fairytale like city of Czechoslovakia! In 1997 the Euro had not been introduced so we had to learn very quickly the variety of currency and how to use the exchange rate. Also, English was spoken in most places but there were certainly cities/countries, in particular, Italy, where communication wasn’t as easy. Traveling with two other people who were excited to see certain aspects of Europe, the three of us had to come up with an efficient yet enjoyable traveling itinerary so that we could see what we could in a short span of time. We had our traveling packs, passports, rail pass, bank cards and our Fodor’s Europe Travel Guide and that was about it! As a group, we each came up with 1-3 things we individually wanted to see and then planned our route and time as best as possible. I have to say, we each were able to visit and experience things we wanted with very little disagreement! Again, that two weeks of travel taught me how to compromise, stand my ground, learn to communicate, figure currency, budget, live on bread and fruit (if need be), live out of my travel pack, protect my passport and pocketbook at all times, learn about several different cultures, and that I am such a tiny speck on the face of the earth but certainly not insignificant. Seeing cities, countries, landmarks, battlegrounds, etc…that you had read and learned about in history, english and geography classes growing up were now in front of you-talk about surreal moments!
I could go on for hours about my experience in Scotland. I learned so much about myself in just four short months. It was hard to leave the people I had met and a town/country I had fallen in love with! I came home more confident and with a decision of what major I wanted to declare (Kinesiology). I made amazing friendships and I am still in touch with many of them today! Scotland, in my opinion, is truly a mystical and magical country and the Dalkeith House (Palace) is full of history and lore that you do not want to miss out on! The Dalkeith Estate is green, lush and laced with miles of fragrant and misty running/walking trails that you can daydream, contemplate and just lose yourself in until s herd of sheep or a Highland Coo stir you back to reality, kind of. It is a truly magical experience! I know I will be encouraging my children one day to take advantage of a study abroad program and I will be biased to Scotland!