Featured Item: Lauren Kortbein

Photo Credit: Kathy M Helgeson, UWRF Communications
Hiya! I would like everyone to meet Lauren Kortbein.

Lauren is currently the first Second Generation student to participate in the Wisconsin in Scotland program, and is a junior at the UW: Stout campus. I have been in contact with her for sometime asking her questions about her experience while there, also in comparison to what her mother experienced. Here is what she had to say:

What did your mother first tell you about the program?:
Although growing up I always knew my mom had studied abroad in Scotland, she never forced me into the program. I heard stories of her experiences while she was here, and got a little more of an understanding of what it’s like to live in another country for a few months. She encouraged me to look into study abroad programs and find a country that would best suit my wants. I knew I wanted a country that spoke English, since foreign languages aren’t my best subject. The more I looked into programs, the more I thought the United Kingdom would be a great place to go. I didn’t know much about the UK at that time, and that was one of the things that intrigued me. The more information I was given, I realized that Scotland was a very viable option for me. After hearing her stories about her experiences in Scotland, and then getting to the UK, I was able to notice a lot of things that had either changed a great deal or not at all. Personally, my favorite part of the program has been how put together it is. Almost every weekend for the first few weeks is planned out for you. This is helpful because there is a lot to see in the United Kingdom and it’s easy to become overwhelmed. By having someone else give you suggestions on what to see or do with your time in any given city, it takes a lot of stress off you. There is also plenty of time for you to go off on your own. If you’re looking to travel somewhere, there are multitudes of resources available at the house. Patty and Henry (the program director and chef) know a great deal about Scotland and the surrounding areas, and are more than willing to share their knowledge with you. There are also travel books and magazines, so you can browse through those.

What were some of the differences between your current experience and your mother’s experience?:
My mom and her 70 housemates all had to share one telephone that operated on coins. When someone called the house, somebody had to go answer it, then run and find the person whose parents were on the phone. Now, when you arrive at the house, you’re given a cell phone. All we needed to do was buy a SIM card and “top up”, which means we put minutes on our phone. We’re able to text and call locally and internationally.
Since television wasn’t such a big deal back in the 80s, the house had one television set on the second floor. There are at least 4 televisions throughout the house now, and cable is included! There is also a movie room, with a VHS/DVD player and tons of movies for you to choose from.
The program first started out being about four months total, starting in late August/early September and running through December. We now arrive home about a week prior to Thanksgiving, and the program lasts a little more than 3 months. This amount of time is perfect, since it’s long enough to experience Scotland and the countries surrounding it, but it’s also not so long that missing home becomes a huge issue. There were definitely moments when most people felt a longing to be back home, but since there were so many new things to experience in Scotland, it balanced out nicely.
In 1986, the price for the semester abroad was $2,450. This included airfare and house trips. Airfare alone now is close to $1,200, with the semester rounding out to about $7,500. The main campuses involved in the program early on were UW-Stout, River Falls, LaCrosse and Eau Claire. Now, it’s UW-Stout, Superior and River Falls.
My mom witnessed sheep herding every night, due to the fact that sheep roamed the front yard, which was used as a pasture. Now, the house is located on a county park, so although there are no sheep in the front yard, we have a multitude of animals that are located on the hundreds of acres of land surrounding us. Locals come to the park every sunny day and weekend, taking advantage of the walking trails and huge playground we have.

What are some of the similarities?:
Although there are definitely a lot of differences between studying abroad in Scotland in 1986 and 2012, there are also a lot of similarities. Perhaps it’s because Scotland is such an old culture that 26 years doesn’t make a big difference.
For example:
Buses run from Dalkeith to Edinburgh every 15 minutes. You can also get a bus to many different cities surrounding Edinburgh and Dalkeith, and you’re given a bus pass at the beginning of the semester. This allows you to travel for free anywhere the bus goes. Since the drinking age was 18 when my mom studied abroad, she didn’t have the experience that I did of being able to legally drink here before I could at home. Although for both of us, it was cheaper to buy a pint of beer here than a glass of beer at home. Drinking is seen as a social experience, and isn’t given much thought to. For the most part, Scots don’t go out to get drunk, they drink while they’re going out. Hard cider is also their main drink. For the most part, they’re fruity flavored. Somehow (and I have yet to figure out what the giveaway is) people here are able to tell we’re Americans before we speak. They’ll ask us where we’re from or how long we’re visiting the UK. Everyone is always thrilled to hear that we’re studying abroad for 3 months. I think it has something to do with the Scots being very proud of their country, and us having chosen it assures them that it truly is a wonderful country. The cars are much smaller than in the US. A small sedan in the US would be considered a large car here. The majority of cars are manual and diesel, which accounts for the soot that covers the buildings. If you’re planning on traveling to somewhere in the UK that is farther away than what the bus system covers, you can easily get there via train. Trains depart from Edinburgh to Glasgow or London every hour. Sharing plays a very large role in the house. We share bathrooms, laundry rooms, bedrooms and common areas. We also share the housework, which helps everything get done, without having to hire outside work, keeping the tuition rate low. Each semester is broken up into two quarters, and you are given lunch duty for one quarter and a house cleaning job for the other.
One of the most unique things about my mom and me, was that we realized that we stayed in the same room. She sent me a picture of the house with an arrow pointing to her room, and it was only then that we realized that for 3 months, we lived out of the same place. It’s very comforting to know that everywhere I go in the house, my mom has also been. She knows what I mean when I explain a story that happened in a certain area of the house, and she’s able to empathize with any issues I may have. It’s certainly a wonderful feeling! The fact that this program has now spanned two generations shows that the program is only getting better with time. From what my mom has told me, in the beginning years the program wasn’t nearly as well put together as it is now. These days, the program is almost completely planned out for you. For example, our house trips to London and the Highlands were completely planned out, from morning to night. Although we had a bit of free time throughout the trip, we were mostly going from one place to another, following a schedule. This is extremely convenient, especially when you’re in a big city like London, have a limited amount of time and a huge number of attractions to see!

What would you like to tell the children of parents that have studied abroad?:
To those students who have had parents studying abroad: My biggest fear was that I was turning into my mother. Not that this is a necessarily bad thing, as my mom is the most wonderful mom in the world, but I didn’t want to feel like I was just copying everything she did. Not only did I attend the same college that she did, but now I was going to participate in the same study abroad experience. As much as it may seem like I’m repeating my mother’s experiences, I’m definitely not. There are similarities, but the differences are huge. Scotland and the United Kingdom are immense, and it would be almost impossible to do the exact same things as someone else.

What would you like to say to the students thinking about joining the program?:
As for the students who are thinking of participating in the Wisconsin in Scotland program as first generations: do it. There isn’t a better country to study abroad in. As soon as I arrived in the United Kingdom, I immediately felt comfortable. Since they speak English, it’s easy to figure out where you’re going and what you’re doing. The first few weeks as I was wandering around the city, trying to figure out where I was and where my destination was located, I noticed people were more than willing to help you. You can stop anyone on the street and not only will they give you exact and specific directions on where to go, they’ll tell you what else is nearby that you shouldn’t miss. The Scots are an extremely friendly bunch, and they don’t hesitate to help you out. By the last few weeks that I was here, I was the one getting stopped on the street. The fact that I looked the part of someone who had grown up here and knew what they were doing made me feel like I had finally made Scotland my “home away from home”.
Independence was something that I had been promised as soon as I went away to college. I was told time and time again that once I had moved into my first dorm room, away from my family and hometown, I would feel free. Although this was true on some levels, you don’t realize how much you’re missing out on until you study abroad. Living 200 miles away from home and being able to visit every 2 weeks provides a much different experience than living 2,000 miles away from home for 3 months. Only when you have to rely on yourself to get from Glasgow to Edinburgh to Dalkeith do you understand the true meaning of independence. Your parents aren’t there to give you hints about what train to take, or to wake you up in the morning to tell you to go to class. You can’t visit home whenever you need to do your laundry. Being independent is one of the most empowering feelings you can experience, especially while you’re still in college. Even if you’re only just starting to think about studying abroad, sign up! Talk to students who have already taken the plunge and gone overseas. I can guarantee that every one of them will have a story that blows away any experience in Wisconsin. By getting a firsthand look into what you’re getting yourself into, you’ll feel more comfortable when the time comes to go wherever your final destination is.

Below is the link to the slideshow taken by  Kathy M Helgeson, UWRF Communications, while on a site visit at the Dalkeith Palace. Lauren Kortbein happened to be the tour guide that shown them around. Kathy was lucky enough to snap a photo of Lauren wearing her mother’s Wisconsin in Scotland sweatshirt in front of the Palace.



One thought on “Featured Item: Lauren Kortbein

  1. Oh, how I remember that ONE PHONE that NO ONE would answer (because it meant you’d have to run all over the house looking for the person)! I was there in the mid-90s. It would be soooo different to be there with cell phones and Internet today.

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