Name: Katie Prigge
Year in School: Senior
Major: Design Arts and Communication
Year in School: Senior
Program: University of Stirling- International Summer School over Summer 2015
Why did you choose to study abroad?
I chose to study abroad because I had never been out of the country before. I knew college would be a good time to go because I don’t have any other obligations
Why did you choose to go where you did?
Honestly, I knew I wanted to go somewhere in the UK because they speak English.
I chose Stirling, Scotland specifically, because of the beautiful landscapes and they offered classes that would count for credits in my major.
What’s the best part about studying abroad? Favorite experience?
The best part about studying abroad was I got to meet so many people and make new friends with different perspectives. My program had around 140 other students in it, and it was kind of like freshman year all over again except we were all in this new country for the first time.
I have two experiences that stand out the most; each for different reasons. The first was the Heartland Tour, where a group of about a dozen of us went to the Isle of Sky, Loch Ness, and explored all over the very northern parts of Scotland. Our tour guide, Nory, told amazing stories about how the mountains got their names. The entire trip really made me appreciate the beauty and wonder of nature. It sounds so cheesy to say, but a lot of us on the group were so in awe of the amazing mountain landscapes, that we were in tears!
Another great experience was shopping in London! There was one place on Oxford Street where you could stand, and if you looked around in all directions, you could see four H&M stores from the same place! I loved how the UK has many of the same stores as us, but the styles you find inside are totally different! I’ve been following a few fashion YouTubers from the UK for a while, and it was amazing to go to stores like Asos, Primark, and Topshop, which they always mention, and experience it for myself.
What did you struggle with? How did you overcome it?
I think the biggest struggle was the homework. I never realized how the US grading system is very different from the rest of the world. I’d seen a trend of Tumblr posts about how ridiculously easy the grading scale is in the UK, and it is true that a 70 and up is considered an A. But the thing is: these grades aren’t based on the percentage of correctness. It’s more like only 3% of the class can get an 80 or above, and they really enforce the bell curve of the majority of students getting an average grade, which is around a 60. The grading itself is done by “the external.” I’m still not quite sure what that means, but it is a person who is pretty high up academically, who doesn’t know you at all, so they can’t have a bias.
I had to write a lot of research papers while I was at Stirling, and that was kind of difficult because I don’t think I’ve had to write like that since I took Expository Writing a couple of years ago. I overcame these struggles by staying in the lab for an entire day and forcing myself to get everything done instead of going out with my friends.
Another thing I struggled with were the accents! Before I went to Scotland, I don’t think I even realized Scottish accents existed; I thought everyone had the traditional British accent you hear on TV. Once arriving, I learned it was easier to understand most of the Scottish people close to my age, but sometimes I had to pay really close attention to understand the middle-aged locals. It never really got easier because I was only there for a month, and spent most of my time among students.
What advice would you have for those who want to study abroad?
My advice would be to just do it, travel as much as you can while you are there, and don’t worry too much about money! You really do only live once, so see as much of the world as you possibly can. I had the chance to go to Ireland for a few days, but I didn’t because at the time I didn’t think I could afford it. Once I came back home and started working, I realized I definitely could have, and should have. I can’t speak for everywhere, but in Europe it is so easy, and pretty cheap, to get anywhere you need to go in the continent! I took a nine-hour overnight bus from Scotland to London for around $36. Unlike America, there are constantly trains and busses running to wherever you might want to go, so definitely take advantage of that!
Also, just for fun, stay in one of the cheapest hostels you can find! Since almost everyone in my program was American, this was the major way I got to meet people from other countries like Brazil and Australia. It’s kind of scary to share a bunk bed with a total stranger, and a bathroom with 20 of them, but it builds character!
How did studying abroad personally help you?
Studying Abroad helped me in so many ways! First of all, it was my first time in an airport without my family and it was nerve-wracking to navigate alone, especially when my flights kept getting delayed and had gate changes (I would try to avoid flying with United if you can!), but now I will be able to find my way around an airport fearlessly. Studying abroad also helped me understand another culture, monetary system, and way of life. I loved that the friends I made were all so different, but we could all grab a few drinks and debate politics (to the point that some people would be screaming!). But at the end of the day it really did make us better friends.
Also check out a blog I wrote for one of my classes, Photographing the Urban: