It's crazy to think this all started with a brochure. Now, I am the first student from my university who traveled the 4,000 miles to study abroad in Glasgow. Without exaggeration, I can say Glasgow was more than a destination. In the three months I was there, it became a home to me.
I am a native of Florida, and a third-year student at Jacksonville University. After I heard Principal Paul Little from City of Glasgow College give a presentation on studying in Scotland, a brochure I had read a month earlier became real to me. With the help of my university, I decided to take the three-month trip to study in Glasgow. I had never travelled outside of the States, so I wasn't sure how I would feel. But my anticipations were high; I was ready to challenge myself, to meet new people and to learn more about the world.
On my connecting flight between Philadelphia and Glasgow, the gravity of this trip settled it. I was really traveling to Scotland. Also, with the engine noise, everything the Scottish passengers said sounded like “Haud yer wheest,” and “Gonnae geeza shot eh that?” I thought to myself, “Oh boy, this will be my whole trip, trying to understand the accent.” But, I quickly discovered the Scottish dialect wasn't difficult to understand, and it was actually fun to hear!
When the plane descended through the clouds above Glasgow, the experience became surreal. My mentor from the college drove me around the city. The aged buildings and landmarks, many older than my country, made me say “wow” more times than I can count. It took all morning to set in that I was really 4,000 miles away from Florida.
I met my roommates as I settled into my flat, and I quickly discovered the famous Scottish friendliness. They were genuinely curious to who I was, where I came from, and why I was there. I spent about fifteen minutes talking with them that morning, and it took about ten minutes to feel like friends.
In my first few weeks, I did become homesick. But my mentor and roommates gave me suggestions on what to see, and the city of Glasgow welcomed me in. The landscape astounded me and the people even more. When I started school, my classmates asked me, “Are you new?” I made friendships on the first day that lasted until I left. In fact, my friends still actively contact me now that I am home.
I took three classes at the college, but my favourite experiences happened outside of the class. I attended black-tie dinners with the college staff, my picture was in the newspaper, and I found myself being interviewed for STV Glasgow. In fact, the people I was with on television invited me to their home in sea-side Troon, where I spent two afternoons with them before I left. I became friends with people from Italy, Poland, Portugal, Angola, and all over the United Kingdom. I also traveled to London, around the southern lochs with my mentor, and over to beautiful Edinburgh.
My mentor asked me during my last week, “What will you miss the most?” I thought of all these wonderful experiences and of the places I had been. The answer came to me quickly, though – it's the people. Because of them, when I returned from London, I felt like I had come home. Leaving Glasgow felt like leaving home. Though it had to end, I'm so thankful for the experience, and I know it will define my life for years to come.