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And so it ends here..

Time February 2nd, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

As February begins I’m finally writing my last post of my study abroad experience.

I’ve only recently gotten over my jetlag, but it seems so long ago that I was a student at St. Andrews, and at times I wonder if I really did backpack around Europe. Coming back to Amherst has been a mix of good and bad. I’ve really loved seeing old friends and having a familiar place to be in; and as an upperclassman I feel like I now have some ownership on the campus, and a confidence that comes from being older and having been abroad now. But since I came back so close to the beginning of classes I feel as if I’ve been thrown into the high stress, academic world with an endless list of things to do at any given time.

There’s also a strong, nagging feeling that I don’t want to forget that time of my life and reduce it to a small part of my memory and history.  When my friends ask me how my study abroad experience was, I find myself struggling to find the adequate words to summarize my experience. However, I’m learning I find solace in the realization that these experiences are a part of me now, in the way I think about my life, make decisions, or interact with others. And just when I think I’m forgetting everything I get a Skype call from one of my flatmates in St. Andrews excitedly telling me about the latest gossip in her life. Or I look at the wall of post cards I’ve pinned up in my room tracking my journey from Scotland to Spain. And in the mornings I try to take a moment to sit in my room and sip on a cup of Scottish tea before starting my hectic day. So the abroad experience is still living, just in more subtle ways. Even writing this post now gives me the space to remember and miss all the wonderful moments, people, and places I’ve encountered.

And thus this concludes my experience abroad, thank you for taking interest and reading!



Tips (part 5) Getting more out of Study Abroad

Time January 12th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

Here is a list of random tips I didn’t really know how to categorize, but it’s generally how to frame your study abroad attitude to get the most out of your experience!

  • Keep a journal (or blog!) of some sort, it’s fun to see how you change before, after and during the experience.
  • Take some time to think about generally what you want out of study abroad, is it academics, traveling, reflection, taking a break, or other. This will help you frame your goals, and serve as a starting point and guide you in your decisions about what to do. But of course don’t let it constrain you, since some of the best things come unexpectedly.
  • Recognize that there will be low points in studying abroad. Whether it’s when things don’t meet your expectations, difficulties socializing, adapting to the culture, etc. I’m sure its different for everyone, but know that they are common experiences.
  • Trust that discomfort (well, of course be safe) will lead to productive gains. Go talk to random people, go somewhere new… I promise you’ll gain something or at least learn what not to do.
  • Pack light, and keep in mind that you’re probably going to bring buy more stuff. Make sure you’re not only going to use everything you’re bringing but also use it several times.
  • Take photos when you travel, but also take a minute to see the scene.
  • It might not be your style, but try traveling alone for one trip. You get time to yourself, to see what you want, and you’re also placed in a great position to meet other travelers.

I think this is the last of my “tips” posts, I hope something in the series was helpful!


Tips (part 4) So You Want to Travel?

Time January 12th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

Traveling is probably on the mind of every exchange student; one of the main reasons why I chose to study in Scotland was because I wanted to take  a tour of Europe. (I’m actually doing my tour right now! Of course if I had been updating this blog properly, you would have known about it. whoops) In this post I will talk a bit about the logistics of traveling in and outside of Scotland.

Traveling to Europe and other places in the UK is not as easy as it might seem when you first think. St. Andrews is actually quite tucked away, and is appropriately named “the bubble.” The St. Andrews bus station is right in town and your only way out of the place (unless you get have access to a car) From the station there are buses to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, and other towns/cities. Leuchars is the closest train station, but you have to take the bus to get to it. If you want to take a flight somewhere, you’ll have to take the bus to get to Edinburgh city, then Edinburgh airport, and finally to your destination. (OR take the bus to the Leuchars train station to get to the city to the airport and then your destination). Be sure to take these factors into account when making your travel plans.

Around Scotland

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Tips (part 3) Budgeting

Time January 12th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

Just before you continue reading, keep in mind that this post is for the budget minded student, so it may or may not be useful!

Even though I had heard many warnings of the unfavorable conversion to the pound currency, I’d have to say I was still unprepared for the pricing differences when I arrived in Scotland. The IFSA group here always joke that with the kind of prices you see on menus, you would expect to be paying in USD instead of GBP. But alas, a typical pasta dish does cost 10 GBP, and a coffee 2 GBP. It takes awhile to do the mental conversions, and understand what the fair prices are.

Budgeting for Food.
One solution to the expensive food options is to cook instead of eating out. It might seem obvious, but cooking will always be cheaper than eating out. It is more time consuming, but I’ve found that I’ve become much more efficient with cooking, and become a more savvy grocery shopper. Cooking or baking with friends is also a great alternative to going to a restaurant. Just to give a lay of the grocery shopping world, the main supermarket in town is Tesco, it’s not too big but it has pretty much everything you might need. Further away is a properly large Morrisons, and Aldi’s. I’ve found that the prices are not definitively better at one market or the other depending on the item. You can also order groceries online and have it delivered to your flat!
Of course getting to know a place and country also requires dining, so be sure to look out the lunch deals or student discounts. On a side note, to look at restaurant reviews try Tripadvisor instead of Yelp — yelp doesn’t seem to be as useful in the UK.

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Tips (Part 2) the social

Time January 5th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

Now that I’ve gone over the more logistical, this post will be more about the experience of studying at St. Andrews, and what I’ve noticed.


Judging by the various social experiences of my IFSA friends, I would highly recommend you take more care in ranking your accommodations than I did. When IFSA sent me the list of accommodation preferences I didn’t really know how to choose so I just judged by the photos and chose mine. So here is some more information to help you choose your housing. The possible halls are David Russell Apartments/Fife Park, John Burnet, St. Regulus, St Salvator’s, Agnes Blackadder, University Hall, McIntosh, Andrew Melville, and Albany Park. And each hall has different catered/self catered specifications. I don’t know about all the different halls, but I will comment on what I know.

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Tips (part 1) Phones, banking, electricity, internet

Time January 5th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents, Mexico, Scotland | No Comments by

Now that the end of the semester has come and gone, I figured I would dedicate a few blog posts to some helpful tips that I’ve been keeping track of ever since I started studying abroad. The list just kept growing, and it feels like there are too many things I’ve learned and I’m not sure what would be most helpful. But here is the list, and definitely contact me or ask questions if you are a student about to go abroad. This will be specific to Scotland and St. Andrews, but it’s all pretty universal for traveling.  A last note — a lot of this you learn in IFSA butler orientation, but it’s also good to know before hand as well!


Getting a phone in the UK is pretty cheap compared to the US. For short term studying getting the cheapest old fashioned phone to “top up” is the most functional option to get some texts and calling minutes. I didn’t get a UK number since there was wifi pretty much all around campus. At times it would’ve been convenient to have one but I was OK. But you can decide for yourself– most of the people I know got a UK phone.

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Low Points

Time November 17th, 2014 in College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

I think the “w” curve is well known to the study abroad community, as I’ve heard of it multiple times during my various orientations and in conversation with friends studying abroad. There’s the anticipation of studying abroad, the honeymoon phase of being in a new place, the highs of being in a new place to the lows of shock and trying to fit in. The path is not precise, and everyone dwells in different stages for different amounts of time. From what I’ve seen, people from the IFSA group have taken off in different directions. A large group of them have stuck together and continue hanging out and traveling together. Others have joined a sport and bonded with their fellow athletes, others with their flat mates or hall mates. My experience of the curve is has been less of a progression over time. Rather, it’s a been a constant struggle and balance between trying to find familiarity and reaching into discomfort in hopes of having worthwhile experiences.

In trying to fit in and find a community, since Freshers week I’ve aggressively plunged myself into conversations, social events, and society groups to meet more people. Many interactions have been ungraceful, some superficial, but also many fruitful and interesting. And without making the effort I would never have met these people. Being someone who enjoys TV in bed, and reading a good book with a cup of tea at home, trying to be a sociable extrovert was absolutely nerve wracking and exhausting. But I know that all the people I’ve gotten to know outside of IFSA have been through these uncomfortable times.

Thankfully, having the IFSA orientation allowed me the opportunity to meet a group of lovely girls. But given that a common study abroad expectation is to go out and meet local students to learn about them and their way of life. I think it is the moments of failing to reach those expectations that creates the low points of the “w” curve. In my experience, it’s so important to acknowledge these moments of failing to find what you’re looking for or not hitting the marks of what you expected to experience. There will always be moments of feeling lonely, and wallowing in sadness and browsing Facebook to see how well everyone else seems to be fitting in, isn’t productive.  It is precisely during these moments that we need to either take action to change our predicament, or be confident and comfortable in the choice to have some alone time. I have often found solace simply in knowing that I’m not alone in these moments, and having a stable foundation of friends and family to turn to will always help.


The end is nearing

Time November 17th, 2014 in College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

After spending the weekend away from St. Andrews it began to hit me that my time at St. Andrews is coming to an end. I’ve been spending my days planning my travels for after finals, and perhaps clicking on all those calendar dates has made me realize that they’re not so far from the present. As everyone says, it seems like just yesterday I was participating in freshers week, choosing classes, and meeting new faces. All of a sudden, there are only two weeks of classes left, and finals are coming up. This morning as I went through my morning routines, I realized that I don’t need to ration my laundry soap or contact solution so meticulously. As I made breakfast I thought to myself that I need to stop buying more ingredients and start clearing out my kitchen cupboard.

I always look back on my freshman year at Amherst fondly, wishing that I could go back to be the bright eyed and innocent freshman, open to the world. As a study abroad student at St. Andrews I got to be a freshman all over again.  I got to meet so many wonderful people from all over the world. In my academics, I get to have the understanding and leniency from being a new student. I get to enjoy the luxury of having time – time to sleep, watch TV, hang out, travel without sacrificing academics. And finally, I’m able to retain the ability to see the small town with a sense of curiosity and wonder. Whats more? I get to experience all this with less of the insecurities and uncertainties of a first-year.

This time around, the concerns are different. I’m racking my brain wondering whether I’ve experienced everything there is to experience at St. Andrews. I question what will come of the friendships I’ve made during my time here. Have I taken full advantage of all the opportunities here? These are the last few weeks to make sure I minimize any regrets, so I had better get to it!


A weekend in Glencoe

Time October 15th, 2014 in College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

Last weekend I went on a weekend hiking trip to the highlands of Scotland. I went with Breakaway, which is the hill-walking society at St. Andrews. They organize hill walking trips to different parts of beautiful Scotland, and it’s quite popular amongst international students.

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Orientation in Edinburgh

Time September 29th, 2014 in College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

Before going to St. Andrews, the whole IFSA Buter Scotland (St. Andrews, Edinburgh, and Glasgow) program meets in Edinburgh for a couple of days of orientation at the Apex International Hotel. I was pleasantly surprised by orientation, it was well thought out with just the right amount of essential knowledge to study in Scotland. The topics ranged from banking, cell phones, history of Scotland, culture shock, money, to University specific information. Its easy to see that the IFSA Scotland team has been doing this for many years, and know what study abroad students need to know. Outside of orientation, there’s time to get to know all the people you will be going to school with, and get to spend time exploring Edinburgh with them. Please click through the slideshow to see some snapshots of beautiful city of Edinburgh, and the journey we took to get there!




Being a Vulnerable Consumer

Time September 17th, 2014 in College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

On the day of takeoff, I sat in Virgin Atlantic waiting area of the JFK airport, casually but strategically scrolling through my phone so it looked like I was very preoccupied. Actually I was curiously listening to all the conversations around me. Through the low murmurs I heard quite distinctly, British accents of two brothers ringing through the air. At that moment, it suddenly hit me that I was actually leaving America.

The transition from the US to the UK has been a path to unravel of all the standards, customs, and habits that I’ve built up consciously and unconsciously over the past 20 years of my life. My assumptions have become these hovering suspensions, wavering, and unsure whether they still hold true in a foreign country. Granted, the Scotland is not radically different from the US, but perhaps it is that similarity that makes the subtle differences more deceiving.

I think this is best exemplified in my experience as a consumer during my first few days in Edinburgh for the IFSA-Butler orientation. I weaved through the market streets of touristy Edinburgh with a wallet full of Scottish pounds. The foreign money in my wallet did not hold the same value as US dollars. A $20 bill in my mind is laden with a context of what I could buy and how many hours of labor it equates to. But this unfamiliar currency felt inconsequential, I didn’t know what a £20 note could buy, and how hard I’d have to work for it. It was just a colorful piece of paper that I can exchange for things in the shops of Edinburgh. And with all the colorful shops, and new foods to try, quite a bit of exchanging occurred.

It’s been a few weeks since my first purchases now. And it hasn’t been all bad — I’m finally getting sense of the standards (yes, everything is more expensive) by making mistakes, doing online research, and asking those who know more about the UK than me.


Me and Going Places

Time September 2nd, 2014 in College Study Abroad, Scotland | No Comments by

When I left Amherst in May  to go back home to New York, I was truly overwhelmed by the new environment All the oreo cows I had been surrounded with by had been replaced with loud cars. There were no scenic mountain ranges to walk past, and no woody bike trails to walk on. I was in the home I grew up in, but somehow it felt small and unfriendly. It felt like I was visiting middle school and the hallways seem too narrow and the lockers too short. When I went to my internship in the city, everything I liked about Amherst was thrown further out the door. On my first day to work, I didn’t appreciate being packed like sardines on the subway, nor sitting on the blue seats of the bus,  avoiding eye contact with tired bodies and expressionless faces.

But over time it grew on me, I learned a lot about myself, about the city, and the people of the city. I discovered hidden thrift shops and explored coffee shops. Through my internship I realized how bikeable the city was. On my own, I realized that I got to see so much more by traveling on foot. Buildings didn’t blurr by, I could walk behind a flow of conversation, and I could see all the transitions between streets, buildings, people. On a single walk down the street I was walking with the business people in suits, past the hunched over plastic bottle collectors, a model in a light blue dress, running kids and yelling mothers. I guess it’s kind of, you see what you want to see.

I’m not sure what the story with Scotland will be. But I know I want to experience it all. I want to be immersed in it, quietly. I want to learn from it, be curious, explore (on foot!), and draw insights. I’m sure there will be things that will take some getting used to, but I can’t look at the pictures of the beautiful highlands and castles and imagine not falling in love with the place. But for now, goodbye to Amherst, New York, and all the places I’ve called home.