Maddie Alagia - 2016 Program Participant
What inspired you to go abroad?
Even before I chose what college I would attend after high school, I knew I wanted to go abroad. From a very young age, my family instilled in me a deep desire to see the world and I attribute a lot of my want to study abroad to them.
Arthur’s Seat, an inactive volcano in Edinburgh
Why did you decide to sign up for a program through the Institute of Study Abroad at Butler University?
When I was looking at study abroad programs, I had two specific requirements: I wanted to study in a city that I knew nothing about and I wanted to intern somewhere. I ended up choosing Scotland because it had the parliamentary program and not the other way around. This specific program was perfect because it allowed me to intern abroad, in the Scottish parliament, while also studying at a world-renowned university, the University of Edinburgh. The parliamentary internship program met all of my requirements and allowed me to fall in love with a city that I previously had known nothing about.
What was your favorite part about living in Edinburgh?
My favourite part about Edinburgh was how accessible everything was. It is the type of city where you can walk absolutely everywhere. It also has a certain charm about it that you read about in fairytales. Regardless of the weather, Edinburgh always looks beautiful and the architecture is simply stunning. It is a capital city with the charm of a small town.
What made your experience abroad unique?
Interning at Parliament was the most unique part of my semester, and it definitely impacted my time abroad overall. Interning in Parliament allowed me to see first-hand the issues that are impacting the citizens of Scotland, and this allowed me to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the city I was in. Thanks to my time in Parliament, I learned more about Scotland than I ever would have been able to in a classroom. Because of this, I found myself itching to get back to Edinburgh whenever I was travelling in a different city.
How did the IFSA-Butler staff support you throughout your program?
IFSA-Butler is the most fantastic program provider anyone could have ever asked for. The team in the U.S. made sure that we had all the information that we needed before departure, and the transition from them to the team on the ground in Scotland was smooth and seamless. They made sure that we always knew they were there if we needed help with absolutely anything but, at the same time, they made sure that we had our space to make the most out of our experience. They had drop-in hours every week that we could go to if we wanted and it was reassuring to know that they truly cared about our well-being.
Additionally, there are two trips that are pre-paid for in our tuition, and they always made sure that those were really exciting experiences and ones that would be more difficult for us to organize on our own.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I wish I had integrated myself into the university a little more. It was difficult because of how different my schedule was.
What did a typical day look like for you?
Our classes all took place in the first five weeks of the program, and they were held on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, from 10 a.m. to noon. Once we started in Parliament, the typical work week was Tuesday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
On my free weekends, I really enjoyed travelling around Scotland, as well as other parts of Europe. When I had free time during the week, I enjoyed hiking around Edinburgh and trying out new pubs and coffee shops!
Describe your accommodation in Edinburgh.
Our accommodations were the only thing that was sub-par about my experience. Having my own room was really nice, but the accommodation itself was not great. We were in six-person flats with mostly other kids from our program. The rest of the building was filled with first-years at Uni or other international students. Each flat has two bathrooms and a kitchen and each person had his/her own room. The main problem was that there were more than 300 students in the building and only three washing machines.
Any words of wisdom for future students interested in studying abroad?
Go in with an open mind. I left all preconceived notions about Scotland and study abroad behind in America and went in with absolutely no expectations. Because of this, I was completely blown away by how much I fell in love with Scotland.
Always expect the unexpected. Scotland may not seem as sexy of a study abroad city as Barcelona or Rome, but don't compare it to other cities. Let yourself fall in love with Scotland and spend as much time as possible going to other parts of Scotland- you will regret it if you don't.
Selfie with the First Minister of Scotland!
Did your study abroad experience meet your expectations? What do you appreciate most about it?
This semester has been everything I needed it to be, and more. When I arrived in Scotland, I was running (maybe sprinting) away from my tiny 2000-person college. To say I was ready for a change of scenery would be the understatement of the century. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew that I needed this more than anything.
Scotland turned out to be everything I needed and more.
Edinburgh taught me to find the beauty in even the darkest days. Actually, this is really not an exaggeration because 90 percent of the days we were here were extremely dark (literally). Edinburgh showed me that culture shock is the best thing that can happen because it forces you out of your comfort zone and opens your eyes to how different cultures live.
Scotland showed me that you can put 20 people together (who have very little in common, I might add) and have them become one, big (dysfunctional) family, because they are bonded by the one thing that brought them all abroad in the first place: a desire to experience something bigger than themselves. Studying abroad completely reshaped the way I look at the world and the ways in which I approach all aspects of my life.
Would you recommend IFSA-Butler to others? Why?
I cannot recommend this program and IFSA-Butler enough. This program changed my life and has given me a second home in Scotland. I have never felt as supported by a group of people as I did by the IFSA-Butler team. Studying abroad is a life-changing experience, but interning abroad is what allows you to truly connect with the city that you are in. Choose Scotland (specifically Edinburgh) and choose IFSA-Butler because you will have an unforgettable experience.