Why study abroad in Scotland?
When you think of Scotland what comes to mind? Haggis? Bagpipes? Braveheart? Groundskeeper Willie from The Simpsons? When I was first trying to figure out where I wanted to study abroad, the infamous countries like Ireland, Australia, Italy, and so on popped into my head! My major happened to be Travel/Tourism and Destination Management (long name right?...I know, I’m out of breath), and none of those countries had the curriculum I was looking for.
“Have you ever thought about Scotland? There is a program in the city of Edinburgh.”, my study abroad advisor stated. I have always adored the U.K. from afar, with their kilts, soccer...I mean “football”, and most importantly, it’s home to the stud who will forever have my heart, Harry-freaking-Potter (and Oliver Wood depending on the day)! For some strange reason though, I never thought about going there? HOW COULD I BE SO FOOLISH!?
[Don’t be foolish, learn about study abroad in Scotland now!]
So, a little over a year ago, I took the leap across the pond to a city that I had never heard of and knew barely anything about. Little did I know the land of Scots was about to grab me, jolt the livin’ daylights out of me, and never let me go! Which leads me to the following, *cue the triumphant music* 12 reasons why Edinburgh, and Scotland in general, is the best kept secret for study abroad.
1. The Weather
I know what you’re thinking, “I should study in Scotland because of the weather? Doesn’t it rain all the time...crazy woman!” Let me stop you right there! Well, I thought I would start off with weather because, in all honesty, that’s most of what people in Scotland talk about. Really though, it’s always topic of conversation! But back to the whole “rain” thing...it really does not rain as much as you would think. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when it’s overcast and drizzles, but when it does, it’s only for a short bit. So make sure you not only bring your rain poncho, but also a pair of shades! I think I experienced a full downpour a total of three times in the whole three and a half months I was studying abroad in Scotland.
Personally, I adore sweaters, oversized comfy scarves, and those cute little booties. Sweaty thighs and flip flop blisters, nuh-uh, not for me! It’s a very comfy climate, and when the skies do really open up, it’s like the whole country won the lottery. Oh, and for people who are VERY fair skinned like myself, you don’t really have to worry about getting horrible, blistering sun burns while studying in Scotland.
2. All The Reign
No no no, not the kind I was touching on above! I’m talking ‘bout royalty! Yes, castles, crowns, the queen, and all of her adorable corgis, of course. Scotland is infested with beautiful castles dating back to God knows when, and to think about how they housed Kings, Princesses, Dukes, and so on will blow your mind.
The history will never leave you anything but dumbfounded. I’m no history major, however studying abroad in Scotland will take you back in time in the blink of an eye. The exteriors of these amazing pieces of architecture are fascinating, but just wait until you get inside, up close, and personal with them. With each room there is a specific use, and it’s usually covered in colorful tapestries, fairy-tale like furnishings, and breathtaking paintings. You can usually take tours, which come with those super attractive headphones, or you can choose to just take a gander around.
The question is: why wouldn't you want to study history in Scotland to take your exploration one step further?
3. Walk It Out
Old Town walk it out, New Town walk it out, West End walk it out! What’s the point of paying for a gym membership when you simply can use the world as your playground!? Whether it’s walking around the city taking in all the sights or taking a hike through the many rolling hills the country has to offer, you won’t have a problem keeping those extra pounds off!
Plus, the public transport in Scotland is phenomenal, so you don’t have to spend money worrying about a car. Oh and the UK also drives on the left side of the road, so I’m not sure you’ll trust yourself enough to drive in the UK if your home country doesn’t anyway.
[Ready to get matched with programs in Scotland?]
4. Food and e-TEA-quette
Ok, maybe I over exaggerated a bit about not having to worry about keeping those extra pounds off, because I do give the food scene in Scotland two thumbs way WAY up. Don’t skip out on it if you study abroad in Scotland!
Being in a city of so many intermingled cultures, you will have endless gastronomic possibilities, which can be a stressful thing at times (at least for diehard foodies). Blood sausage and beans for breakfast, conveyor belt sushi or a donner kebab for lunch, and haggis with neeps and tatties for dinner (yes, neeps and tatties -- I know, I giggled too). Make sure to check out the weekend markets for great eats too, especially the weekly Saturday one over on Grassmarket if you decide to study in Edinburgh.
Make sure not to miss out on the tea scene as well (shout out to eteaket on Frederick Street for great afternoon tea!). Roast chicken and pesto mayonnaise, with a freshly baked scone served with Cornish clotted cream and raspberry jam, mini patisseries, and your choice of many teas, by the end of tea time in Scotland you’ll be a real foodie MVP.
5. Entertainment, on Entertainment, on Entertainment
The list of things to keep you entertained is longer than that hike you just went on. Yep, back to the walking topic again! But in all seriousness, you will never have a lack of activities to keep you occupied.
You like museums, we got you. In your free time why not let out your inner nerd and spend the day at the National Museum of Scotland? You like to stimulate your brain, we got you. Let your creative juices flow at Camera Obscura (my flatmates and I have never had so much fun)! You like night life, we got you. Let your soul break out via dance in one of the many clubs around the city. You like singing your heart out while a live band plays, we got you. With that you could really just walk into any building. There is constantly live music playing in pubs, so you will have no problems (my preferred pub of placement was usually at Finnegan’s Wake, singing my heart out front row to Mr. Brightside by The Killers).
Also, don’t miss out on a traditional Ceilidh if you have the chance to study in Scotland! They are loads of fun and you will get a great workout in. If you thought Zumba was challenging at times, try hopping and swinging around for hours on end. No wonder men want to show off their muscular calves in kilts!
6. Festivals Up the Wazoo
Another thing that will keep you enthralled while studying abroad in Scotland are all the festivals you have available right at your doorstep. Edinburgh is the world’s leading festival city, so I’m going to pull something my mom would say and state, “I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ‘I’M BORED’ FROM ANYONE”! You’ll be able to choose from the International Festival, Film Festival, Jazz and Blues Festival, the Royal Military Tattoo, the Festival Fringe, and loads more events around the country.
One of my favorites was the infamous Edinburgh Christmas Market, with several strips of all different types of vendors, rides, mazes, and ice skating. You can enjoy the whole city smelling like Christmas, but don’t forget to finish your day with some hot chocolate or Glühwein to warm your soul (and hands) top to bottom too! Oh, and during festival season, men tend to show a wee bit more skin. Yes, I am talking about kilts, and they are definitely easy on the eyes. ;)
7. You’ll Learn To Love Packing Your Bags
You may not be directly attached to mainland Europe, but ‘nae’ to fret if you choose to study at a university in Scotland! Edinburgh is a main international hub, so there are constantly flights to wherever your heart desires. You can go to Ireland for around $25 round trip, as well as so many other European countries for cheap. If you’re like me, head to Malta and Sicily to get your fresh meat cheese market fix! Just let your spirit run free. The Edinburgh Airport is also quite small, so it never takes too long to get through security if you plan a last minute trip.
The main train station is also located near the city center, which you can also use for weekend and/or day trips during your study abroad adventure in Scotland. Tickets are cheap, so heading to Glasgow to rock out at a concert is easy as Killie pie. So what are you waiting for? Hop on a Lothian Bus or the Airlink and get going!
8. You Get That Familiar Feeling
From the moment you touch Scottish ground I can promise you, you will feel right at home. If you choose to study abroad in Edinburgh, the city has a way of creating a small town feel in a bustling city. With the inviting cobblestone streets and so many small shops where you get to know the locals, you won’t want to leave!
9. The People
The most important reason to study in Scotland is by far the people. Scottish people are great, they can be a wee bit kooky, but that’s why I love them. At times they can come off somewhat cold, but it’s a coverup! They really do enjoy talking and having a good time once they get going. Everyone I came into contact with while studying in Scotland was welcoming and always had so much to share with me. Even though the weather may not warm up too much, I promise you the people will!
So what do I mean by kooky? I actually never found out why, but I realized almost immediately that many people dyed their hair blue. Whether it was a way of showing pride for their country or simply a coincidence, it is awesome and I love it!
10. Friends Are Forever
Throughout my college career I wasn’t blessed with the best roommates, so going abroad actually made me a little nervous. However, everything changed when I chose to study in Edinburgh. Most everyone you meet is going through a lot of the same things as you, so making friends is never a problem. The first day I arrived, I actually locked myself out of my bedroom and had no idea what to do, which quickly led me to meeting my flatmate, who also became my best friend. Don’t be scared, they won’t bite (at least I hope not!).
Alright, you can not deny that a nice accent can make the heart instantly melt. There are so many differentiating cultures you will encounter while studying in Scotland. Even though Scottish may be a bit hard to understand since they have they have their own slang, it still sounds nice. I definitely underestimated the thickness of the Scottish accent and how fast they speak at times, but you’ll get used to it (maybe); that’s half the fun of studying abroad in Scotland!
I decided to keep the most important point for last. You heard right everybody, I did say sheep! I never realized my love for those fluffy little suckers until I made my way across the pond to study in Scotland. Wool is a main export of this beautiful country, so get ready to see them everywhere. I couldn’t help but “fan-girl” every time I saw them. Perhaps like myself, ewe will fall in love too!
Next steps to study abroad in Scotland
Don't pack your kilt juuuust yet. There are a few items on your study abroad to do list you should check off first.
How to Study Abroad in Scotland in 5 Easy Steps
- Decide where to go. Figuring out where to study abroad in Scotland isn’t easy. The gorgeous highlands? Somewhere in St. Andrews? Don't let the haggis hold you back—choose a place that's right for you.
- Your major courses or something more fun and experiential? You don't only have to take classes that pertain to your major back home (though it never hurts to knock out some credits towards graduation). Look at your course options and decide what combination of required classes and just-for-fun-or-because-you-want-to-learn-it classes are out there. Choose from literature, the sciences, education, psychology, and more!
- Choose from the best study abroad programs in Scotland. Pay attention to past participants’ reviews, program/university reputation, location, and your ease of getting credits. Some schools or providers may even provide contact info for student ambassadors or past international students if you want the REAL dirt.
- Plan your finances. Sort out funding before you go to afford daily essentials and splurge in travel (in addition to program costs and airfare). Do your research to have an idea of how much your study abroad program will cost.
- Talk to your home university. Getting all your ducks in a row is largely dependent on what your home university requires. Talk to a study abroad advisor or the equivalent at your university to see what choices are available to you.
Hit your mark and study in Scotland
Yup, there's never been a better time for "ye" to say "aye" to study abroad in Scotland. Blow off the oft-chosen London or the not-quite-as-interesting Wales. It's not a flUKe that Scotland is hands-down the best place to study abroad in Great Britain. Now that yer up to high doh and sold on living life like a Scot...