GoAbroad Interview

Hamish Thompson - Resident Director, Scotland

Hamish Thompson - Resident Director, Scotland

Born in Scotland, Hamish studied at the University of St. Andrews before going on to complete his doctorate in philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. On top of his role as Resident Director of Arcadia’s programs in Scotland, he has held faculty positions at universities both in Scotland and the United States. Hamish has also led study tours for American students to the United Kingdom. In his free time, he enjoys playing the fiddle and listening to traditional Scottish music and Appalachian bluegrass.

What attracted you to work at Arcadia University?

The opportunity to bring my knowledge of the higher education systems and culture of both the United States and Scotland to help facilitate learning across societies at an institution that values study abroad as integral to its mission. Being born and brought up in Edinburgh gives me a connection to Scotland, its history, and its culture, which I love to share with all who come to study here.

Arcadia University student orientation in Scotland
Hamish introducing guest speaker at an orientation

What do you love most about your role at Arcadia University?

Helping facilitate the exposure of students to different frames of thinking and learning - teaching them about Scottish identity and connecting them to the unique opportunities available to them while they are exploring so many aspects of this exciting new experience in a different country.  Scotland is a nation that on the surface is similar to the United States, but underneath is so different, with its own tremendous diversity across its regions. I greatly enjoy bringing insight and reflection to this diversity.

How do you support students during their program?

I oversee all aspects of Scotland’s in-country programming to ensure students’ success during their time in Scotland. This involves a variety of roles, from working with Scottish institutional partners to discussing academic differences to offering pastoral support in the wee hours, in those rare cases where students need that extra in-country assistance and advice.

Hamish Thompson from Arcadia University meeting with a student in Glasgow
Hamish at first visits meeting with a student studying in Glasgow

What makes Scotland a unique place for international experience?

Its constant beauty and its current political energy, as questions of national identity and Scotland’s relationship to England, Europe, and the world are going through a self-reflective re-evaluation. Its education system since the Scottish Enlightenment has produced figures such as David Hume and Adam Smith, while its intellectual capital continues to lead the world and create a culture of learning that is superb with Arcadia’s Scottish partner universities consistently ranked among the top around the globe.

In what ways does the Edinburgh Center, as a whole, support students before, during, and after their program?

Our social media starts to engage with students before they arrive, through our Facebook page and group, and the general advice we are able to give our U.S. team helps support students through the application and pre-departure stage.

Upon arrival in Scotland, myself and our superb staff are able to give a fun and insightful introduction to Scotland through our orientation that takes students through the practicalities of living well in Scotland, the cultural differences they may encounter, and how to navigate and succeed in a different learning environment while they settle in. The relationships students form through our orientation helps them form comfortable relationships that ultimately increases their capacity to settle and integrate into broader local communities as they head to our partner institutions, or start our own courses and programs.

During the semester, our co-curricular excursions connect students in a thoughtful and fun way to Scotland and its culture, giving students unusual and unique opportunities to learn about a different society. These excursions go beyond the usual activities that would be available to individuals who do not have the extensive knowledge and support of the wonderful team at the Edinburgh Center.

Class at Arcadia Universitys Edinburgh Center
Hamish talk to Museum Studies students at the Edinburgh Center

Throughout the program with Arcadia, after our first visits in the first or second week of classes, we are consistently supporting the students and are always available to help advise them culminating in a farewell reflective gathering at the end of the program.

Afterwards, students can submit a non-credit co-curricular learning project to earn a certificate to allow them to contemplate and produce a more substantial piece of work that helps frame their arc of learning through their time studying abroad.

Why is Edinburgh an ideal choice for study abroad in Europe?

Edinburgh is a city of the Scottish Enlightenment; it is a place of deep history and culture that reflects both its past and its broader place in Scotland and the world. When walking through the streets of the Old Town, with the ever present castle, Edinburgh’s very alleyways connect you to its medieval history through the 16th century and the religious and social changes that were sweeping across Northern Europe.

As you walk through the streets of the New Town, the architecture reflects Scotland’s place in the fervour of intellectual development of the 18th century and the promise of what’s to come through its great institutions of learning. Edinburgh is the city of the parliament, the capital of the country, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it also has excellent pubs and restaurants.

More broadly, Scotland and all its cities and towns offers a study abroad experience in an English speaking country at a northerly latitude (watch out or the Northern Lights especially if studying at the University of Aberdeen) with extremely good and affordable flight connections to the whole of Europe out of its two major airports in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Finally, there is spectacular scenery and great beauty across Scotland all within easy reach in one nation.

Edinburgh staff from Arcadia University on Arthurs Seat
Hamish with Edinburgh Center staff on Arthur’s Seat

What excursions can students take while in Edinburgh to make the most out of their experience?

Each semester we plan a set of excursions to connect students to Scotland in a thoughtful, meaningful, and fun way.

Do you have any advice for students contemplating study abroad in Edinburgh?

Do it! Be open to the new experiences and unique opportunities that only Scotland can give you, from Ceilidhs to Coos.

Are there any new, exciting developments coming for Arcadia’s Scotland programs in 2017?

Our internship placements are always expanding as we place students in new opportunities. In the summer, our internships center around heritage and museum studies where we place students in experiences ranging from historic houses used in films and TV to national heritage organisations. During the semester, we place students in a range of workplaces, from human rights organisations and social businesses to golf courses.

Our partnerships with our Scottish universities continues to grow and strengthen and we are always developing new excursions to connect students to Scotland in deeper and more insightful ways, from our book club to our guest lectures. I look forward to welcoming more students to Scotland!