The University of Illinois offers this chance to study abroad at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. Spend your next semester or academic year in the United Kingdom's northern most country. Founded in 1495, the University of Aberdeen has produced over 500 years worth of ideas and graduates from various fields that have contributed all over the world, with special consideration to political science and international relations disciplines.
Located on the eastern shore, Aberdeen is Scotland's third largest city, and home to the largest oil reserves in the European Union. Go study abroad at the University of Aberdeen through the University of Illinois!
Why did you decide to study abroad with the University of Illinois at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland?
John: I always knew I wanted to study abroad when I went to college, but I hadn't put much thought into it until the beginning of my Junior year. That seems to be the year when most students at Illinois decide to study abroad, and so I began looking into different programs, attending meetings, and filling out paperwork.
When it came down to a decision, I kind of happened upon Aberdeen by chance. Most students I knew either ended up going to Italy or Spain. Those were, and still are, the popular choices. I wanted to go somewhere a bit out of the box, so to speak, but nothing too crazy like Tibet. I had always been fascinated with the U.K., so I focused my search there.
My first choice was London, but none of the specific programs really appealed to me. (My girlfriend ended up studying abroad there at the same time, so I visited quite a lot, regardless). When I started looking into Scotland, Edinburgh was my next pick, but Illinois only offered art programs there, and I didn't fit into that. Aberdeen really just popped up on my radar one day, and I fit right in with the general study program that was available. Plus they speak English (obviously), which was a big deal for a lazy American like me!
I began doing more research and liked the sound of it more and more every day. I finally just said heck with it, nobody goes to northern Scotland, so why not me? A bit of a gamble, but it really paid off. To be honest, choosing to live and study in any foreign country for an extended period of time is a bit of a gamble - and that's what makes it so special and exciting!
What made studying abroad a unique and special experience?
John: First of all, I had great flat mates. That can't be understated. I lived in a student village just north of the main campus that housed British first years and foreign exchange students. There were Americans, Italians, Kenyans, and all sorts of nationalities represented in this community, which was great for my exposure, but all my flat mates were true blue Scots.
There were four of them, and they really showed me the ropes and introduced me to so many cultural aspects of Scottish life, pubs included. Two of them even took me to stay with their families for a couple long weekends, really allowing me to get a look at life over there from the inside.
Secondly, Aberdeen really provides a great support system for exchange students, and their campus even evokes the feeling of a more traditional U.S. school, albeit much older. As well, Illinois provided a few structured events and trips for the larger group of Illinois students that were studying abroad all across the U.K. at the time, including a trip to London that was an absolute blast.
Speaking of traveling, I made it to London at least five or six other times, ventured out into the Scottish highlands, visited Glasgow and Edinburgh with my flat mates, and spent time in Madrid, Paris, and Amsterdam. And when I wasn't traveling, I had a terrific time exploring all Aberdeen had to offer (it's an extremely old city with a lot of great history). Located far to the north, with all the cloudy days and granite stone, it might not be huge a tourist destination, but it didn't take long for me to feel like Aberdeen was home, and that might have been its best attribute.
How has this experience impacted your future?
John: Personally, I matured a lot that semester. I've lived with my family in Chicago all my life and went to school only two hours drive to the south. I had traveled by myself before, but nothing can really put some hair on your chest like venturing out into a new country on a different continent on your own. I really learned to appreciate other cultures and got to see firsthand exactly why Europeans think of us the way they do. I won't get into that, but I can tell you that the greatest lesson I learned is that no society is perfect. There are good and bad people, mostly good, all across the world.
I learned as much from my friends over there as they learned from me. And I also learned to really appreciate what we do take for granted here in America. I can't stress enough how beneficial I think studying abroad really is for personal growth. Academically, I became a better writer. The British school system, from elementary level up to university, puts much more of an emphasis on written communication and essay-based tests than we do. I think maybe only 25% of my exams in Aberdeen involved multiple choice. For someone like me, a communication major who now works in public relations, becoming a good writer was essential.
I also got to take my first, and only, philosophy class in four years of college. It was the basics, but discussions were a lot of fun! When you combine the personal growth and academic achievement, it really adds up to what matters - eventually graduating and becoming a professional adult. I've been out of school for a year and a half now, and I truly believe that my time spent abroad helped me mature to a point where I was ready to move on from school once it was time.
It also helped expand my network, and more importantly learn how to network! Networking is the number one skill you don't really get taught just by going to school, but studying abroad forces you to reach out to others in ways you haven't ever done before. I could drone on for days about why I loved studying abroad and how it's helped me in life, but it honestly comes down to one main thing - I feel like I'm a better person today because of those experiences I had in the past.
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The University of Illinois offers over 400 programs in more than 60 countries all over the world. Sign up for an exchange program to study abroad in that pity or country you have always dreamed. Check out the University of Illinois website for more information today!