Best summer ever

Academics: 9
Support: 10
Fun: 9
Housing: 10
Safety: 10

This past summer (2012), I chose to study abroad in Stirling, Scotland. The campus was absolutely stunning, and I felt like I had found the perfect place. My favorite part about campus was the loch. The loch was definitely the focal point of campus, and it was a gorgeous place to unwind and relax.

The API staff was helpful in helping us learn our way around Edinburgh and Stirling, and took our group on excursions I will never forget. We went to Edinburgh first, and we stayed pretty close to the Old Town portion, so walking to different places wasn't difficult. We also made excursions to the battlesite of the Battle of Bannockburn, where the Scots won their independence from the English nearly 700 years ago. We also saw several castles, such as Linlithgow, Edinburgh, and Stirling. We also got an unusual opportunity to tour the Scottish Parliament, and since Charlotte, our API guide, had a friend working for a representative, we were able to get an exclusive tour.

My first day in Scotland was quite interesting. I hadn't slept much on the plane ride over because I was very excited to actually go. (I'm 1/8th Scottish). The first thing that I remember is how green everything is. I knew instantly that I had chosen the right place to spend my summer. Then, we landed and went through customs. I must have been out of it or something, because I couldn't answer without stuttering when the customs official asked me questions! Then again, he was close to my grandpa's age, and had that adorable Scottish accent that causes most girls to go weak in the knees (myself included). Besides the landscape and the accent, the biggest difference was the temperature. At the time, it was about 60 degrees Fahrenheit. I had just come from the U.S. where the temperature was above 100. So, while the locals are dressed in shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops, I'm in jeans, tennis shoes, and my jacket zipped all the way up. Another thing that weirded me out was that to get onto the highway, we went on what I would think of as the exit ramp for the opposite direction of traffic. We got to Edinburgh itself, and we had lunch at the Elephant Cafe, where the Harry Potter books were written. As we finished lunch, the sun came out, and the sky was absolutely beautiful. We had to go shopping on that first day because for some reason, my suitcase didn't make the plane, and the only thing I needed was night wear. By doing a shopping excursion, we got a feel for the city of Edinburgh, and even though I had only been there for a few hours, I loved it already.

API also showed us how to use the public transportation, which turned out to be one of the most useful things for survival. By using the public transportation, we were able to interact with the Scottish people more than if we had our own car, or had stayed in a hotel. Publilc transportation also enabled us to go nearly anywhere in the United Kingdom, such as London.

Another thing I did while I was in Scotland is that I took a weekend trip up to the Orkney Islands. They are about six miles off the north coast of Scotland. I went with two other girls, and we had an absolute blast. Overall, it took less than 5 hours to get clear to Kirkwall from Stirling, which is not that bad when you compare that to driving distances in the U.S. You can't even reach the ocean in 5 hours from where I live! (I'm from Oklahoma, so the ocean is pretty far).

Where I had the most difficulties was the local jargon and the classes themselves. For instance, rainboots are known as "wellies", and short rainboots are "summer wellies". Also you don't rent a bike, you "hire" a bike. The classes were quite interesting; both of my professors were Scottish, so that was a definite plus. Since I attended the summer program, the classes were more about Scotland from an American's perspective. I took the classes Scotland on the Screen and Scottish History: The Covenanters. The Scotland on the Screen class talked about Scotland's presence on the international film stage, and how places such as Hollywood, portray Scotland. The Scottish History class talked about a period in Scotland's history in which the Protestant Reformation was taking place, and how that affected Scotland. My favorite part was the excursions we would take as a supplement to our classes, and I got to go to places such as St. Giles Cathedral and Doune Castle. However, I did have to write papers, and my professors asked for a certain word length, which was different, but it could be done.

Everyone I met in Scotland, they were all very welcoming and willing to help me out. One example was when I went to church on my second Sunday in Scotland. I went to the morning services at Church of the Holy Rude (Church of Scotland), which is not too far from Stirling Castle. Even though I was the only American there that morning, the couple I sat next to were very nice and gave me a warm welcome. They were quite excited to learn that I was Presbyterian, and they wanted to know if there were some differences between the services I was used to, and the service I had just attended.

Overall, Scotland was amazing. I loved every milli-second of it, and could not imagine studying abroad anywhere else. It was truly a place where I was far away from home, in a brand new culture, but not too uncomfortable for me. My time abroad in Scotland was truly the most unforgettable month of my life. API is an excellent program, and I would recommend them to anybody who wants the most for their money.

Would you recommend this program?
Yes, I would