Fall orientation in Scotland? The study abroad experience

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My mom was in high school when she first thought of going to Scotland. She was sitting in the orchestra pit for a production of “Brigadoon” — a musical centered around a magical Scottish village — when the director came onstage to help them picture the landscape. “Imagine the heather on the hills,” the director said in his best Scottish accent, and she was hooked. “Imagine.”

From that day, my mom knew she wanted to go to Scotland. It wasn’t until her mid-twenties that the opportunity presented itself in the form of a short trip with a good friend from church. From the moment she saw it, she fell in love and knew she would come back one day.

When my mom went back to Scotland again, she was in her late twenties, and that’s where she met our dad. He was another American, from California, working with the same volunteer organization with which she had come across the world to help. By the time the program was up, they were engaged.

My brother and I were born in Scotland before our family moved back to California with the two of us too young to really remember much about our time abroad. When we were deciding where to study abroad, we knew immediately we wanted to go to the United Kingdom.

On Sept. 6, my brother and I will arrive at the orientation for UC Education Abroad Program, or UCEAP, in Edinburgh for students studying abroad in Scotland in the fall.

We will gather with students from all of the other UC campuses that have chosen Scotland for the fall (and possibly spring) semesters. My brother is a student at UC Irvine, and as this is my last semester, I thought it would be a great opportunity for us to study abroad together.

After our weekend in Edinburgh, all of us Americans will split up into three groups: those that are remaining at the University of Edinburgh, those that are leaving for the University of Glasgow, and those of us — like my brother and I — traveling up north to the University of St. Andrews.

Upon arrival, we will attend the university’s orientation with all of the other incoming students, including the approximately 150 students from all over the world, who are currently in the study abroad Facebook group, excitedly chattering away. I know I’m the only Golden Bear attending St. Andrews in the fall, and my brother will be the only student from his university too.

I personally have been back to both Edinburgh and Glasgow as a young adult, and I love both cities dearly. My brother, however, has not been outside of the United States since he was a baby.

When we looked into St. Andrews, I’d admittedly never heard of it. It’s apparently the school where Will and Kate met, the best school for English (my major) and the No. 1 school for film studies, which my brother studies. And while UC Berkeley is busy celebrating its 150th year, St. Andrews was founded in 1413.

Right now a lot of things seem up in the air — such as what we’ll be studying officially — but I know it won’t be long until we’re up in a plane and on our way back to the place where we were born.

Our parents are actually in the middle of planning a trip up to visit us while we’re there, so we can travel down to Dumbarton: the city where we all lived. Scotland has changed a lot since those days, and I know we’re all just as excited to be reunited with a place that has been so dear to my family’s story.

When I transferred to UC Berkeley back in January 2017, I came in with the goal of studying abroad already on my mind. As a spring transfer, I especially felt like I needed to take advantage of everything the campus had to offer, going to every extracurricular event that could possibly help me.

As a student under the Educational Opportunity Program, I was also immediately considering the cost. The good news that I discovered  after numerous visits to the Berkeley Study Abroad office and all of our meet-ups was that so long as you choose to study abroad with one of the official programs through UC Berkeley, such as UCEAP or the Global Internships program, you will get about the same amount of financial aid you get as you do on campus, though individual programs vary by cost.

For those of you worried about time, there are ways to study abroad over the summer or even the semester after you graduate. Admittedly, it’s going to be bittersweet not to return to Berkeley this fall, but I can’t wait to see what St. Andrews has in store.

Contact Lauren West at [email protected]